They are young, educated, and have big dreams—not only for themselves, but also for their country. They are the by-products of the change that Afghanistan has experienced in the last fourteen years and are driven by the desire to change the chaos that dominates their society.
Five young Afghan men are determined to steer their country in a new direction. They want to plant the seeds of hope among Afghans who have lost all expectation for a better future in the war-torn nation.
Their campaign, dubbed “Afghanistan Needs You,” is a novel attempt to stop the brain-drain from the country. Aimed at arresting the growing exodus of Afghans from the country, the social media campaign wants young Afghans to think of contributing positively to their country instead of emigrating. Undeterred by the worsening security situation in the country and a lack of economic opportunities, the group hope that Afghan youth’s love for their country could be a strong motivating factor for many to not migrate abroad.
This project is the brain-child of Shakib Mohsanyar, Abdul Moez Popalzai, Qais Alamdar, Abdul Hay Sadrey, and Sharam Gulzad. They are in their early twenties and have recently returned home from the United States and Germany after completing their educations. Working with the motto of “Nation first and self last,” the young activists say that it is time for Afghans to ask “What they can do for the nation, not what the nation can do for them.”
It has been less than a month since the campaign started and it has already created a buzz on social media networks. Many Afghans from across the country are lending their support to the project. “We noticed the exodus of a large number of youngsters from Afghanistan in recent times. The majority of those who are leaving are educated and if they migrate abroad, it would be a loss of precious human resources. We want educated Afghans to stay in the country,” says Shakib Mohsanyar, founder of the campaign. “We want to use our brains for the development of our country, not others,” asserts Mohsanyar.
A graduate of the Kelly School of Business’ Global Institute in the United States, Mohsanyar is the president of Afghanistan Professionals Network. He concedes that the “security situation in the country is not good.” However, he strongly believes that “the cause that his campaign is espousing for is much stronger than the security concerns in Afghanistan.”
The 22-year-old professional underlines that “people need to understand that change does not come that easily and there needs to be a sustained effort to reclaim the narrative of development that the country lost in the conflict that has been going on for more than three decades.”
The campaign strategy is simple. The group encourages potential migrants to publicly declare that they will not leave Afghanistan, and instead stay and work for the good of the nation. They reach out to people both through social media and in person. Those who are convinced by the idea post a picture of themselves on social media saying they love Afghanistan.
Karimi, 26, is a shopkeeper and was planning to go to Europe as refugee. He had already made a deal with an agent, promising to pay a large amount to facilitate his trip to Germany via Iran and Turkey. The campaign compelled him to change his mind and stay.
“I understand that I can contribute more to society by being here than seeking a shelter in some developed country and living a life like a third class citizen,” says Karimi, a graduate from Kabul University.
“It makes me feel sad that so many of the youngsters are leaving Afghanistan, thereby draining the human resources of the nation,” Karimi adds.
“We understand that the Taliban is gaining strength and the days ahead are going to be tough, but we have to fight adverse forces and circumstances head on; escape is not a solution,” asserts Qais Alamdar, one of the five founders who is also a freelance photographer.
A similar campaign has also been launched by Afghanistan’s Refugees and Repatriations Ministry.
By issuing stark images and portraying a dark future for those who seek refugee status in Europe, the ministry demonstrates that life abroad is not easy and full of uncertainty.
“For a long time, we have been witnessing the exodus of the youth to foreign shores by taking illegal routes and risking their lives,” says Islamuddin Jurat, a spokesman for the Ministry. “Through stark images we want to show that that life in Europe is not what many people think it to be. We want to enlighten and warn them,” continues Jurat.
In a conversation with The Diplomat, he underlines that “Afghanistan needs educated youth. Afghanistan cannot defeat the insurgency and develop the country without their support.”
News coming from Afghanistan generally portrays a negative image of a country involved in a fatal conflict with extremist forces. The campaign, “Afghanistan Needs You” is an oasis of hope. It is a reassuring sign that progressive forces are quietly at work in the country at a grassroots level, trying their best to alter the narrative of war and conflict that has seemingly captured the imagination of the whole country.