Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Hard Issues Discussed at IWPR's Afghan Debates

Radio show on armed militias counted because the subject "affects the majority of people".

A series of IWPR-organised debates held across Afghanistan in February probed a range of sensitive issues from violence against women to the continued presence of armed militias.

In February, an IWPR debate was aired live on Shahr-ba-Shahr Radio in Parwan province, on the controversial issue of paramilitary groups and their impact on the community. Listeners were able to call in and put their own views.  

“It was a good programme as it discussed an issue that affects the majority of people,” provincial councillor Khayel Fazli said afterwards. “The more programmes like this that get broadcast, the better. It puts officials under pressure and they’re forced to take action to address our problems.”

These events, held in an open atmosphere designed to encourage debate, are being run in provinces all over Afghanistan. They cover a broad range of topics.  In Nangarhar, Wardak and Kandahar provinces, February saw a discussion of the effect decades of conflict have had on mental health. 

“More than 60 per cent of the population is made up young people, and the highest number of victims in the past three decades of war has been in this age range,” said Zabihullah Halimi, an activist from Nangarhar’s Behsud district. “Focusing on young people means focusing on Afghanistan.”

In Ghor, Kunduz and Bamian provinces, the discussion was about how media can either promote or defuse conflict. In Helmand, Kunar and Paktika, people discussed how poets could do the same.

An inter-province discussion held via Skype allowed audiences in Paktika and Kabul to share ideas about curbing violence against women.

The debate series is part of an IWPR project called Afghan Reconciliation: Promoting Peace and Building Trust by Engaging Civil Society, and is designed to give people space to talk about ways towards peace and stability. 

The latest round of debates included staff from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Jafar Rasuli, head of public awareness at the UNAMA office in the central Bamian province, said, “These IWPR debates are very educational. If they were broadcast via radio, hundreds of thousands of people would benefit from them, instead of just 100 [at a time]”.


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