Transitional Justice Serves to Heal Wounds of the Oppressed

Emerging from decades of war and conflict, Afghan people have always dreamed an end to culture of impunity and establishment of rule of law, which remain central to shaping a peaceful Afghanistan with democratic governance. Transitional justice must be at the core of any peace efforts and bids to promote national reconciliation. Peace can not be ensured unless victims are provided with reparations and a public platform.   Since its establishment, Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization (AHRDO)  has provided participatory theater events in the country to provide opportunity for the truths to be told and heard and exploring new ways of living for the victims and survivors of thirty years of conflict in the country.

AH 58-89 is a theatre play based on the script by Irish playwright Dave Duggan. It was later adapted to the Afghan context and translated into Dari and Pashto by Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization (AHRDO). A in the play signifies the start of year 57 and H represents the end of year 89.  On Friday, May 28, 2010, play AH 58-89 was organized at Marifat High School (MHS) by AHRDO with the cooperation of Open Society Institute (OSI) and MHS. The event was attended by 250 participants including officials from educational centers, social activists, teachers and students, journalists and civil society and human rights activists from different countries.

his long critical play is written to serve the objectives to: establish the truth, complain about war, depict different situations of a man facing spiritual and psychological trauma and trouble, reflect fact-fining process, review the past war and conflict, and relate an event or fact in a post-conflict country and eventually promote peace.

The person whose hand is tied with wire in the picture below is thinking of his past. He has lost his whole family members and their ghosts are now torturing him. During the play, he hears their dreadful voices and is shocked psychologically and says: when I think of the past, this huge question emerges: “why it happened?” people harm one another. They do so for different reasons, defense, fear, hatred, loyalty, by the name of law and order, by the name of politics, desires and change. Will I ever come to understand why people did these? Except for… people harm each other.” The pain excruciates him and the past appears before his eyes ceaselessly and irritates him.

The play criticizes those who choose their political interests over truth.


The play was performed by Dr. Sharif for around one and half hours. Questions such as what is transitional justice? “How should we approach and address the past?” were raised by the participants after the show, provoking heated discussions, which lasted for three hours. A wave of comments and ideas were expressed to respond the above-mentioned questions. Aziz Royesh, director and a teacher of the school said:” transitional justice means transforming of a war-stricken state to stability. Those who make the new society must not suffer from any hidden process.” Mohammad Reza Hussaini, 12 grade student of Marifat High school was of the view that we should look back at history. There has been a lack of justice from Abdul Rahman up to Karzai. Referring back to the accepted cruel and dark part of history of Afghanistan where Abdul Rahman killed around 62% of Hazaras in early 1890s, Hussaini said,” Abdul Rahman himself enumerates that he shelled 5000 captives. There is no justice in Afghanistan,” adding that, “transitional justice is the first step towards establishment of permanent justice.” People believe that Abdul Rahman waged a full Jihad against Hazara people. Hazara people as the most peace-loving community are still suffering from the cruel and oppressive injustices done to them by Abdul Rahman. The recent pillaging of Kuchis into Behsud and Daimerdad districts are clear examples of these injustices.

At the end, Hadi Marifat shed light on transitional justice and its function. Marifat said, “Transitional justice is not a project; it is rather a process that takes a long period of time. Process is usually time-consuming. When it starts, where it will end is not clear. In some countries, it has taken more than two hundred years. In Australia, for instance, the Aboriginals were exterminated. We have a lost generation there. After two to three hundred years, the first parliament of Australia condemned it.” “The second example is the resolution about the genocide of Armenians, which took a century to be passed by the U.S. congress. They eventually accepted that it was a crime,”  Marifat added.