‘Young Afghans are not the future but leaders of today’
By Mansoor Faizy
Afghanistan has been in a whirl of unending war and unfettered turmoil, whereas peace or at least a stage of normalcy is a distant dream. There is deadlock in almost all affairs. Pandemonium has hit the ongoing peace talks and the September 28th Afghan presidential election. The long-drawn-out election, indistinct peace talks are incontrovertible proofs of monolithic instability, manacling the political elite and complicating the future of the country. In the wake of uncertainties, hope for the better future have never been downhill among the Afghan youth, who worked hard after the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001. Afghanistan’s estimated 35 million people are overwhelmingly young, with nearly two-thirds of the population under the age of 25. They (Young Afghans) have been playing immense role in changing the landscape of their country, and their efforts – from politics to sports – from education to government high-ranking posts – from security forces to human work forces – from preservation of free media to improving democracy – from women’s right to film industry and so on. Among them (Young Afghans) is Aisha Khurram, a law student at Kabul University that has been selected as Afghanistan’s Youth Representative of the United Nations.
Afghanistan is ranked the third most dangerous country in the world, but Aisha, who is also Ambassador of Peace, will convey unheard voices of the agonized Afghans in international platforms aimed at reflecting the truth in a bid for a substantial solution. She is a strong voice of voiceless Afghans, and will soon deliver a speech at the United Nations Security Council in New York. Here is her interview:
How were you selected as the Afghan youth representative to the United Nations?
I’ve been selected as the Afghan youth representative to the United Nations through a competitive process of selection, starting from the online application, at the first stage 100 Afghan youth applied from all across the country. For the second round of competition 12 youth were selected to go through another round of oral and written exam. On the third round of competition we had an interview at the ministry of foreign affairs of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan; finally three youths could make it to the final round of public speaking competition which was held on the 7th of October in Kabul. Judged by a panel of four juries, including Idrees Zaman, Afghanistan’s acting minister of foreign affairs, Tadamichi Yamamaoto the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan. Peter Prugel, Germany’s ambassador to Afghanistan and Sophia Ramyar, executive director of Afghans for progressive thinking.
What was the purpose of your selection?
In light of the 2250 agenda (youth-peace and security) of the United Nations’ Security Council every year a young Afghan will be selected as the ambassador of peace who can influence policies on the national and global level. The youth delegate is supposed to meet other young people across the country, hear their voices, and convey their message to the international community.
You’ve held numerous meetings with Afghan youth across the country, what was their expectation?
Over the past two months I’ve been to several universities, visiting academic institutions, orphanage and community groups, I’ve met young people from almost 34 provinces of Afghanistan in national youth assembly for peace, I’ve started an online survey in three languages to reach a majority of youth and collect the unheard voices and I’ve started an online hashtag (#AfghanYouthCall) so Afghan youth can record their video messages and share it with the world, through our platform.
Afghan youth are facing numerous challenges from being trapped in a never-ending violent conflict to lack of educational and employment opportunities to being excluded from the important decision making processes related to their future, Afghanistan is privileged with a youthful population, but their voices have always been shunted aside when it comes to decision making and politics, all Afghan youth want absolutely the same thing, a safe life and peaceful Afghanistan with the preservation of their rights and achievements that has been gained over the past 18 years.
You will soon deliver a speech at UN headquarters, what does mainly your topic surround?
Peace and a substantive inclusion of Afghan youth will mainly surround my topic.
Do you feel any restriction for delivering speech, or is there any specific agenda which you’ve been told to talk about it in UN?
So far there has been no restriction, and I am trying to deliver the genuine messages and concerns of Afghan youth to the global community.
What is your message to the Afghans?
Young Afghans are not the future but leaders of today, we the Afghan youth need to be the strongest during the darkest days of our time in history and we shall not waiver on our pursuit for peace and education. We need to accept our obligation to take the full responsibility and lead, we shall not sit back and wait for others to move first, and we cannot make this journey unless we all move forward together for the common interests and prosperity of Afghanistan and that effort must begin with an unshakable determination and strong commitment of all Afghan youth.