Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University in cooperation with City, University of London on 10 April hosted a one day research conference presenting findings from the research project which will shortly conclude.The ACKU research team presented three papers, each based on a different part of the research project.
The first paper, presented by Dr Belqeis Alavi discussed the Representation of Migration in Afghan Oral Culture (another paper from this section had already been presented in Pakistan by Dr Schuster and Riaz Shinwari). In the presentation, Dr Alavi focused on the auto-representation of migrants as people cut off from their roots, wanderers without a home, without respect or status in exile, suffering from loss and nostalgia for their homeland. She explored the reasons for the uniformly negative image of migration that emerged from the poems and songs, and their function for migrants.
The second paper was based on a paper about Migration policy making in and about Afghanistan by Dr. Liza Schuster. She explored the relatively recent development of migration policy in Afghanistan as well as shifts in European policies towards Afghan refugees, arguing that policy-makers continue to make the same errors identified by Castles (2004) and for the same reasons – an unwillingness to recognize the agency of migrants, a refusal to address the root causes of migration from Afghanistan or to accept that migration is an appropriate solution for some Afghans. She also considered the use of development aid to pressure the Afghan government to reduce migration and facilitate returns.
The third paper was on the Fears, Hopes and Plans of Afghan Families by Mona Hossaini, Razia Rezaie and Reza Hussaini. In this paper, the team explored the impact of the uncertainty that permeates every aspect of Afghan life on the hopes, fears and plans of families, and the strategies, including migration, adopted by the families for coping with that uncertainty. A key finding was the extent to which uncertainty and the daily risks faced by families reduces hope to survival, and makes all plans contingent.
Mr Reza Hussaini ended the conference by introducing a draft of Ethical Guidelines for Social Scientists in Afghanistan. He argued that an Independent Ethical Review Board is necessary to ensure that research by Social Scientists respects basic ethical principles, but that in a conflict situation, such as that in Afghanistan, explicit ethical guidelines to protect research participants and researchers are necessary. Whereas researchers in countries with a social infrastructure can refer people to e.g. child protection services, such services are not available in Afghanistan, so there must be a discussion about the appropriate response of researchers who encounter people in difficulty or distress.