Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, October 26, 2007

Afghan M.P. Qanooni speaks at Wilson Center

Washington’s Woodrow Wilson Center today hosted Younus Qanooni, the speaker of Afghanistan’s lower house of Parliament, for a democratization forum.

Qanooni began his overview of democratic development in Afghanistan by comparing democracy to a new-born baby, saying that assistance and patience is necessary. He urged the audience to keep in mind that Afghanistan’s form of democracy is unique and will continue to develop in a way consistent with the will of the people. Still, he desires the “child” to grow strong with the help of the U.S.

“Democracy is not a slogan, but a goal,” Qanooni said. While much work is required for it to be realized, the Afghan people are committed, he added. Qanooni also claimed that his country is witnessing a new political life, having grown tired of the “old ways.” Citizens have matured politically by forming new parties, he said.

Qanooni highlighted the challenges of Afghanistan’s new democratic system – obstacles such as political and religious extremism. To counter these challenges, he urged Afghan leaders and citizens to act and not simply talk, and to have the courage to accept ideas different from their own. In essence, he declared that democracy should be a strategy – one tackled from the bottom-up and the top-down. He also argued that Afghan citizens should have the “correct interpretation” of democracy.

During the question and answer session, Qanooni fielded inquiries regarding the role of police, relations with Iran and Pakistan, and the prevalence of poppy cultivation.

The most poignant discussion touched upon how Afghanistan will be affected if the U.S. were to invade Iran. Qanooni lamented that the Iraq war has overshadowed the desperate needs in Afghanistan and fears that the U.S. will forget his country again if it embarks on another invasion.

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