"Our generation believes in democracy", Afghan youth activist addresses the UN Security Council

Amidst a merciless war, youth in Afghanistan is paving a future built on interdependence, cooperation and trust with the rest of the world.

Photo: Ramiz Bakhtiar, during his address before the UN Security Council, New York City, 17 September 2018. Photo by FES.

In a speech before the United Nations Security Council, youth activist Ramiz Bakhtiar from Afghanistan delivered the hopes and expectations of young Afghans about the peace process in the country. Bakhtiar is alumni of the Young Leaders Forum (YLF), a program by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung established in 2004 that brings together a unique group of graduate students as well as up-and-coming young professionals from diverse backgrounds: political activists, civil servants, scholars, journalists, young entrepreneurs. We render here Bakhtiar’s speech in its entirety.

It’s a great honor to speak at the United Nations Security Council in my capacity as the Afghan Youth Representative to the United Nations.

In a time that many Afghans feel forgotten by the international community and overwhelmed by a merciless war you are communicating an important message to our people by giving a young Afghan this platform as well as expressing support to active participation of youth in decision making in line with Security Council Resolution 2250 and 2419.

I realize that this is an opportunity to draw attention to the more complex and nuanced reality of Afghanistan as someone living and working in that country as a youth activist.

Afghanistan has suffered so much and for so long: It’s our reality! I’m pleased to say that it’s also a reality that our resilience, progress and aspirations keep us focused to work for a better tomorrow.

We are not a failed nation, we are a resilient nation that is tested and challenged the way very few other nations have ever been. We ourselves are not only the victims of global terrorism, but we are fighting against it on behalf of all you. Afghans are at the frontlines of the battle against the common enemy of all of us.

"We are not a failed nation, we are a resilient nation that is tested and challenged the way very few other nations have ever been."

The young generation of Afghanistan shares common values and interests with our global partners and friends that allow us to strengthen and deepen our partnership with our friends in the region and with our allies throughout the world.

Two third of Afghanistan’s population is under the age of 25. They rarely remember the Taliban time, let alone the regimes before that. They belong to a new Afghanistan. They have similar ambitions as their fellow youth in other parts of the world. The youth of Afghanistan are different in their way of thinking, in their approach and the way they define and see our relationship with the world in the coming 10 to 20 years. They are your true partners who do not just expect permanent dependency on the rest of the world, but trying hard for interdependency, trust and cooperation.

Our ambition is to make our country a hub for regional connectivity and a land of opportunities. We want the world to explore our culture and music and learn our history. We were a nation that embraced diversity as an asset and respected our religious beliefs. Our generation, is committed to revive our historic values once again.

The young generation of Afghanistan has been the key driver of many successes of the past 17 years. Media is one shining example. In 2001, independent media was virtually nonexistent. Today Afghan journalists do heroic work under incredibly difficult circumstances. Afghan media play an increasingly significant role in giving a voice to the voiceless Afghans and holding power to account. We have lost 53 journalists in just less than 4 years. Before coming to New York, I lost two of my colleagues and friends from TOLOnews TV, Samim Faramarz and Ramiz Ahmadi, in a twin bombing as they were reporting live from a blast site. Their colleagues were mourning, reporting and looking after their families in the same time. That’s our reality of both pain and strength.

We are certain that Afghanistan will never go back to the past, because there are thousands of like-minded youth who are hopeful and work fearlessly to make their country with their own hands and they have the hope that the international community will not abandon them half way.

Terrorism has affected all Afghans. We want peace more than anyone else. We are holding the fort with our resilience and hope. We expect you to focus on real causes of terrorism and force all regional players to play a constructive role.

Few days ago, Kabul lost 17 years old Rahila, who was killed by a suicide bomber along with 47 other students in an educational center, who in her own words, had written about her dreams and future goals in her diary:

"I can be the Rahila that her society needs her desperately in its pursuit for prosperity and progress. This society will overcome its current crisis by solutions drawn from the knowledge and education of its youth."

Few days after Rahila was killed for just going to school, her brother established a library under her name in Kabul to complete his sister’s dream of educating girls in Afghanistan. That’s a clear demonstration of Afghan resolve.

In another attempt for peace, earlier this year, a Caravan from Helmand started their walk—bear foot—from the southern Helmand province to Kabul, demanding peace. One of the members of the Helmand Peace March is 22 years old Zaheer Ahmad Zindani, who was blinded five years ago by a roadside bomb. In August 2018, I met with the Caravan in Kabul and they sent you all this message:

Afghans are going through deadliest days, weeks, months, years and decades now. We have lost our finest ones to this bloody war. But, we want peace and peace in Afghanistan cannot come without the support and will of the international community, in particular the United Nations. We therefore call on all involved countries in the issues of Afghanistan to not spend resources and human capital on the excess of war but in bringing a long-lasting peace in Afghanistan.

The Caravan is still walking. They just reached Mazar-e-Sharif. They have said that they will not stop walking until peace is there. That is the resolve and resilience of our generation

Our generation also believes in democracy. We expect our elections to happen next month. We fear that because of various challenges the elections will trigger nationwide unrest. You have a key role in keeping our government focused on national priorities, including holding acceptable elections, fighting corruption and supporting our security forces in their tough fight.

I drafted my speech on 9/11, but in 2018. This reminded me of the terrorists’ most heinous attack on the World Trade Center Twin Towers, and this should remind all of us that terrorism is a global phenomenon that threatens all of us. We all have the responsibility to ensure that such atrocity never happens again. It can be done when we all honor our share of responsibilities and fight against terrorism together.

On behalf of all Afghans, I’m grateful to all your sacrifices and contributions in rebuilding Afghanistan.

Thank you.


For more information on the Young Leaders Forum programme and the work by FES in Afghanistan, contact info(at)fes-afghanistan.org and follow the official Facebook fan page for daily updates.



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