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Can cultural factors be attributed to the ‘backwardness’ of Afghanistan?

On Tuesday 9th of April 2019, the second campus conversation of the year was held at the University of Adelaide. In this week’s conversation we pointed our focus onto our culture, to analyse its negative effects on the overall development of Afghanistan throughout the years – with the topic question being “Can cultural factors be attributed to the ‘backwardness’ of Afghanistan?”

The conversation started off with a general discussion that allowed everyone to share their living and travel experience from Afghanistan and their thoughts in regard to the development of the country throughout the years. During the conversation one of the major points that were raised involved tribal culture. The majority of Afghanistan’s population resides in the countryside, often living as tribes, therefore “tribal culture” majorly influences and determines the structure of our society. These people are reluctant to change any aspect of their culture, even if it is evidently wrong. For example, arranged marriage, especially at a young age, disadvantages both the boy and the girl involved in many ways such as preventing them from continuing their education and destroying their dreams of having a profession in life. Despite this, it is still practiced in the countryside regions of Afghanistan as part of the culture. This lack of change has greatly contributed to the lack of development of Afghanistan as a nation throughout the years.

Afghanistan’s cultural identity is deeply shaped by Islamic values and beliefs. However, these values have been manipulated throughout history to reinforce ideas that benefit a certain group, while disadvantaging others. Male superiority is a predominant result of this manipulation and abuse. In such cases, religious influence has also been manipulated to promote racism between Afghanistan’s racial groups. For instance, the Shia-Sunni difference has been majorly emphasised throughout the country to segregate the Hazaras, making this minority group an easy target for discrimination and racism. Hence, due to the lack of education within the society, these manipulations are easily believed and hence practiced in the society.

There are also other external factors that must be considered when discussing culture. Our corrupted political system for instance prevents young people’s voices to be heard, that ask for a change, and therefore the same old rituals are continuously practised. During the conversation, the majority of the participants believed that political factors have a greater influence on Afghanistan’s backwardness compared to cultural factors. Therefore, a change in the political system is required in order for the country to experience any development or progress on a large scale. Saudi Arabia – and other foreign countries that benefit from the current situation in Afghanistan – investment in promoting education in mosques in Afghanistan rather than mainstream schools has significant influenced in the educational “backwardness” of our nation.

Nonetheless, if the negative practices of our culture, especially marriage at a young age, is eradicated, whilst education is promoted, we will certainly see a progress within the society. Additionally, such a huge change can be sparked by small changes from within the society. As young educated Afghans living in Australia, we are privileged with many resources, which we can use to raise awareness. Raising awareness is a great strategy to educate Afghans living in Australia, Afghanistan or any other countries about our negative practices and asking for a change. It is also extremely crucial that the younger generation integrate in this process. As a result, AATSA promises the possibility of holding an informative session where the younger generation will be educated about the current situation in Afghanistan.

Thanks to all those who participated, in this session we were able to come up with an action to back up our insightful and informative conversation. As the campus conversation coordinator this year I hope to see many more individuals attending these sessions and getting involved in our aim to assist our Afghan society.

Hayda Ibrahimi                                                                                       Sajad Nazari

Campus conversation coordinator                                                          Campus conversation team member

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