Teleconference Connects Students From UA, Afghanistan

Mohammad Fardous Rahmani, School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies
April 18, 2013

For more than a decade, people in the United States and Afghanistan have been concerned about war, conflict, poverty, instability and numerous other challenges involving Afghanistan.

Yet, we have been hard pressed to effectively target the goals, critically analyze the situation and find solutions for the existing challenges. One of the greatest contributing factors is a gap in understanding, based on the lack of sufficient and reliable information about the actual people and their desires.

On April 10, a number of Afghan and American organizations sought to actively begin closing that gap through a student dialogue conducted over video teleconference.

The Afghan-U.S. Student Dialogue was organized by students at the UA and in Afghanistan who are keen on building bridges for deeper mutual understanding between citizens of the two countries, and especially among the young generation of future community leaders.

Participating partners in the event included the UA's Southwest Initiative for the Study of Middle East Conflicts, Civil Vision International, the Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University, the UA's Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Afghanistan New Generation Organization and the UA's School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies.

The teleconference facilitated new routes to strengthen ties between the U.S. and Afghanistan and sought practical ways to continue expanding the progress made together over the past decade, at great cost to both societies.

The first portion of the conference involved both students and community members. That portion focused on understanding perspectives about the past 12 years of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, and impacts on peoples' day-to-day lives. In the second session, the focus was on peoples' future hopes, concerns and expectations.

Panelists on both sides were curious to know what impressions the others had of them and where to find more accurate information. Answering a question from the Afghan panel about their information on Afghanistan, two American panelists admitted that their understanding was limited based on mainstream media coverage. It was clear, however, that they were eager to learn more and that friendship with Afghan people was making that possible.

The conversation revealed both sides to be keen to learn about each other's culture, people, ideologies and real lives. Participants exchanged ideas on helpful tools and resources for further studies.

"It's important for us to have a sense of what's going on there (in Afghanistan) from the citizens' side and not just what you see on the news," said Farzana Marie, a doctoral student in the UA’s School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies and one of the moderators of the event.

My experience as an Afghan Fulbright student in the U.S., whether through travel, collaboration with other international students, or friendships with Americans, has taught me how similar our values and national interests are as people in every part of the world.

The exciting challenges of our common humanity have the potential to bring together people from different communities, enabling them to make a positive contribution to peace and prosperity in this "global village."

Mohammad Fardous Rahmani is a Fulbright scholar, a graduate student and teaching assistant in the UA School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies.


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