Despite the real dangers presented by militant groups, the withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan could allow the country’s better educated younger population to take greater responsibility for the country’s future. Afghan broadcaster and pastor, Shoaib Ebadi, the presenter of one of SAT-7’s programmes for Afghanistan, shared his views on the country’s future and called for unity at this crucial time.
Speaking after an episode of Secrets of Life that addressed terrorism in the country, Shoaib said, “The majority of Afghan people have some fear. Those who are in their 40s and above who remember the Communist regime and its collapse, think the current government may also collapse and they fear that possibility. Younger people – the majority of the population – have no experience of that period but have lived with suicide bombings and killings. Many want to have peace and the end of killing and violence.”
Taliban groups have made significant gains in recent months, especially in the north and districts surrounding several provincial capitals. Afghan government, UN and human rights participants at a side event at the latest session of the UN Human Rights Council expressed grave concerns at the spike of violence targeting civilian populations, human rights defenders, and media workers. They noted, too, how girls and women are disproportionately targeted, something that Shoaib spoke out against strongly in Secrets of Life following a terrible triple car bomb attack on a high school in May.
New freedoms at risk
“One thing young Afghans fear is the loss of the relative freedoms they have been enjoying,” Shoaib says: “freedom of the media, freedom of women to work and be educated. They fear that these may be lost under a Taliban-led regime.”
It is not often recognised, he says, that Afghanistan has recently been enjoying freedoms that do not exist in neighbouring countries. “Freedoms as set out by the constitution are not found in a single country in the region – not in Iran, nor in Pakistan, Tajikistan or Uzbekistan, especially freedoms relating to politics and the media. Young Afghans are able to express their beliefs and opinions. Women in Afghanistan are free to go to sports centres and stadiums, for example, to see a football match.”
Shoaib admits that these freedoms could be at risk if the government falls. However, he says “My hope, first and foremost, is in the Lord Himself”. After that, he is heartened by the country’s young population. “Today young people are motivated to open their eyes and ears… to gain knowledge and understanding in all kinds of fields,” he explains. “They want to mature and build their lives because they see what is happening in the rest of the world and compare. Whatever their ethnic backgrounds, they challenge the values and religious beliefs with which they have grown up, whether Shi’a or Sunni.”
Women an important force
Shoaib also believes that women have become “an important force in the economy of Afghanistan and in particular in the cities.” He points out that they are visible in the media, in politics and in the economy and will not be willing to live under the conditions once imposed by the Taliban.
Widespread corruption is another challenge, but Shoaib says “These young people and women have begun the struggle and are taking action to expose it. They are promoting peace and are very active online and playing a central role in Afghan society.”
A harder road
The exodus of foreign troops is coming twenty years after the 9/11 attacks on New York and a US-led invasion that overthrew a Taliban government that had shielded al-Qaeda.
“I know some Afghans are unhappy about the departure of Western forces,” Shoaib concludes, “but my own view is that it is necessary for the people of Afghanistan for their own future and that of their country.
“This may involve travelling a harder road with bends and dangers, but in the last 200 years or so it has been other countries that have sought to direct the future of Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan have to be responsible for making their own decisions. It is essential that the people come together and be united in protecting their freedoms and decide their own future.”
This doesn’t mean that Western and other nations should abandon Afghanistan, however. Shoaib adds: “The international support is a major lifeline for the people of Afghanistan in the present time. Afghans and Afghan believers need the international community to continue their financial support and to advocate on behalf of the orphans, widows, injured, and disabled people in Afghanistan.”
- Pray for the end of terrorism and violence in Afghanistan, and especially for protection for girls and women seeking education, journalists, and human rights advocates.
- Pray for Afghanistan’s leaders, that they will seek wise counsel and guide with humility and integrity, and that appropriate solutions will bring peace, reconciliation, and healing.
- Ask that hard-won freedoms, especially greater opportunities for women and girls, will be secure
- Ask that Afghanistan will continue on a path to greater peace and freedom, including the freedom to follow whetever faith people choose