15 August 2013 – Afghanistan marked International Youth Day with a large free outdoor concert in Bamyan that drew an audience of thousands to the grounds beneath the caverns where giant stone Buddha carvings once stood. The event brought together leading Afghan musicians from around the country for a rousing display of cultural unity and national solidarity.
The four-hour event was organized by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) with the strong support of provincial leaders, including the provincial Governor, Habiba Sarabi.
“Young people today belong to the largest generation of youth the world has known,” the Acting UNAMA Communications Director, Ari Gaitanis, told the crowd of about 7,000, some of them from as far as southern Kandahar province.
He was speaking on behalf of the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan, Ján Kubiš. “Demand accountability. Exercise influence as consumers and commentators. Provide momentum through your ideas. For when we work together, we can create the future we want,” said Mr. Gaitanis.
Altogether about a dozen acts were performed, ranging in style from traditional music played with rubab’s and dombura’s to rock, pop and hip hop. The event began with prayers followed by some brief speeches by local dignitaries as well as an Olympic athlete. One of the speakers, Bamyan’s Deputy Governor, Asif Mubaligh, urged youth to pursue education.
“Focus more on education to garner medals and other accomplishments,” said Mr. Mubaligh.
“For UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, working with and for young people is one of his top priorities,” said Mr. Gaitanis. “For International Youth Day, he has encouraged Member States, youth-led organizations and other stakeholders to act to promote the rights of all young people and maximize the development potential of youth around the world, including, of course, Afghanistan.”
The speeches were quickly followed by the main musical part of the event. The concert kicked off with a set by a Bamyan-based singer, Surosh, who had the audience on its feet with a melodic appeal for national unity.
“Let us no longer say or distinguish between Hazara and Pashtun,” she sang.
Although the concert celebrated youth culture, those in attendance included students and elders alike.
One of the participants was a 21-year-old student from Kabul, Zakria Bigzad.
“We have come all the way from Kabul to participate in this music concert. We didn’t know about this day (International Youth Day); now we know that there is a day for us,” said Mr. Bigzad. “We got the messages of solidarity and Harmony from the songs of today’s concert.”
The UN General Assembly on 17 December 1999 in its resolution 54/120, endorsed the recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth (Lisbon, 8-12 August 1998) that 12 August be declared "International Youth Day,” which was first observed in 2002.
This year’s observance of the Day aimed to raise awareness of the opportunities and risks associated with youth migration, share knowledge and information stemming from recent research and analysis on this topic, and engage young people in discussions on their migration experiences.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, UNAMA-supported events to mark International Youth Day included seminars, theatre performance and music concerts on Thursday.
Addressing a conference participated by about 200 youth leaders in western Herat province, UN officials, government officials and civil society leaders highlighted the significant role of youth in socio-economic and political development of the country. The conference, which was also addressed by youth role models including the country’s first female pilot, was followed by theatre performances and a music concert by local artists, delivering the message of peace.
The head of the Herat provincial Department of Information and Culture, Aria Roafian, said the youth day event encouraged youth to work for a better future of Afghanistan.
UNAMA’s head for western Afghanistan, Andrew McGregor, said although Afghan youth are concerned about their future there are ample reasons for them to be optimistic.
“I call on the government, the private sector, civil society and academia to keep the doors wide open for young people and to strengthen partnerships with youth-led organizations. Let us support the young people of Herat and Afghanistan so they grow into adults who raise generations of productive Afghan citizens and democratic leaders,” said Mr. McGregor.
At an event in eastern Laghman province, two young government officials were introduced as “role models” for Afghanistan’s youth. One of them is the 32-year-old head of the provincial Department of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyred and Disabled, Sayed Ahdul Basir Hashemi; and the second was the head of the Department of Information and Culture, Faizanullah Patan, also 32.
In their speeches, both the “role models” highlighted participation of youth in upcoming elections, strengthening national unity, peace and reconciliation, protecting human rights.
In north-eastern Kunduz province, speakers emphasized the role of Afghanistan’s young people, who comprise more than two-thirds of the country’s estimated 27 million population, in participating in political and peace-building processes.
A university lecturer, Muhammad Ismail Roshangar, urged the government to invest more on Afghanistan’s young generation. “Youth are drivers of change. Invest on them and involve them in various aspects of the governmental,” said Mr. Roshangar.
The Kunduz provincial Department of Youth Affairs, in its effort to empower youth, is setting up 50 youth councils and about 1,000 young people will receive vocational training this year.
At a UNAMA-organized seminar in Gardez, the capital of south-eastern Paktya province, UNAMA co-hosted, along with provincial authorities and the Awoshtoon Cultural Society, a one-day seminar that explored ways to promote the role of youth in the country’s socio-economic development. The event was attended by about 200 students from nearby high schools and Paktya University. Speakers urged youth to promote a culture of peace, find connections with the environment, work for the betterment of the community and respect their elders.
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- Young Afghan singers highlight importance of music for their country’s future