Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kashmir: Murderous outbreaks, forgotten wars

Sat, Feb 21, 2009
8.30 pm
Free admission

The journalists Faheem Dashty, editor-in-chief of the Kabul Weekly, Ejaz Haider, Friday Times (Pakistan), and the Iranian Professor Bert Fragner, Academy of Sciences in Vienna, in conversation with Navid Kermani.

In 1989, dramatic upheavals befell the southern part of the Soviet empire: After ten years of occupation, the last Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan in February. The ensuing inner-Afghan war continues to this day, and there is no end in sight. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in Central Asia, many countries gained their independence, each a conflict unto its own: authoritarian regimes, civil wars, ethnic tensions, human rights violations, the infiltration of dogmatic conservative strands of Wahhabi Islam. In Tadschikistan, secular and religious forces join in a fight against the post-Soviet rulers. Until 1997, the following civil war claimed over 100,000 lives and forced over a half million people to flee the country. The insurgency in Kashmir, which in 1989 erupted over a series of blatantly fraudulent regional elections, exacted a similar number of victims. Because India and Pakistan are both nuclear powers, Bill Clinton called Kashmir the most dangerous conflict in the world.

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The participants

Faheem Dashty, Journalist, Kabul, studied political science at Kabul University, Kabul/Afghanistan. Because of his close ties to the leader of the Northern Alliance, Ahmad Shah Massoud, he fled from Afghanistan in 1989 stopping in Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, France and Pakistan. In 2001 he was near the commander, who fell victim in an attack. Dashty survived with serious injuries. After treatment abroad, he took over the trilingual newspaper Kabul Weekly in 2002, which had been originally founded by Massoud. The newspaper for which he now works as chief editor, is regarded as the first independent newspaper in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban.

Bert Fragner, Professor of Iranian Studies, Vienna, studied Islamic, Turkish, Arabic and Iranian studies, as well as ethnology, science and Slavic studies at the University of Vienna. In 1965, he received a scholarship at the University of Tehran; in 1970 his doctorate at the University of Vienna. From 2000 to 2002, he was President of the German Oriental Society (DMG). Since April 2003, he has been Managing Director of the Institute of Iranian Studies at the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

Ejaz Haider, Journalist, Lahore, is editor of the independent Pakistani newspaper Daily Times. In 2003, he was a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institute, where he worked within the Foreign Policy Studies Program on US-Pakistani relations. In addition to his editorial work, he was also a guest lecturer at numerous institutions, including the University of Illinois, USA, and the National Institute of Public Administration (NIPA) in Lahore, Pakistan. From 1999 to 2002, Haider was project coordinator for the Asia-Europe dialogue at the Heinrich Böll Foundation. Haider also writes for other publications in Asia, including the Times of India. His subjects range from Afghanistan and political Islam, to the relations between India and Pakistan.

Navid Kermani, Journalist and Islamic scholar, Cologne. The habilitated Orientalist with a German and Iranian passport was a Long-Term Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin until 2003. He now lives in Cologne as a freelance author. He has received numerous awards for his academic and literary work, and most recently was a resident fellow at the Villa Massimo in Rome. He is a member of the German Academy for Language and Literature and the German Islam Conference. In 2008, he was made a Permanent Fellow at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin. His forthcoming book "Who is We? Germany and its Muslims" (t.) will be published by C. H. Beck.