October 15, 2018

Dr Azizi’s Vision for Afghanistan

Peace and stability can only be achieved by an honest cooperation and commitments on the regional as well as on the international level.”  An interview with the Ambassador of Afghanistan, H.E. Dr. Homayoon Aziz.

 

By Sheila Turabaz.

His Excellency Dr. Mohammad Homayoon Azizi is the new Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the Netherlands, succeeding H.E.  Dr. Obaidullah Obaid.

H.E. Dr. Azizi started his career as a medical doctor in 2005. He also entered into local politics that same year as a member of the Herat Provincial Council in western Afghanistan and later as chairman. In 2010 he was appointed Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, and Provincial Governor of Kandahar in south-central Afghanistan in 2015, while ultimately entering the diplomatic world in his first foreign mission as ambassador to the Netherlands.

Dr. Azizi has presented his letter of credentials to His Majesty King Willem-Alexander on 25 October 2017. In his first interview for Diplomat Magazine, H.E. Dr. Azizi explains what his duties are as ambassador and gives us insight in to the current situation in Afghanistan as well as sharing the embassy’s agenda for 2018.

Being the ambassador to the Netherlands must be an entirely different experience for you. Reflecting upon the period since you first presented your letter of credentials in October 2017 until now, how have you experienced it thus far and what were the highlights for you personally in your role as ambassador?

This is my first overseas mission as an ambassador and I consider it to be completely different from the positions I held before. Being an ambassador of my country is a good opportunity to share my experiences and the reality of Afghanistan with my international colleagues here.

As an ambassador, I can explain to the host country authorities in Netherlands what our (Afghanistan’s) needs are and explain to the political parties and civil society of the Netherlands in which fields we could cooperate and the importance of the Netherlands’ engagement in Afghanistan. It is also a good opportunity for me to explain what is currently going on in Afghanistan by focusing on the achievements that have been mad but also looking at the challenges Afghanistan is currently facing.

If we look at Afghanistan as a whole one should realize that we have made tremendous progress in various fields since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 which is not comparable with the situation before 2001. We are currently in a conflict situation and not in a post-conflict situation. A few years after the collapse of the Taliban in 2001, conflicts between groups started to arise again in different provinces in Afghanistan. We are currently in the frontline in the fight against international terrorism. Our nation has paid a lot in this regard; our national forces do not only defend Afghanistan and its people but also fight for democracy, equity, freedom and justice, which we share with all humans.

How do you assess the bilateral relations between Afghanistan and the Netherlands?

In 1965, Afghanistan and the Netherlands entered official diplomatic relations. Our bilateral relationship has intensified due to the Netherlands’ engagement in rebuilding Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Currently, we maintain good relations with the Dutch authorities; this also includes the consular section of our embassy that has good relations with the Ministry of Justice and Security of the Netherlands.

the Ambassador of Afghanistan, H.E. Dr. Homayoon Aziz, Sheila Turabaz and the Honorary Consul of Afghanistan, Ehsan Turabaz during the interview.

How do you intend to stimulate the trade relations between the two countries?

When I arrived here in the Netherlands, I started to research the possibilities of improving the trade relations between Afghanistan the Netherlands. The requirements for products to be exported from Afghanistan to the Netherlands, consists of very high standards. Unfortunately, Afghan products cannot meet these European standards. We intend to work together with the Dutch government on the long term to ensure that our products will meet those standards. We are currently focusing on exporting materials, which do not have to meet such high standards, such as raw material as well as exploring other possibilities.

How would you describe the current situation in Afghanistan (particularly in respect of security and the economy)?

The security situation in Afghanistan is not good right now unfortunately. The root of the problem lies outside of Afghanistan in the neighbouring countries. For a long time, terrorist groups have been supported and trained by neighbouring countries and sent to Afghanistan to serve their own purpose. We are optimistic to overcome the current situation and stand against any kind of terrorism.

With regards to the economy, Afghanistan is in a unique geopolitical position. We have lots of opportunities for economic growth. Afghanistan connects Central Asia with South Asia. Central Asian countries are rich in natural materials and energy. Afghanistan serves as a transit way to carryraw materials and energy to South Asia. Through this regional cooperation project, Afghanistan can improve its economy. However, these activities and projects are dependent of the security situation.

What is your vision with regard to peace, stability and ultimately, growth in Afghanistan?

I consider the security situation in Afghanistan to be multidimensional. To achieve peace we need a comprehensive approach. It is clear that our nation is a victim of proxy wars. Peace and stability and ultimately growth can only be achieved by an honest cooperation and commitments on the regional as well as on the international level.

There is a large Afghan diaspora of around 44,000 thousand people in the Netherlands, how does the embassy engage with the Afghan-Dutch community?

The Afghan-Dutch community in the Netherlands have established many social organizations throughout the Netherlands. We work closely with these organisations. At the same time our consular section works closely with all Afghans regarding public administration. Moreover, our cultural department regularly organizes cultural eventsand holidays such as Nowrooz and our national day in cooperation with the Afghan-Dutch community.

Which brings me to my next question: a significant part of this community consists of young and ambitious Afghans who have spent the majority of their lives in the Netherlands. How does the embassy encourage the younger generation to stay connected with their roots and how can they help secure and develop Afghanistan?

During the four decades of war in Afghanistan, many Afghans were forced to emigrate abroad. The younger generation who have grown up outside of Afghanistan gives us hope for the future due to their many talents and knowledge that can help us rebuild Afghanistan. We have set up programs aimed towards these young and high-educated Afghans who want to work and use their knowledge for the benefit of Afghanistan.A notable example of this is the KEIHAN Academic Medical Exchange program. Since 2001many Afghans living in European countries such as the Netherlands have visited Afghanistan and contributed their knowledge in various fields. Furthermore, the embassy has compiled a list of young Afghan-Dutch professionals and has reached out them, encouraging them to spend some of their time in Afghanistan and to actually work inside the country.

You have been an avid supporter of cultural and civil society organizations as well as establishing an organization on your own, the Afghanistan Islamic Civil Partnership Assembly in 2009. How do you plan to stay socially involved during your stay in the Netherlands?

In Herat, the city where I was politically involved,various civil society organizations areactive. I have created the Afghanistan Islamic Civil Partnership Assembly, which is an umbrella organization to help these civil society organizations to come under this umbrella in order to have a stronger voice than a voice of just a single organization.

The aim of this assembly is partnership: all of these organizations should work together in order to have more influence and participate to achieve their common agenda. I am still involved in this assembly, which is led by elected board members. When I visit Afghanistan, I participate in various gatherings of the assembly.

The Hague, which has been dubbed “The International City of Peace and Justice” and the “ World’s Legal Capital” is home to many international organizations. What is your view with regards to Afghanistan’s membership and participation in international organizations?

If you look at the history of Afghanistan, it becomes evident that Afghanistan has always respected international law. Afghanistan has joined many international treaties and organizations. Two of these organizations are located in The Hague, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the International Criminal Court (ICC). We believe that a secure and peaceful world is a common goal that we hope to achieve for the future generations and therefore we support such initiatives.

What has been and what will be on the embassy’s agenda for 2018?

The first thing on our agenda is to manage our trade mission in the Netherlands. Secondly, we intend to work with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to establish a sister organization of the IHE Delft Institute for Water Education to train Afghan civil servants as part of capacity building. Third on our agenda is meeting with the Nederlandse Vrouwenraad–an umbrella organization for Dutch women’ s rights – in order to gain new insights with regards to improving the position of women in Afghanistan. Lastly, we intend to set up a political agreement with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to define our relations in different sectors for the long term.

Lastly, what would you like to share with our readers about Afghanistan, which most people are unaware of?

Although the people of Afghanistan have been living through four decades of war, the family and social structure is still considered the basis of their society and plays a major role. Despite having lost so much throughout the years, Afghans continue living their lives, ensuring their family stays together throughout the conflicts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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