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19. February 2020 - Interview

Jamila Afghani: “Peace for women in Afghanistan is based on equality and respect”

Peace activist Jamila Afghani has been the director of Medica Afghanistan for one year now. In December she was honoured by the US Embassy in Kabul for her “exceptional efforts in the fight for human rights”. During her visit to Cologne, we took the opportunity to talk to her about herself and her work. How did she experience the war? What does peace mean to her? Why is she working for women? She was just a teenage girl when she had to flee with her family. Jamila Afghani has never given up hope. Her strength, energy and passion are for women's rights, equality and sustainable peace.

Jamila, tell us about a very important situation in your life.

Jamila Afghani: “I was about 13 when we fled to Pakistan in the middle of the war. My sisters were dying in the camps without food and shelter. Since then I have kept a commitment to myself that as long as I am alive I will struggle to help other fellow human beings, especially women and children.”

Do you have a vision for Medica Afghanistan?

Jamila Afghani: “Medica Afghanistan should have counselling departments not only in five provinces, but in at least one third of Afghanistan. The service we provide for survivors is unique and very much needed. And I want to strengthen our advocacy department. We should fight for women’s rights and equality not only at a local level, but at the national and even international levels, too. It’s about political participation, economic empowerment of women and their right to live without violence.”

Why are you a feminist?

Jamila Afghani: “I’m feminist because I’m a mother and because I’m a human rights defender. So, feminism is about seeing a just and peaceful world for myself, my children and my fellow human beings. I believe in the power of sisterhood and the power of womanhood.”

How has the war in Afghanistan affected the situation for women and girls?

Jamila Afghani: “Unfortunately, the war in Afghanistan has affected the daily life of Afghan girls and women from many, many angles. It affected their basic human rights, it hurt their bodies and souls, it destroyed families. It affected their social participation, their political participation, their economic situation. So, Afghan women are victims of the war both directly and indirectly.”

Do you think that for women, wartime violence means something else than for men?

Jamila Afghani: “I think yes, the impact of war is different for men and women. First of all, women are not the creators of war, they are not the starters of war. However, in terms of impact, you can say that most of the bad impacts are on women. Especially gender-based impacts like wartime rape, social stigma, and economic burden. If there is discrimination and violence against women in times of peace, it’s all the more so in war. And they are often left alone with it. That’s why Medica Afghanistan is needed so badly: to support and to empower them.”

Is the war really over in Afghanistan?

Jamila Afghani: “No, not at all. I think a new chapter of war has opened in Afghanistan. Because the violent activities of the Taliban are not the only problem. We have issues like corruption, and we have issues like drug mafia. And fighters of the Islamic terror group Daesh are also growing. Recently I have also become afraid and concerned because of the new conflict between the USA and Iran. It might aggregate the situation in our country as well.”

How would you recognize that war is over? And how would you feel?

Jamila Afghani: “Well there is something in my mind I can share with you. When the war has ended I think Afghanistan will be green, with a variety of flowers. I can see men, women, children happily talking with each other, going on picnics. Young people are studying, they have their books in their hands, they are talking about science, about advancement. Very important: everybody respects each other and everybody equally enjoys the environment, water and resources.”

What do women in particular need in order to feel “War is over”?

Jamila Afghani: “We had a small survey among our clients, we were asking what peace means to them or what the end of war means to them. Some of the clients said, ‘If my husband does not beat me, that is peace for me’. Some other women said, ‘If my children can go to school and come back home safely, that is peace for me’. Several women explained: ‘If I have enough food for my family, that is peace for me’. So, peace will be different for every woman in Afghanistan. But an overall peace settlement for women in Afghanistan is based on equality and respect.”


We thank Jamila Afghani for the interview.

Author: Christine Vallbracht, Online Officer at medica mondiale


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