Afghan Poets Urged to Promote Peace

Literature seen as a way to encourage society to turn away from conflict.

Afghan Poets Urged to Promote Peace

Literature seen as a way to encourage society to turn away from conflict.

Thursday, 26 February, 2015

Poets and writers can play a significant part in ensuring Afghanistan has a peaceful future, a series of IWPR-organised debates heard this month.

Poetry has long been an important part of Afghan culture, and panellists at debates held in the Helmand, Kunar and Paktia provinces said writers should be playing a more prominent role in establishing a stable society.

Janat Gul Feda, head of the information and culture department in the eastern Kunar province, said that writers exerted a strong influence.

“Without a doubt, in the past some of our poets and writers have fuelled war and hatred, not peace,” he told the audience at an event in the provincial centre Asadabad on February 16. “That does mean, however, that writers can also encourage the nation towards future peace and unity.”

Kateb Shah Kateb, a young writer, agreed, saying, “If a poet fulfils his responsibilities properly, he can help create a better environment for himself and his people, instead of war and violence.”

In a similar debate held on February 15 in Helmand’s university, participants said that writers as well as politicians could help ordinary people understood the importance of reconciliation.

“Beautiful texts and poems carrying messages of humanity and peace can change people’s minds,” said Farid Ahmad Farhang, deputy head of the information and culture department in this southern province.

Farhang said literature exerted a massive influence on the public imagination. Abdul Satar Storai, representing civil society groups in Helmand, agreed with this point.

“By using poetry and prose, we can bring members of our society back from the path of war. Our people are very sensitive to these [literary] forms,” he said.

Mohammad Daud Farhang from the provincial branch of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council argued that “weapons and force cannot achieve what the pen can do”.

An audience member called Mahmud questioned the idea that literature really could contribute to security.

Samiullah Nasrati, a lecturer at Kabul university, answered that the two complemented each other.

“Peace means prosperity, wellbeing and good fortune; literature adds colour to prosperity, wellbeing and good fortune,” he said.

A February 17 debate in Paktia province heard calls for writers to actively encourage reconciliation.

“Our country is burning in the flames of war,” said author and journalist Niazullah Asil Zazai. “Poets and writers are affected by the situation more than anyone else, so what they write can inspire people to seek peace.”

A young poet, Feda Mohammed Baran, agreed that the heightened sensitivities allowed them to reflect the challenges facing wider society, including the need for peace.

Debate participant Emran Haqmal said writers were often discouraged from speaking out because of the security risks involved.

“We have seen many examples where poets and writers have been threatened and forced to leave this path,” he said.

This report is based on an ongoing series of debates conducted as part of the IWPR programme Afghan Reconciliation: Promoting Peace and Building Trust by Engaging Civil Society.

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