Three Afghan activists have received the “Democracy Award” from the National Endowment for Democracy, a U.S.-based non-profit organization.
Sakena Yacoobi, founder and president of the Afghan Institute of Learning, was honored for her part in providing more than three-hundred-fifty-thousand Afghan women and children with education, health care, and human rights training. Ms. Yacoobi said, “Afghanistan has a long way to go, but Afghanistan is improving”:
“As we worked closely in the rural areas, we saw that the life of women has changed. We saw that they are blossoming. The people, the women of Afghanistan, who have been traumatized, who have suffered so much, all of a sudden came to our workshops – our human rights workshops and our leadership workshops. After they finished they said, ‘I want to open a center.’ A woman who could not communicate; a woman who could not really participate in [political] activity, all of a sudden comes and opens a women’s learning center with eight-hundred students it – all young women. And that, I think, is a great change.”
Mohammed Nasib is the director of the Welfare Association for the Development of Afghanistan, which has taught more than one-thousand Afghan community leaders about democracy and human rights. These leaders played an important role in encouraging Afghans to vote in the 2004 presidential election. Mr. Nasib said that many democracy activists have died opposing violent extremists in Afghanistan:
“The democracy award we receive today is a tribute to those who have lost their lives for the freedom of my homeland. Today I am honored to salute those heroes.”
Sarwar Hussani is the director of the Cooperation Center for Afghanistan, a non-governmental human rights group. He documented Taleban atrocities until he was forced to flee by the Taleban regime. He said that he and his colleagues “started our work in Afghanistan when the situation was [one of] no hope or little hope.” Today, he said, “we have the support of almost [the entire] world.” U.S. Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky said progress in Afghanistan is the achievement of ordinary people with a vision of the future:
“Unfazed by those who prophesied defeat, they saw the promise of Afghan freedom, rose to a calling, and effectively advanced its cause.”
As Ms. Dobriansky said, “There are those in uniform who confront terrorists and tyrants and there are those who do so as members of civil society. Democracy needs both.”
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.