If Afghanistan is to move forward, its people will have to shed their fear. Motivated by this idea, Hadi Marifat has embraced the power of the arts to transform his country.
Marifat was seven years old when fled home to escape the Afghan civil war. For 16 years he remained a refugee in Pakistan while across the border, the Taliban reigned. He returned in 2002 to an Afghanistan which had changed beyond recognition during his absence.
When he got there, the Taliban were not entirely defeated, but Marifat noticed among his compatriots an increasingly positive energy and a desire for a “new Afghanistan”. At the same time, he recalls, it was clear that people were still “traumatized by the horror and terror of the Taliban.”
Marifat became interested in the power of music, theater, art and poetry - which he calls the “software” of peace building - to enable people to shape a more peaceful, just society.
Traditionally, conflict resolution and peace-building efforts focus on “hardware” such as military intervention, statist diplomacy and real politics. None of these “demonstrate enough potential to control and transform the complex nature of contemporary conflict,” Marifat says. “The role of art is especially vital to create space for dialogue at the social level.”
Marifat is a co-founder of the Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization (AHRDO). He currently oversees initiatives related to human rights, transitional justice, women rights, democratization, peace building and community mobilization.