UN supported theatre tour gives Afghan victims a voice

A new Afghan theatre show supported by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), premiered today at the Russian Cultural Centre in Dar-ul-Aman, Kabul. The play highlights the need to deal with the impunity of past human rights abuses spanning nearly three decades of conflict in Afghanistan.

The theatre show named after an anonymous Afghan prisoner called ‘AH-5787’, uses a medical metaphor to illustrate how many Afghans continue to physically carry the pain of Afghanistan’s past conflicts and how victims struggle to find a way to confront and live with the past. The play challenges the audience to recognize this pain and to consider how best to deal with it as individuals and as a society so as to move forward.

Norah Niland, head of UNAMA human rights unit said: “The people of Afghanistan are crying out for justice. There is a great history of story-telling and oral history in Afghanistan and through this play we hope to tap into that tradition. Justice deals not only with prosecutions, but also with the need for a deep understanding of what happened in the past.”

During the play, the main character, Sardar, is haunted by ghosts who represent victims of incidents of violence from the years of conflict in Afghanistan. Sardar wants to get rid of these ‘voices’ in his head and asks many questions in his quest for peace. Do these voices want knowledge or information? Do they want truth? Do they want prosecutions; justice; revenge; peace? Sardar explores these questions in a monologue with the audience.

Afghan victims’ groups have increasingly been demanding an opportunity to have their stories heard and acknowledged. The United Nations hopes to encourage all Afghans to explore the legacy of their past history and in doing so enable them to come to terms with the reality of Afghanistan’s years of conflict. The show will begin touring Afghan provinces in the coming weeks.