Friday, November 21, 2014

Remarks by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at Ataturk Symposium

Remarks

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, and friends,

It is my honour to be here as a part of this symposium, celebrating Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. I would like to thank my respected friend Ambassador Apakan and the Turkish Mission for their coordination of  the Third Annual Atatürk Symposium to remind us of the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and reflect on his long-lasting impact. I am pleased to join my esteemed UN colleagues, Ambassador Gary Quinlan of Australia and their close neighbours Ambassador Jim McLay of New Zealand to make opening remarks for our knowledgeable speakers, Professors Ludwig and McCarthy and Dr. Bay.

I have a particular reason for being here. For us in Afghanistan, our journey toward modernisation in the early 20th century is closely linked with that of Turkey, and to the ideas and aspirations of the Young Turks and Kemal Atatürk.

With the gradual crumbling of the Ottoman Empire on the eve of the First World War, the Young Turks emerged as a major force within the empire. They profoundly influenced the thoughts of nationalist and modernist forces throughout the Muslim world. In Afghanistan, a progressive elite felt a close ideological kinship with the Young Turks, with particular influential elements in the Afghan ruling class seeing Turkey as a source of inspiration. Among them was Mahmud Tarzi, father-in-law of Afghanistan’s next king, who had lived in the Ottoman Empire – in Syria – for a long time,  and was known as the founder of modern nationalist ideology in Afghanistan. It was mainly through him that the influence of the Young Turks’ and later, Kemal Atatürk’s thinking came.

In 1919, the new King,  Amanullah Khan, ascended to the throne of Afghanistan. Influenced by the widely felt progressive aspirations of the time, mainly through Mahmud Tarzi and other members of a political movement of the time, the ‘Young Afghans’, he was a modernist, nationalist king, deeply committed to progress and change . The new King engaged in a historic struggle and managed to lead Afghanistan to full independence from Britain at the start of his reign. With Afghanistan’s independence, King Amanullah devoted himself to securing Afghanistan’s future. Like Kemal Atatürk, the King saw modernisation as the way forward, and to him this meant westernisation.

However, King Amanullah’s success in achieving independence made him a hero and rallying point for anti-colonial, nationalist and pan-Islamic movements across the Muslim world, particularly in Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. But with Soviet Russia to the north and British India to the south, Afghanistan’s geopolitical situation required a delicate balance. For the king to become a symbol of pan-Islamism would threaten this balance of powers, and it took a while to distance himself from championing the pan-Islamic cause and focus instead on reforms.

King Amanullah’s reforms were broad. He ended slavery, established the first Afghan constitution, penal code and many important modern institutions aimed at building a society based on the rule of law. He embarked on a major education agenda, founding modern western-style schools and sending dozens of Afghan students abroad throughout Europe. He emphasised women’s rights, saying that “the keystone of the future structure of new Afghanistan will be the emancipation of women”; to this end he established the first family code. Queen Soraya was the first First Lady in our part of the world that appeared in public without a veil or “limited” veil. He particularly emphasised girls’ education, constructing girls’ schools and sending girls to France, Switzerland, and Turkey. King Amanullah began to modernise the basic health systems, communications infrastructure, as well as the Afghan army. Telephones, telegraphs, a postal service, numerous print media, radio broadcasting, the metric system, cars and airplanes were first introduced in Afghanistan at that time. Besides these substantive changes, under King Amanullah Afghanistan began to modernise socially and culturally as well. Some symbolic changes such as mandatory use of European clothing for public workers and other measures sent shockwaves through the country and the region.  The many photographs of Afghans in western attire from the period are testament to the transformation that Afghanistan’s culture was undergoing.

King Amanullah turned to other nations for support with his reform efforts –Soviet Russia, France, Germany, Italy, the USA, Japan, and even Britain – but more than anywhere else, he turned to the fledgling Republic of Turkey. Afghanistan became only the second country in the world to recognise the new Republic, with the 1921 Turkey-Afghanistan Alliance Agreement, signed in Moscow, even as Turkey was fighting to establish its independence. The Agreement reflected the full mutual trust that Turkey and Afghanistan shared, going so far as to give each a voice in the other’s foreign policy, pledging not to enter into agreements with third parties without each others’ consent.

The Agreement ushered in a period of very close cooperation, as Turkey became integral to Afghanistan’s development and modernisation efforts. The Turks sent educational and military missions to Afghanistan. Turkey’s future Chief of General Staff, Kâzim Pasha, helped train the Afghan army and its officers. Turkey helped build the civil service by sponsoring the first administrative school; got involved in Afghan girls’ education and women’s rights; and later set up the medical training program that became the nucleus of the future Kabul University. Turkey was also instrumental in the drafting of our first Constitution and laws in the 1920s.

King Amanullah understandably saw Turkish involvement in Afghanistan as the key to progress, a manifestation of our shared aspirations for modernisation and to end backwardness. And in many ways, the King’s modernisation project paralleled that of Kemal Atatürk. But Amanullah’s programme was not a non-religious one, and broke from the western secular-modernist model by maintaining a connection between religion, state and law.

The debate between secular-modernism and the religious element is highly pertinent to today’s world. The Al-Qaeda sort of religious extremists denounce the nation-state as un-Islamic and a “blasphemous idol”, though the mainstream view in most Islamic countries is that secular-modernist reform is not inherently anti-Islamic or even non-religious. Rather, the key to modernisation is simply modernity and modern values, as both King Amanullah’s and Kemal Atatürk’s reforms show – values such as freedom, rule of law, progress, prosperity and human rights.

Where Atatürk’s modern state survived, however, Amanullah’s failed. When the King met Mustafa Kemal in Turkey in 1927, forming a strong personal connection, Atatürk is said to have advised him to always maintain the strong support of an army with which to resist counter-pressure from conservative forces. But the failure of the King’s reforms was not due to the lack of a strong army or strong support from the army, or any anti-religious character of his reforms as claimed by his enemies. Rather, where Turkey could tap the uniting power of Turkic nationalism for the new Republic, Afghanistan was disadvantaged by a powerful and divisive tribal and religious elite opposing the reforms. But most importantly, Afghanistan’s strategic location often made it a pawn in the game of international geopolitics, which has sadly undermined many of our past attempts to modernise, from King Amanullah’s to the end of the Cold War.

Now we are engaged in a new attempt at modernisation. Yesterday’s Bonn Conference, ten years after the fall of the Taliban, marked a historic milestone for my country, the largest international gathering on Afghanistan in history, where the international community pledged its continued support for another decade after the end of transition in 2015. In this international support, Turkey’s role is crucial, and now as in Atatürk’s day they have proven themselves a steadfast ally. Just last month Turkey generously hosted the Istanbul Conference on regional security and cooperation, and established the Istanbul Process. Turkey has also been fully supportive of us as we reclaim our historic role as an economic and cultural hub in the ‘Heart of Asia’.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is often remembered as a great leader, revolutionary and moderniser. But we in Afghanistan also remember him as a true friend to our nation, and in this regard his legacy lives on. Today, as we did ninety years ago, Afghanistan can count on the leaders and people of Turkey for inspiration, support and friendship, for which we are deeply honoured and grateful.

I thank you.

Video

Slide Show by Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations

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The International Afghanistan Conference Bonn 2011

Together with Afghanistan, the goal is to give concrete shape to the long-term engagement of the international community and to advance the broader political process in the country.

Background

The International Afghanistan Conference to set the course for Afghanistan’s future

In the run-up to the Afghanistan Conference in Bonn, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai arrived in Bonn on 2 December. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle welcomed him at the airport: he said that Germany was delighted to be hosting the Conference and thus making a contribution towards stability in Afghanistan and towards a bright future for that country.

“We are looking forward to this major Conference”, said Westerwelle. He went on to say that the key message it would send was that the international community intended to continue supporting Afghanistan on a long-term basis. Karzai emphasized that his return to Bonn ten years after the first Afghanistan Conference in that city was a very special occasion for him. Germany was an old friend of Afghanistan and, especially during the last ten years, had played a prominent role in the efforts to help his country and “had made sacrifices for its stabilization”.

Ten years after the Bonn Conference of 2001, the international community is meeting in Bonn again on 5 December 2011. Together with Afghanistan, the goal is to give concrete shape to the long-term joint engagement and to advance the further political process in the country.

Following the handover of responsibility for Afghanistan’s security to the Afghan Government and the completion of the withdrawal of all international combat troops in 2014, the aim is to ensure that Afghanistan remains stable and develops economically.

“Afghanistan must become a stable community that is no longer a threat to peace”, wrote Westerwelle in a joint newspaper article with his Afghan colleague Zalmai Rassoul on 2 December.

The Bonn Conference will focus on three issues:

  • the civil aspects of the process of transferring responsibility to the Government of Afghanistan by 2014,
  • the long-term engagement of the international community in Afghanistan after 2014 and
  • the political process that is intended to lead to the long-term stabilization of the country.

An intra-Afghan process with regional support

This political process must progress on two levels: the reconciliation of the country’s various population groups must remain a process that takes place inside Afghanistan. Renunciation of violence, cutting of ties to international terrorism,
and respect for the Afghan Constitution including its human rights provisions are essential guidelines.At the same time this process must be secured by Afghanistan’s neighbours and the regional powers. The stabilization of Afghanistan is set in the context of the political stability of the entire region, to which all countries in the region contribute.

The conference also highlights the shift of emphasis in the international community’s Afghanistan policy from the military to the political aspect.

Conference Outcome and Documents

Conference Conclusions

Participants

Statements

Further Documents

UNESCO votes to admit Palestine as full member

31 October 2011 –The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today voted to admit Palestine as a full member of the Paris-based agency.

News Release

UNESCO’s General Conference, the agency’s highest ruling body, took the decision by a vote of 107 in favour to 14 against, with 52 abstentions, according to a news release.

The move brings the total number of UNESCO member States to 195.

“The admission of a new member State is a mark of respect and confidence,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said following the vote. “This must be an opportunity to strengthen the Organization and not weaken it, a chance for all to commit once again to the values we share and not to be divided.”

Ms. Bokova voiced concern by the “potential challenges” that may arise to the universality and financial stability of UNESCO. “I am worried we may confront a situation that could erode UNESCO as a universal platform for dialogue. I am worried for the stability of its budget.

“It is well-known that funding from our largest contributor, the United States, may be jeopardized,” she noted. “I believe it is the responsibility of all of us to make sure that UNESCO does not suffer unduly as a result…

“UNESCO’s work is too important to be jeopardized,” she stressed.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, asked about the UNESCO decision during a press conference in New York, said that it is up to Member States to ensure that the UN system as a whole has consistent political and financial support.

“As such, we will need to work on practical solutions to preserve UNESCO’s financial resources,” he stated.

He also emphasized once again the urgency of a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, stressing that the two-state solution is “long overdue.”

For its membership to take effect, Palestine must sign and ratify UNESCO’s constitution, which is open for signature in the archives of the Government of the United Kingdom in London.

Admission to UNESCO for States that are not members of the UN requires a recommendation by the agency’s Executive Board and a two-thirds majority vote in favour by the General Conference.

The General Conference, which consists of the representatives of the States that are members of the agency, meets every two years, and is attended by member States and associate members, together with observers for non-member States, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

It is tasked with setting the programmes and the budget of UNESCO. It also elects the members of the Executive Board and appoints, every four years, the Director-General.

The current 36th session of the General Conference began on 25 October and will run through 10 November.

UNESCO’s mission is to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information.

Vote

The breakdown of the vote to admit Palestine as a full member state in UNESCO, was: “yes” (107), “no” (14), “abstention” (52) and “absent” (21).

No: Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Israel, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Palau, Panama, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Sweden, United States of America, Vanuatu.

Abstentions: Albania, Andorra, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Colombia, Cook Islands, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Fiji, Georgia, Haiti, Hungary, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Latvia, Liberia, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Switzerland, Thailand, Macedonia, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Zambia.

Yes: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Chad, Chile, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Cyprus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Sant Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zimbabwe.

Absent: Antigua and Barbuda, Central African Republic, Comoros, Dominica, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Madagascar, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Confederated States of Micronesia, Mongolia, Niue, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Turkmenistan.

Video

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