News: Afghan youth say ‘no’ to corruption
Story by Sgt. Tamika Dillard
KABUL, Afghanistan – On Dec. 11, more than 200 students from the American University of Afghanistan gathered to celebrate International Anti-corruption Day, in an event that marked the culmination of a semester-long campaign involving workshops, seminars and an essay contest on the problem of corruption in Afghanistan.
“The countercorruption seminars invited students to formulate their thoughts and opinions in the form of an anti-corruption essay,” explained Habib Athaee, director of student affairs at AUAF.
In their essays, students were encouraged to propose creative solutions that would enrich Afghan anti-corruption strategies. The submissions were judged on the quality of writing and organization, thoughtfulness of content, and the innovativeness and practicality of the ideas they presented.
The winner of the contest was business student Mojtaba Salem, whose essay was titled “Developing Mechanisms of Accountability to Combat Corruption.”
“I needed to do this,” said Salem. “We have these problems in Afghanistan we see in our daily life that need to be fixed. I feel it’s my duty — our duty — to use the resources we have to work on making the changes.”
Salem added that writing the paper was the only first step in his fight against corruption. He intended to continue engaging with fellow students and other Afghans to raise awareness about the problem of corruption and potential solutions.
In a recent speech at AUAF, Brig. Gen. H.R. McMaster, director of ISAF’s countercorruption task force, CJIATF-Shafafiyat (“Transparency” in Dari and Pashto), praised Afghanistan’s “young and aspiring leaders, all of whom have such great faith in Afghanistan’s future and are working tirelessly to achieve a positive vision for the state and its people.”
Representatives from CJIATF-Shafafiyat had partnered closely with students in the anti-corruption seminars and workshops over the course of the semester. Following the International Anti-Corruption Day event, at which student leaders and the university’s president made presentations, Air Force Col. Timothy Kirk, chief of CJIATF-Shafafiyat’s Civil Society Outreach team, explained that, “the most effective weapon in the fight against corruption is in the minds and the hearts of all those students at the conference.”
Kirk expressed ISAF’s commitment to ensuring that its resources are part of the solution in Afghanistan, not part of the problem. “Even if we are one percent of the problem, it is shameful.” he told the students. “We will not falter or fail,” he concluded, “in our common fight for the good of the people of Afghanistan.”
Salem's winning essay can be viewed here.