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Call on President Karzai to Build up a National Museum of Memories for Peace in Afghanistan

Afghanistan Human Rights & Democracy Organization (AHRDO)

Thursday 9 January 2014

All the versions of this article: [English] [فارسى]

" We, on behalf of tens of thousands of war victims in Afghanistan, officially request your Excellency, the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, to issue a binding presidential decree to build up a National Museum of Memories for Peace. It is our hope that the collected “Memory Boxes” will have a chance to be transferred to and exhibited in this venue on a permanent basis. Protection of these boxes as war legacies and the establishment of this important memorial site to honor victims require your Excellency’s serious attention. As a token of your commitment towards preserving human rights and peace in the country, we sincerely hope that you grant this wish to the people of Afghanistan"

In its contemporary history, Afghanistan has emerged from different eras of war and conflict, unfolded in such a way that the end of one period has not ushered in a new chapter of peace and stability, but has rather led to a new period of conflict with different forms in different eras. From wars for modern state building to struggles for independence and suppression of internal rebellions, to the victimization of about one and half million people during the campaign against the former soviet invasion and the subsequent violent infighting in the 1990s, to the Taliban brutal rule and the post-Taliban counter-terrorism all have been forms of conflicts that Afghanistan has experienced.

It goes without saying that such bloody periods have resulted in severe human losses. Despite the absence of exact statistics in the form of an organized databank for war victims, killing of civilians, individually or en mass constitutes a significant portion of the overall conflict. Unfortunately, thus far, no mechanism has been in place to deal with the catastrophic historical past and to draw lessons for non-repetition. Therefore, the bitter facts of the past remain subjects for contemplation, thinking and review in order to take measures to redress the past.

The little available statistics and documentation demonstrate that more than 120 mass graves have been discovered in various parts of the country such as in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif, Badakhshan, Bamyan, Kunar as well as several other provinces in which the remains of hundreds of people are buried. While there are no specific statistics available about the disappeared, only a small segment of it that includes 5000 people has recently become public. The release of these figures once again aggrieved a significant number of Afghans, both in the country and abroad, and accentuated the need for dispensation of justice and tribute to memories of victims more than any time before. Regrettably, war and violence remains continuous and despite good achievements made in area of human rights over the past decade, we have also witnessed victimization of over 14,000 civilians.

In order to preserve war legacies and document different periods of conflict for the purpose of truth-finding, a mechanism, therefore, yet needs to be developed. What is urgently required is to protect collective memory and acknowledge pain and suffering of victims in order to prevent human rights violations and achieve a durable peace.

Mr. President!

We think that your post-Taliban era has had substantial achievements in the realm of human rights despite facing significant constraints and difficulties. The establishment of the Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), the expansion of educational opportunities, the increased access to healthcare and finally a decrease in maternity and child mortalities in the country are, inter alia, the positive achievements made by your government. However, given the dark history and gross human rights violations perpetrated in the past, given the perils and threats lurking down the road in Afghanistan, there needs to be more serious and robust initiatives to address the suffering of victims and promote public awareness in relation to human rights situation and dangers that war continues to pose. Paying tribute to victims, respecting the right to life and consolation of survivors is, therefore, of paramount importance in a period of transition from conflict to an enduring peace and stability.

While most of us dearly cherish memories of victims of different periods of conflict. We are concerned that such memories will gradually be put into oblivion. The main reason for this can be attributed to a failure in protecting, preserving and institutionalizing memories of victims of consecutive conflicts and wars. Therefore, we firmly believe that the establishment of a memorial site is a significant step towards the acknowledgement of pain and suffering of the victims’ families and in learning from the past to prevent reoccurrence tragedies.

The Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization (AHRDO) has, during its five years of activities, collected more than one hundred “Memory Boxes” containing objects left from war victims. The contents of these boxes are more than one thousand items of various kinds. In order to protect collective memory and preserve war legacies in Afghanistan, AHRDO, in collaboration with other civil society organizations, plans to establish a National Museum of Memories for Peace in the Kabul. This museum will serve as a first national institution to lay the ground not only for honoring memories of war victims, but also as a powerful symbol to remind us of the destructions caused by war and the lessons learned.

Therefore, on behalf of tens of thousands of war victims, we request Your Excellency, the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, to issue a binding presidential decree to build up a National Museum of Memories for Peace. It is our hope that the collected “Memory Boxes” will have a chance to be transferred to and exhibited in this venue on a permanent basis. Protection of these boxes as war legacies and the establishment of this important memorial site to honor victims require your Excellency’s serious attention. As a token of your commitment towards preserving human rights and peace in the country, we sincerely hope that you grant this wish to the people of Afghanistan.

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