Lecture series brings attention back to Afghanistan: ‘We only get a fraction’

How is it going a little over a year after the Taliban took power in Afghanistan? What is the effect of war on men and women? And what about the two thousand Afghan refugees in the Netherlands? PhD student and diversity expert Lema Salah organizes three evenings in LUX on these themes. “Afghanistan appears to have disappeared from media view.”

Last August it was one year since the Taliban took power in Afghanistan. In that year, much has changed in the West Asian country. Few of the women’s rights that were there remain, the economy is in a deep recession, and free media is censored or otherwise silenced.

‘Yet Afghanistan is still more than a country of war and misery,’ says Lema Salah, PhD candidate in political science and expert in diversity and inclusion at Radboud University. During the lecture series Salam Afghanistan Together with guest speakers, Salah looks back on the past year, but also on the history of Afghanistan. ‘Because it is very rich, full of art and culture. And that story also deserves to be told’.

Afghan refugees

The lectures, a collaboration between the Department of Political Science and LUX Arthouse, take place in LUX and span three weeks. The first reading, which will take place tomorrow evening, will focus on the changes of the past year and the country’s political history. “Afghanistan is a country that has seen many political changes in the last 40 years,” explains Salah. And they all had their own unique influence. You have to think carefully about that.’ Afghan musicians will provide musical interludes this evening and an Afghan writer will read a story.

‘Women are confronted with sexual violence, where rape is used as a means of oppression’

The series is also aware of the more than two thousand Afghans who have fled to the Netherlands since the country’s fall. ‘During the second lecture, we will discuss, among other things, how Afghan refugees experienced the evacuation from Kabul and the reception in the Netherlands,’ explains Salah. “We Dutch often see refugees as nothing more than that, a refugee. But their story does not end when they arrive in the Netherlands. That is why we will focus on people this evening, and not just the suffering they have experienced.’

Sexual war violence

The third lecture focuses on gender in wartime. “The effect of war on people is different between men and women and has different consequences for people from the LGBT community,” says Salah. ‘Women are often confronted with sexual violence, where rape, for example, is used as a means of oppression. But men are attacked so that they can no longer fight for the enemy. This was seen, for example, in Sierra Leone, where the hands and feet of mainly men were chopped off.’

The reason for the different themes is not only the desire to tell a complete story, says Salah, but also the way Western media presents Afghan history. Since taking power, Afghanistan seems to have disappeared from the media’s view. And when you read about it, it is often about attacks and degradation of human rights. It is only a fraction of what is going on at the moment.’

The moderator is aware that it is difficult to summarize the whole story in three lectures. “But you have to start somewhere,” says Salah. ‘I hope we can teach people something by focusing on underexposed subjects. And of course that we can do history justice’.

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