IWPR Film Applauded in Kabul
An IWPR documentary on war crimes committed in Afghanistan over two decades received a rapturous welcome from foreign diplomats, Afghan media workers and civil society activists at a screening in Kabul last week.
The Forgotten Victims, which covers the period from just before the 1979 Soviet invasion and the ensuing war with the mujahedin, through the brutal civil war of the early 1990s to the end of Taleban rule in 2001, was shown at the European Union’s office in the capital on March 4, after a series of screenings for Afghan audiences around the country.
“We hope that the film will raise the voices of the victims and their heirs, because their voices have been suffocated,” IWPR Afghanistan country director Noorrahman Rahmani said.
While a one-hour film had to be selective and could not include all the crimes committed in the two decades covered in it, Rahmani said he hoped it would pave the way towards prosecutions of those accused of war crimes.
Netherlands ambassador Radinck van Vollenhoven said the documentary was a “very interesting and admirable” piece of work which he hoped would be seen by more audiences across Afghanistan.
Noting the difficult personal stories recounted in the documentary, he said such projects were needed to help move towards justice.
“Human beings have to share each others’ unhappy memories as well, sometimes,” the ambassador said.
Shelley Whiting, charge d’affaires at the Canadian embassy in Kabul, said she was already a fan of IWPR’s work, and “The film I watched today is one of the most effective and focused works of this office. I liked it a lot.”
Nader Naderi, until recently a member of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, AIHRC, said making this kind of film was not without risk in the current environment.
“The pain which our people have suffered for years should be cured by bringing the criminals to court. This film is an example of such a cure.”
Massouda Jalal, former minister for women’s affairs
“I know how difficult it is to work [on] human rights violations and war crimes,” he said, describing The Forgotten Victims as “a very strong and positive step towards the creation of a mass debate for ensuring justice in the country”.
The Forgotten Victims raises difficult issues about accountability in a country where alleged perpetrators enjoy impunity and in some cases hold political power.
“Those who work in this area are actually making a sacrifice. I admire their bravery,” Hadi Marefat, a member of the Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy organisation, said. “Those who try to uncover such cases are putting their hand in a nest of vipers.”
While many Afghans have since 2001 been calling for a formal judicial process to tackle crimes committed by all sides in the country’s serial conflicts, no progress has been made. In part, this is because so many of those implicated are still on the scene. A long-awaited AIHRC report on past abuses naming a number of current senior figures has failed to come out.
Massouda Jalal, formerly minister for women’s affairs, said the right way to deal with the trauma of war was to confront the past.
“In my opinion, what is needed to heal the pain of the heirs of the forgotten victims is implementation of justice and the rule of law,” she said. “The pain which our people have suffered for years should be cured by bringing the criminals to court. This film is an example of such a cure.”
Mir Ahmad Joyenda, a former Afghan lawmaker, agreed, saying, “This film proves that crimes flourish when the deeds of the criminals are overlooked.”
Guillaume Teerling, an advisor on human rights, gender and the rule of law with the European Union, said, “We want to show the film again in the near future to our foreign friends and colleagues, because it is an extraordinary piece,” he added. “We know how effective the film can be in terms of implementing transitional justice in Afghanistan.”
Mina Habib is an IWPR-trained reporter in Kabul.
The Forgotten Victims film will premiere on the IWPR website at the end of March.