International Editor of the Year Award

2004 Recipient

Shukria Barakzai

Speech: The Power of One Lecture
Annenberg School for Communication, Philadelphia, Pa.
May 14, 2005

In the name of God and peace.

Dean Michael Delli-Carpini, Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished colleagues and honorable guests:

I am very pleased to be here to speak to you today. In fact, it assures me that, after years of war and misfortunes — we are at the peak of a new life — a life in which we struggle on the edge of success or failure. Whether we succeed to bring an end to our long calamities and catastrophes, remains unclear.

Afghanistan has long been the playground of superpowers, where people are uncertain of their tomorrows and fear has destroyed confidence for anything or anyone. Just like many other countries, the tragedy of 9/11 has changed many things in Afghanistan. A demagogue and terrorist regime was taken down and under the auspices of the United Nations and the rest of the international community, a compromised and unbalanced Interim Authority was established. Since then democracy has been the message which Afghans are listening to. As a war-ravaged nation, we Afghans have not clarified what democracy is. Does change in regimes ensure democracy? With the Taliban gone, are we automatically citizens of a democratic society?

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Of course Afghanistan in terms of security and suicide bombers is better than Iraq — but, remains worse in terms of Human Security, warlords, drugs, corruption, poverty and much more. Once, fighting against Soviet aggressors, we Afghans made hot news as Iraq is making today — but, it has been very difficult to recover from war injuries. If the Afghan people do not engage in bombing attacks and kidnapping like Iraq — it shouldn’t mean that we Afghans should be regarded as less important and once again be forgotten.

Yes, the Taliban and other terrorists who attacked the international community are brought down — but apart from Taliban there remains many other problems in Afghanistan. Problems like warlords, poverty, rights violations, discrimination and much more are dominating our country and have not been properly reported in the media. Every day Afghans are suffering in ways you are not familiar with.

In today’s Afghanistan, warlords, who have enjoyed legitimacy since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, are imposing their will on political reformation and are misguiding Afghanistan towards a false democracy. Unfortunately, in my country, Afghans think the warlords, who have massacred civilians in past wars, and are fortifying their power and positions with Drug money — have obtained the right to rule — because they are the friends of the anti-terror coalition lead by the U.S. — and it’s a pity to see, because those who do not believe in democracy and who have lived with guns and violence — are now authorized to lead Afghanistan’s democratization.

Distinguished colleagues,

Along with Warlords and Drug mafias, there are so may other problems in Afghanistan. Afghan women in particular live a sorrowful life, women and girls in many parts of the country are deprived of formal education and work, they are forced into obligatory marriages, have little or very symbolic political participation and thousands are dying due to lack of medical facilities.

For thousands of women living in the south, East and Southwest Afghanistan, there is no difference between the government of Taliban and the one today.

At a time when hundreds of thousands of Afghan women are illiterate — it’s important that Afghan women want both their male and female children to be educated. Fortunately more than four million children are going to school in Afghanistan — which includes a considerable number of girls — but, still in accordance to Afghanistan’s first National Human Developing Report we have the worst educational system, and we need thousands of new schools to be built and thousands more to be reconstructed.

It’s sad to say, Afghanistan has one of the world’s worst health sectors. On a daily basis, mothers, children and many more are dying due to the diseases that are mostly curable.

And on the political side, although we have made considerable achievements — I think they are not satisfactory and we have a long way to go.

In the current 26 member cabinet of President Hamid Karzai, only three seats are given to women and they are mostly symbolic. Among dozens of advisor ministers, there is only one woman, who is the advisor of Women’s Affairs.

I am very proud of my work as a member of Afghanistan’s Constitutional Commission, because we succeeded in including certain articles in the Constitution in favor of women — and I am glad to inform you that, in accordance to our Constitution, a certain number of Parliamentary seats have been reserved for Afghan women —which I hope will advocate women’s rights in the upcoming Parliament.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Even though our humble nation stood with the world in fighting against the Soviet’s and after years of devastating war defeated the world’s most threatening Communist regime, Afghanistan remained deprived of attention. Although Afghans helped release the world from the red army, the world left Afghanistan to tyranny and terrorists. Now war-torn Afghanistan has started its reconstruction in order to heal the wounds of Soviet invasion, fundamentalists, tyranny and terrorism. This time we’ve expelled international terrorists from our soil, but who knows, if past mistakes and ignorance continues, perhaps another 9/11 will occur?

A democratic, strong and developed Afghanistan can help regional and global collaborations. No peace and stability, in an isolated, poor and underdeveloped Afghanistan can easily turn into a global problem. Thus the importance of international support to help a transitional Afghanistan will mean a sincere support of democracy and global security.

Dear all,

We Afghans love democracy and peace as many others in the world; we want to help others and if you help us in need — we can promote global prosperity. We need your help in curing our injuries of war. In my ruined country we have a proverb which means, the best act which can make one prosperous, is when one helps another for prosperity!

Dean Michael Delli-Carpini, distinguished guests, thank you for giving me the opportunity to frankly discuss the real picture in Afghanistan in order to help the people of Afghanistan secure the democracy they desire and deserve.

Let me also thank for its promotion of freedom of expression, democratic values, and promotion of human rights, and Teri Schure, for her endless efforts and for her sincere friendship.

Many thanks to each one of you for being here and listening to a woman from Afghanistan.

All the best of luck to each one of you!

Thank you all very much!

For more information, please contact Shukria Barakzai at or