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Dakhma: An Exhibition on Human Rights Violations

In continuation of its efforts advocating for war victims and promoting a culture of respect to human rights in Afghanistan, AHRDO organized Dakhma, the largest exhibition of narratives and stories of 38 years of human rights violations in Afghanistan including objects, photos and documentary, and documentary theatre, on Thursday, December 15, 2016 at Bagh-e Babur, Kabul Afghanistan. Following the Human Rights Week and National War Victims Day (December 10) the event aimed to, once again, call for attention to the fate of forgotten war victims, the survivors and the devastating consequences of decades-long conflict and the continuing violence in Afghanistan.

Simar Samar, head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), while inaugurating the exhibition, criticized the Afghan government for its failure to protect Afghan citizens and end widespread impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of violence in the past as well as those who continue to inflict pain and loss to ordinary citizens. She said: “Everyone knows who they [perpetrators] are. But there is no will to hold them accountable” President [Ghani] is responsible” to act, she added.

Dakhma drew visitors even from the eastern province of Nangarhar along hundreds from Kabul, the capital. The event was comprised of different artistic, visual and theatrical elements, all focusing on the sufferings of Afghan civilians from different periods of conflict as old as 1978 and as fresh as the terrorist attack on peaceful protesters on 23rd July 2016.

One visitor described the exhibition and theatres an “attempt against forgetting.” He said that thousands of innocents “were killed during the communist regime, mujahidin, the Taliban and in post-2001 Afghanistan. But no one remembers them. They are wiped off from history and thus will slowly erase from our collective memory.”

Maryam, a mother in her 50s who lost two sons in 23rd July terrorist attack in Kabul standing next to her two sons’ memory boxes said: “They didn’t tell me that my two sons were killed first. They said they were injured. When I heard they were injured, I fainted. Now my little daughter says: ‘there is no one to help me with my homework while both my brothers were killed on one day.’ Maryam explains that her older son with a degree in engineering had newly found a job and her younger son was an-always first-grader in his class.  “When my older son, Hekmatulla, was killed, his first child, a girl, was seven months old. I want justice for my sons” she cries.

Dakhma, an all-encompassing Dari/Persian word for the content of the event hinting to the last four decades of violence, fear and gross human rights violations, consisted of the following:

Memory Boxes: are small and portable boxes where survivors store and display objects of loved ones lost during the conflict. Memory Boxes allow for the collection, protection, and public exhibition of the personal narratives and objects of victims. They are also a way to show respect, affection, and reverence for the lost loved ones.

Infinite Incompleteness: Tells the stories of ten Afghan women and men who have lost members of their families as a result of the various conflicts in Afghanistan. While the three men tell the stories of the suffering of their people, they engage in three recurring, tiresome and agonizing activities: digging up the dead, rebuilding the country and, metaphorically, carrying the load of war. In the background, a pregnant Afghan woman, the Butimar-e Kabul, whose two children have disappeared during one of the conflict periods, hauntingly counts the millions of dead, burning their pictures in an Afghan Bokhari (stove).

Scars of War: Images of the Afghan Anatomy (Photo Exhibition/Documentary): Visualizes the scars and stories of loss and resilience of 30 Afghan civilians harmed by various armed conflicts.

“Pain of losing loved ones in wars hunts, always,” wrote Maina Abbasi, an advocate of war victims who has returned to Afghanistan after years of living in exile.