One man’s journey to peace in Afghanistan

09 December 2015

by Raz Mohammad Dalili

Raz Mohammad Dalili, 2015 El-Hibri Peace Education Prize laureate, tells us about his life's work:

Tell us about Sanayee Development Organization (SDO)?

In the 1980s thousands of Afghan refugees fled to Peshawar, Pakistan but there was no support for them there; I naturally felt inclined to help. I started to create support activities for refugees. I opened an English course for girls and boys and I created magazines for children in Pashto and Dari. We established libraries, created vocational training and established a primary school.

I established SDO in 1990. It has been a tough experience. In the start, for seven years we worked without any funds or donors. I encouraged my friends to support SDO and together we did various activities. After a few years some of our activities became self-sustainable, our Kabul English Language Centre is one of them. It has 4,000 students and that number is continuously increasing. After 25 years, thousands of students graduated from the centre.

In 1997, I created the peace education curriculum for grades 1 through 12. In 1999, this curriculum was introduced in 47 schools for more than 35,000 Afghan refugee students in Peshawar. It has been used by religious schools and by other national and international organization.

After the curriculum’s success, we came back to Afghanistan. We created various types of trainings for religious groups, the media and community peace builders. Our trainings focused on conflict resolution, conflict information and peace building. The peace education curriculum was also implemented in 105 schools in Balkh, Faryab, Samangan and Kabul provinces of Afghanistan.

Why is it important to work for peace in Afghanistan?

The government of Afghanistan and some international communities have not paid enough attention to community peace building.

In Afghanistan, it’s very important to work for peace because two of our generations grew up in war. Many people in the country believe that war is natural; the nature of life, of human life. During 40 years of war, all sides of the conflict encouraged Afghan children and youth to become accustomed to guns, bad attitudes and violent behaviour. Even in some educational books, they ask, “Two bullets plus two bullets equals how many bullets?”

It was not easy for us to support the Afghan people. I was jailed two times, once by the communist regime and once by a group of mujahedeen during the Taliban era.  I was not a criminal; I was fighting for the rights of the people.

Achieving peace in Afghanistan is not a one-day job. We want the government of Afghanistan to include the peace education curriculum into the national curriculum. Fortunately, I had a second meeting with the First Lady of Afghanistan, Rula Ghani and she is very supportive of this.

At the moment, we’re working with 400 religious leaders and we’ll be having a workshop for them on how they can promote peace. There are many messages in Islam and in the Quran that encourage people to work for peace. We want to share these messages of humanity and peace.

What SDO activities are you most proud of and why?

The peace education curriculum is a very important piece of work. We couldn’t find a peace education curriculum like it in quality anywhere in the world.  We worked on it for seven years and we revised it five times.

The curriculum is not a book for students. It’s a teachers’ book that aims to practically change the attitude and behaviour of children and youth in a positive manner. Every book includes the methodology on how to teach what’s inside. When we evaluate the peace education curriculum, the outcomes are very good. One principle mentioned that after his school implemented the curriculum, the chairs and tables were no longer being broken by students. The principle also said that the children were living much more peacefully.

I had an interview with a mother whose daughter was in grade 6. She said that recently, her daughter acted as a mediator between her husband and herself. She said that she and her husband had a dispute and her daughter stood between them and said, ‘Please be peaceful, what’s the problem? Let’s talk about the problem and not fight with each other.’

What was one moment during your journey as a peace activist that deeply touched you?

Once during an eight-day peace building workshop we tried to work with a group of religious leaders but they viewed us as enemies. They asked us why we thought we could teach them anything new. Finally, as the workshop continued we became friends and they started to take the workshop seriously. By the eighth day, one of the religious leaders approached me. He said that he learned more in this eight-day workshop than he did in his entire life; he was 65 years old. He invited me to his Friday prayer sermon at his mosque and said that his speech would be on peace.

I went to his mosque and he was true to his word. It was one of his best sermons, I was proud of myself and the organization – these are the people our society needs. I have become an old man, but still I pray to God to give me more energy to work for peace.