The Afghan Youth Project (Glimpses of Hope in the Shadow of War / Wie der Krieg im Kopf den Blick auf Frieden trübt)

2016 - 2019 / Project team: Prof. Dr. Phil C. Langer, Aisha-Nusrat Ahmad, Prof. Dr. Angela Kühner (in first funding phase), Ulrike Auge, Khesraw Majidi

Funding: Deutsche Stiftung Friedensforschung (2016-2017), Stiftung für Analytische Psychiatrie (2018-2019)

The project "Glimpses of Hopes in the Shadow of War" or in short „The Afghan Youth Project“ investigated the impact of experiences of everyday violence on the identity formation, the emergence of social images (i.e. their idea of a future "other" Afghanistan) and social agencies (i.e. the self-confident ability to contribute to social and political change in the country) of young people in Afghanistan. Hence it focuses on the Afghan youth’s experiences, perceptions and interpretations of their current situations while also emphasizing their important role as reflexive actors in a sustainable peacebuilding processes in the country.

To answer this question, 52 children and adolescents aged between 10 and 24 years were interviewed in the northern provinces of Balkh and Kunduz and 171 projective essays by children and adolescents of the same age were collected. The interviews and essays were supplemented by drawings ("draw & tell" or "write & draw"). In total, the Afghan Youth Project comprises the voices and visual expressions of 226 young people. In the tradition of a participatory research, the design was coordinated with local co-researchers who conducted the majority of the interviews on a gender-specific basis and were involved in the evaluation and interpretation in the context of several research stays in Afghanistan.

The young people deliver a remarkably sharp analysis of the current socio-political and economic situation and the manifold structural problems in their country. They elaborate on their criticism at the macro and meso levels and express how these issues affect their current lives and conceptions of the future. Some of the key areas of their concern are: ongoing violence in the country, the current political system, poverty and unemployment, corruption and nepotism, education. In the accounts of the young people, these issues are closely interwoven with one another; they impact their everyday lives through a complex interactions between massive social injustice, experiences of inequality, innumerable daily stress factors, and various forms of violenceon a daily base, that particularly affects minorities, girls and women.

Against the backdrop of a fragile, precarious and insecure situation, these young people develop collective counter-narratives of hope and desires that depict a different, peaceful Afghanistan. These counter-narratives include conceptions of a fair, just and meritocratic society that provides realistic opportunities for its people – especially for those who are vulnerable and in need. Unity and solidarity are strongly emphasized, as we can see from accounts provided by the young women. Faith and hope are a key part to their future visions for the future, imbuing them with a the strength to cope with ongoing violence and the daily stress factors.

The project wanted to show that young people can and do play a crucial role with regard to peacebuilding and societal transition. They do, however, need support to find suitable roles that would allow them to contribute to social transition and peacebuilding. Afghan society and its political establishment, as well as the international community, have to take on the challenge of providing young people with affordable educational and perspectives and helping them take action; the latter can be achieved by getting young people to decisively participate in civil society discourses and political decision-making processes. Listening to the voices of Afghanistan’s youth is key to establishing a peaceful and growing country.

A grant by the Stiftung Analytische Psychiatrie 2018-2019 enabled further in-depth analyses of the data and the arrangement of the Afghan Youth Symposium at the International Psychoanalytic University in March 2018.

Selected Publications

Langer, P. C., Ahmad, A.-N., Auge, U., & Majidi, K. (2019). Glimpses of Hope in the Shadow of War: The Afghan Youth Project. A report on selected research results and policy implications. Berlin: International Psychoanalytic University.

Langer, P. C., Ahmad, A.-N., Auge, U., & Majidi, K. (2020) Jugend in Afghanistan. Ringen um Hoffnung in Zeiten des Krieges. Gießen: Psychosozial Verlag.

Download Report of the Afghan Youth Project

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