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Afghanistan: A year after the return of Taliban and the Exodus and Suffering of Afghan people

On Monday, 11th of July at Serafeio City of Athens Conference Center, the Greek Forum of Refugees along with the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) and the Afghan Community of Migrants and Refugees in Greece, organized an informative event on Afghanistan, a year after the violent seizure of power by the Taliban.

Ms. Nazifa Yusofi Bek, Member of the last Afghan Parliament and current President of the Afghan Women Parliamentarians and Leaders Network (AWPLN) in Greece, was the key speaker who opened the event with her important speech. Among others, she said: “Almost one year has passed from the collapse of Afghanistan by Taliban and, unfortunately, this one year has been the darkest period in the history of Afghanistan that our people experienced. Women have faced the biggest challenge. Despite all the pressure from the international community and especially, Afghan women’s advocacy at national and international levels, Taliban, with their overall obstinacy, still implementing their own strategy and not considering the expectation of Afghan people.”

The first panel highlighted the situation inside Afghanistan, especially over the last year, focusing on the human rights situation and the social daily life faced by the Afghan people.

This panel discussion featured three highly specialized figures in the field of Afghanistan:

Ms. Tahmina Salik, co-founder, and Director of the non-profit organization PAREI, whose main work focuses on efforts to eradicate poverty and promote gender equality and create opportunities for people from Afghanistan. Ms. Tahmina also leads the Danish-Afghan Women’s Forum of the Afghan Diaspora (DAKDIF) passionately defending women’s rights in Denmark and Afghanistan.

Ms. Tahmina visited Afghanistan last February and met the strong Afghan women who fight for their rights every day. She closely touched and felt the terrible situation of these brave women under the fear and terror of the Taliban regime. She repeated again and again: “Taliban did not change in med-nineties. They did not change in the last 10 or 11 months. I can assure you that they will not change anytime soon either”

Dr. Homaira Rezaie, Chair of the UK Hazara Committee, with excellent knowledge of the women’s and minority rights situation in Afghanistan spoke about the vulnerable groups and minorities in the country. She specifically said: “Afghanistan is made of minority groups. There is no majority in Afghanistan. And that really reflects the diversity and beauty of the country. The entire society is made up of minorities. Then what you see and want to see is an inclusive society which, unfortunately, is something we do not have under the Taliban regime.”

Regarding the vulnerable groups, she added: “One of the most vulnerable groups is women because of their gender. However, In Afghanistan, there are two other groups that are vulnerable under the Taliban regime. To be more specific, there are certain ethnic groups and religious groups. Since the majority of people follow the Sunni sect of Islam, anyone who does not follow that falls in the category of vulnerable groups”.

Ms. Filio Kontrafouri, journalist and correspondent in Afghanistan from 2005 until August 2021, with plenty of collaborations with European and International news agencies, started her speech with what she witnessed in Afghanistan through her long years of professional work in the country as a journalist. She witnessed and recorded the progress of the situation during the post-Taliban government from 2002 to the fall of Afghanistan at the hand of the Taliban and the withdrawal of NATO and Western forces from Afghanistan. “Until 2001, it (Afghanistan) was a forgotten country for the whole world. 20 years later it came to the fore and became so famous for all the wrong reasons and mistakes. And it’s back to where it was exactly 20 years ago, again forgotten in a marsh”, she stressed.

In the second panel discussion, Dr. Angeliki Dimitriadis, principal researcher at the Global Public Policy institute (GPPi) on the subject of migration management policies and governance at the European level, was responsible for the coordination of the debate.

Mr. Reshad Jalali, Policy Officer of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), spoke first, and he gave very useful data regarding the situation of Afghan refugees and asylum seekers in Europe. Afterwards, Mr. Minos Mouzourakis, head of the Legal Department of Refugee Aegean Support (RSA), presented extensively the legal framework that defines the asylum application procedures, as well as the issues arising from the procedures. Mr. Lefteris Papagiannakis, Director of the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR), focused on the socio-political issues affecting the reception and integration of refugees, while finally, Ms. Raihana Gangi, Vice President of the Afghan Community of Migrants and Refugees in Greece, addressed an appeal to both the Greek and European authorities, as well as civil society, to treat refugees and asylum seekers from Afghanistan equally and humanely.

The aim of the event was to empower the voice of the people of Afghanistan and put the problems that have plagued Afghan society for the last year back on the agenda. The strongest message of the event was that the passion for democracy in Afghanistan remains unquenchable.

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