Have a glance at the world and one can easily spot a youth playing its role in community works; through peace-building, social changes, and inter-ethnic and religious dialogues. From developed to underdeveloped states, youth has been contributing towards the wellbeing of society and their country’s development. As Siobhan McEvoy dexterously articulates by saying “Youth are the primary actors in grassroots community development/relations work – they are the frontlines of Peacebuilding”.
Let us go back to Afghanistan in the 1920s. The youth in Afghanistan strived to make their state a better place. History witnessed a group of Mahmud Tarzi’s followers – Afghanan-e-Jawan – who strived for Afghanistan’s first constitution. As years passed, youth activism multiplied. Eventually, a time came in the 1960s and 70s when Kabul University became a hub of political activism. The 21st century revealed some harsh scenarios for youth in the shape of war. However, in bigger cities of Afghanistan, youth’s enrollment in universities and the formation of civil societies continued to see a rise.
Youth Bulge Afghanistan
People who suffer war realize the value of peace. From the Soviets to the United States, the pursuance of National interest has kept Afghanistan burning in war. Eventually, they realized the value of Peace after 19 years of conflict. As a result, peace talks began in which a group of certain actors participated. Since Afghanistan constitutes a massive youth population, which according to UNFPA Afghanistan is 63.7% (under 25), hence their opinions and views are must-including factors in any prospect of peace to Afghanistan.
The National Joint Youth Programme
Commonly, a specific group in every state makes National decisions. Subsequently, the majority of the population which consists of youngsters in youth-bulge countries is negated. In 2006, Seven UN agencies and eight Afghan government ministries laid the foundation of the National Joint Youth Programme (2007-2010) to ensure the participation of youth in socio-political matters, local governance, democracy, peace-building, and development of Afghanistan. For the attainment of these objectives, the government planned to facilitate students in every manner. From educational needs to skill development, and engaging youth in governance, democracy, and advocacy to establishing a volunteer force; they tried to support youth. Unfortunately, after years of effort, they failed to achieve any success.
Reclaiming Peace in Afghanistan
Similarly, like everyone else, young Afghans have hopes and expectations to see peace returning to Afghanistan. In 2019, an essay competition with the theme “Reclaiming Peace in Afghanistan” was organized by The National Centre for Dialogue and Progress (NCDP) in which around 125 young Afghan pupils participated and shared their hopes, expectations, and suggestions regarding Peace Process. Some of the key suggestions revolved around the negotiated political settlement among Afghan actors, the establishment of a negotiation team with the inclusion of youth and civil society, and the sharing of information regarding the peace process. They emphasized that no stakeholder should maximize leverage at the negotiation table by force. The Essayists supported the settlement of disputes. Likewise, for justification, they penned down the Quranic verses which accentuated peace and harmony as rudimentary principles of Islam.
The youth of Afghanistan took initiatives on their own and have been striving to contribute to bringing peace to Afghanistan. Their mutual goal of making their country a better place coils them together. With the beginning of the Peace process in 2018, the think tanks, civil societies groups, and women activists have been conducting public opinion surveys, organizing public gatherings and table talks, and running social media campaigns to voice up their opinion about Peace. For instance, young women started a #MyRedLine social media campaign to share their opinion about peace in Afghanistan. Similarly, in March this year, a historic National Peace Gathering was organized in Kabul in which around 1300 people assembled to raise a voice for the inclusion of youth and women in the Peace process.
Poetry – A Youth’s Mean of Expression
Poetry has always been a soft power to express hard situations. For a long time, poetry has been playing the role of catalyzer to change systems or bring revolution. From Pakistan to Afghanistan, every poet either Allama Muhammad Iqbal or Khushal khan Khattak realized the power of poetry to rule and accelerate minds towards positivity.
Presently, the young Afghan poets are using poetry to express their wish of returning peace in Afghanistan. Poetry has become one of the factors that gathers people in Afghanistan. The open-air poetry recital gatherings are being organized to express the enduring desire for peace and they believe that after suffering violence and war, their literature and poetry can be used to help them to overcome the torment suffering and teach them to live in Peace and Harmony. Afghan youth’s interest in poetry indicates that “Peace and Love are in the veins of Afghans”.
Lastly, Afghanistan’s youth is full of potential and has been struggling to get rid of the violence and war. While deciding the future of Afghanistan, the majority of the population should be taken under consideration and their ideas regarding peace must be acknowledged. It becomes easier to achieve an objective of a peaceful state when every-level actor aligns and works together for the wellbeing of a country.