Wednesday, April 16, 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.

Photos

 

 

Video

Slide Show by Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations

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Ambassador Zahir Tanin at the 62nd plenary

Ambassador Tanin at the 62nd plenary meeting of the General Assembly 66th session: The situation in Afghanistan

General Assembly debate on agenda item 38 “The Situation in Afghanistan”

Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

at the General Assembly debate on

agenda item 38 “The Situation in Afghanistan”

Mr. President,

Once more in this august hall, we are discussing the situation in Afghanistan: the cycle of suffering, the immensity of new challenges, and certainly the progress we have made thus far. For the past decade, the world has been extensively engaged in Afghanistan, in our ongoing struggle for peace and stability. We come together today, to adopt a resolution which will affirm, again, the support of the international community for ending a continued crisis that has long shaken the world and also our commitment to helping the Afghan people in their difficult struggle to finally arrive at peace and stability.

I thank all who have contributed to shaping the resolution, in particular, the German delegation headed by H. E. Ambassador Peter Wittig for their leadership and hard work throughout the process. We are especially appreciative of Mr. Elmar Eich for his role in facilitating the negotiations.

Mr. President,

We are leaving behind another year of national trauma: violence has, regrettably, remained a constant in the lives of many Afghans, resulting in significant loss of life. We have seen indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians, targeted assassinations and the attempt to shatter what we have worked so hard to build. In fact, the terrorist attacks are aimed at breaking our determination, and attempting to undermine our national unity and historical integrity.

Afghans have been the prime victims of terrorism, but we are not alone; it is also our friends and partners that are hurt and losing their lives alongside our people. As the threat of terrorism originating from our region became global in character, the international community intervened to stop it. But we have not yet succeeded in ending the threat. The Taliban, who hijacked Afghanistan for years, hid their heads for some time, and are now reappearing with a barbaric and brutal face. Resuscitated by the continued existence of safe-havens in the region, they continue to hold Afghanistan hostage, killing our people, destroying the country, and threatening our gains, freedom and way of life.

Despite the recent increase in violent activities, the Afghan people are determined to continue their progress. And, fragile as the country may seem, substantial improvements have been made over the last decade. Afghanistan has risen from the ashes of a state disintegrated by decades of conflict, and millions of Afghans have rebuilt their lives and are moving forward. Thousands of new schools and universities have been built, with millions of enrolled students, nearly half of which are female. Hundreds of clinics and hospitals have been established and thousands of doctors and nurses trained. New roads have been constructed, benefitting travel within Afghanistan and enhancing partnerships and trade with those in our region and beyond. Our achievements are not only economic and social; good and democratic governance is being extended to areas where previously there was none. The rule of law is being strengthened; and we are working to rid our society of the cancer of corruption. With wider participation in political and social life, and a greater focus on human rights, including women’s rights, Afghanistan is becoming a home for all.

Not far from the burning memories of the bloody and destructive power-struggles of the 1990s, we drafted our new constitution, held two Presidential and two parliamentary elections, and now have our national and local administrations in place. These achievements have helped Afghanistan regain its legitimate place on the world stage, as a responsible member of the international community.

But, Mr. President,

This progress has not been easy – it is a constant struggle. Terrorism remains the main threat, exacerbating all other challenges. The terrorists and their insolent supporters continue to destroy the country and prevent us from living in peace and prosperity. Afghanistan’s enemies wanted to convince the world that success is not possible and all efforts are doomed to fail. But they must understand we are not in the Afghanistan of the 1990s – terrorist acts undermine our daily work, but will not force us back to where we were a decade ago.

Mr. President,

As we begin a new decade of international involvement in Afghanistan, ten years into the post-Taliban era, we are confronted with many questions: Where do we go from here? More specifically, how can Afghans stand on their own feet and maintain a stable society through the transition process as international forces continue their withdrawal?

Mr. President,

This year marked the historic start of the transition process, by which Afghans will assume full responsibility, ownership and leadership. Transition is about transforming the country from one suffering from violence and instability to a fully functioning state and a viable society. A comprehensive transition includes these six interlinked issues:

First is security. Security transition is on track. We are working with our international partners to assume full responsibility in all provinces by 2014 or possibly earlier. The gradual draw-down of international forces through 2014 is strongly linked to the training and equipping of Afghan forces and an ongoing strategic partnership over the next decade or more. While the numbers, capabilities, and self-confidence of the Afghan National Security Forces are growing, transition is not happening in a vacuum; continued international engagement through recruiting, training, and equipping Afghan forces will be essential through transition and beyond.

Second is good governance and rule of law. Building a better future for Afghanistan will require a stable, functioning and clean Government that is capable of turning opportunities into successes. Actions such as the release of the National Priority Programme on Law and Justice, which outlines the justice sector reform strategy for the next three years, highlight the important focus of strengthening rule of law in all provinces and districts. For transition to be successful the Government of Afghanistan must, and will, continue to enhance its efforts in improving services to the Afghan people, strengthening justice and rule of law, and fighting against corruption at all levels.

Third is social and economic development. Afghanistan is on its way to a sustainable, drug-free, and fully functional economy. Over the last year we have been finalising our national priority programs within the framework of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy. Agricultural development is the top priority, along with increasing investment in Afghanistan’s rich mineral resources and rebuilding infrastructure. Social development is reflected as well, for instance in the ten-year National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan, and a continuing focus on education and health. These programs will effectively address poverty and inequality, efficiently and without duplication of efforts. We urge the international community to ensure that the provision of development aid is transparent, accountable, and coordinated with Afghanistan’s priorities.

Fourth is reconciliation and reintegration. Transition is interlinked with the peace process, which can help put an end to violence and insecurity. This year, the peace process saw both significant steps forward and a major setback, with the assassination of Professor Rabbani, head of the High Peace Council. However, despite all attacks, the Afghan people want the peace process to continue. This is just what the Loya Jirga, the traditional grand assembly, which ended this weekend in Kabul, calls for. The Loya Jirga brought together 2,200 representatives, Afghans from all ethnic groups, North and South, East and West, and from all segments of society – parliamentarians, politicians, tribal elders, scholars and Afghan refugees – to discuss the peace process and the strategic partnership agreement with the United States. It was an inclusive process, which will inform the Government’s position and ensure a unified Afghan voice. It marked a significant step in the peace and reconciliation process and was a clear display of the will of Afghans, reaffirming that Afghanistan is ready to accept and build on a strategic alliance with United Sates as well as other real friends and partners.

Fifth is regional cooperation: Through a number of initiatives, Afghanistan is re-claiming our historic role as a trade, transport and economic hub and most importantly as a catalyst for wider collaboration in the ‘Heart of Asia’. Earlier this month, we saw the successful conclusion of the Istanbul Conference, generously hosted by our brother country, Turkey. Afghanistan sees the Istanbul Process as a new beginning for comprehensive regional inter-connectedness. We look forward to the first follow-up Ministerial Meeting in Kabul next June.

Before Istanbul we saw the finalisation and implementation of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement, after decades of negotiations. This agreement is a tremendous and historic step forward. In September, thirty high-level delegations from the region and beyond convened here in New York to endorse the New Silk Road Initiative. We believe that this vision holds a real promise of attracting greater investment and trade and will provide economic opportunities for all countries in our wider region.

Security is the basis of regional cooperation, aimed at achieving regional and international peace and stability. The threat of terrorism comes from the region – in safe-havens beyond our borders, terrorists find sanctuary, training, broadened logistical support, and strategic guidance for preparing renewed attacks against Afghanistan and the international community. Unless the scourge of terrorism is eliminated, all our efforts – for economic development, for social and political progress – will be in vain.

That brings us to the sixth element of transition: strategic partnerships. We are now finalizing the Strategic Partnership Document, which will involve US support in training and assisting Afghan forces through 2014 and beyond. We have also signed a strategic partnership agreement with India, and negotiations for similar arrangements are under way with the UK, France, Australia, and the European Union. The basis for long-term partnership has also been established with NATO. These partnerships will continue to build on and redefine the ties we have formed with the international community, to guarantee the future success of the country.

In December, the Afghan leadership will come together with the international community in Bonn, Germany in order to assess progress and map out a long-term commitment for peace and security in Afghanistan. The Bonn conference will mark a new beginning at the start of a new decade of the international community’s partnership with Afghanistan. We thank Germany for their efforts and leadership in hosting what will no doubt become a milestone in our history.

Mr. President,

For Afghanistan, 2014 is not a solid endpoint set in stone. Instead it stands as a way marker for a new phase of the partnership between Afghanistan and the international community, with Afghanistan as a fully sovereign partner. We need to be realistic in understanding why the peace and prosperity of Afghanistan is important in an increasingly inter-connected world and a strategically crucial region. A successful transition, which addresses the six interwoven elements I outlined today, will lead us to a stable, reliable Afghanistan partnering in a mutually beneficial way with the international community.

Mr. President,

Often, we are presented with a grim picture of Afghanistan, one of disappointment and disengagement. Such scenarios raise doubts about the possibility of a successful transition in Afghanistan. But we Afghans and the international community have agreed on a different vision. We have a plan for a successful transition, with all elements and all partners acting in harmonious accord. We believe that with the support and goodwill of the Afghan people and the international community, it will succeed.

All of us are not here simply to see how the situation in Afghanistan will unfold, but to shape it and craft future history. We have a responsibility to act for success; we cannot simply sit back and wait in fear of failure in Afghanistan, though there are some out there who prefer to do so. Let us not insult the future, as it is said – instead, on the basis of the real progress of the past decade, let us stick to making a successful present day.

Thank you.