Afghanistan Center for Memory and Dialogue (ACMD) Opening-04

UNAMA’s Chief of Human Rights, Richard Bennett is speaking at the opening of Afghanistan Center of Memory and Dialogue (ACMD).

In contemporary Afghanistan, wars in their different forms have cumulatively led to the death of millions of Afghan civilians. More than two million civilians are estimated to have been killed from 1978 to 2001 alone and more than 70, 000 civilians killed and injured since 2009, all in blatant violation of international human rights and humanitarian laws and principles. While all Afghans feel a profound sense of victimhood and suffering as a consequence of these protracted wars, there has been little official effort to put in place a policy of remembrance of the millions of Afghan victims and of the lives shattered by the various cycles of armed conflict. In a sense, Afghanistan suffers from a double catastrophe, first losing the hundreds of thousands of Afghans lives in the wars and violence and second, erasing them of Afghanistan’s collective memory, it is as if the victims died twice. The absence of a public memorialization program and policy of remembrance of war victims deprives Afghans and Afghanistan of a significant opportunity to look back at its history and question the continuing conflict and victimization of the civilian population in a situation of armed conflict. In 2011, Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization (AHRDO) launched a memorialization project to salvage, protect and share memories and the stories of Afghan war victims. The concept of memorialization was objectified through the physical construction of Memory Boxes. Through facilitated workshops, the survivors — family members and relatives of the war victims — constructed metal and wooden boxes with technical assistance of AHRDO, collected personal objects and stories of the war victims and deposited them in the Memory Boxes. This memorialization work, over the course of 8 years, during which hundreds of survivors took part, has led to the construction of hundreds of Memory Boxes with more than 4,000 personal objects and stories. Establishment of the Afghanistan Centre for Memory and Dialogue, which hosts the collected memories of Afghan War Victims, is the direct outcome of this eight-year-long memorialization project.

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