Highlights of Afghan-Australian Relations in 2019

2019 has been a busy and rewarding year at the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Canberra, as it celebrated two important milestones. The 50th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Commonwealth of Australia, alongside the 100th anniversary of Afghanistan’s Reclamation of Independence, were marked by a series of activities, visits and events throughout the year. It is my pleasure to reflect on this calendar and look back on what Australia and Afghanistan have achieved.

The two countries share a friendly and long-standing relationship which can be traced back as far as the 1860s, when Afghan cameleers came to Australia to contribute to exploration and transportation for the wool and mining industry and the development of Australia’s vast interior. Today, Australia has provided generous assistance of over a billion dollars, which has made an enormous difference to the conditions of children and women, and to the opportunities provided to our youth. 

Our relationship continues to flourish through continued engagement in security and development cooperation, and economic reform through bilateral, regional and multilateral dialogues. This has also been supported by the developments in people-to-people links, particularly in the fields of sports, arts and culture; reflected in the range of events and celebrations over the course of 2019. These include Afghan cricket star Mohammad Nabi’s launch of his first International Cricket Academy in Melbourne at the beginning of the year, the Afghan community’s initiative and participation in the Fashions of Multicultural Australia exhibition in February, and the graduation of three of the first Afghan cadets from the Australian War College and Royal Military College-Duntroon.

The cultural events of 2019 have also included the Embassy’s participation at the National Multicultural Festival in Australia in February, which attracted thousands of visitors and showcased the best of Afghanistan’s dry fruits, saffron and traditional clothing. Our Australian and international friends’ interest in learning about Afghanistan was also visible in the Embassy’s Open Day hosted in October, as it participated for the first time in the ACT Government ‘Windows to the World’ program. The Open Day was an opportunity to experience Afghan cultural activities like kite flying, live music, calligraphy, and traditional foods.  Other opportunities to showcase the diversity and richness of Afghan cuisine and culture included the Embassy’s participation at the annual Canberra-based Organisation of Islamic Countries Iftar, alongside 22 other diplomatic missions representing OIC member states. 

November marked the week-long First Afghan Film Festival in Canberra, which showcased the talents of Afghanistan’s cinema industry and the brave women and men who drive it. The range of 10 screenings was truly a first for Canberra, and for many Australians it shed new light on Afghanistan and allowed them to see the country from an inside perspective not usually afforded to conventional media. 

The Embassy was proud to present larger-scale historic events, most notably the two Anniversary Concerts in October, marking the Zohra all-female Orchestra’s debut tour of Australia. Afghanistan’s first and only all-female orchestra, students of Afghanistan’s only music school - the Afghanistan National Institute of Music - performed to a sold-out audience at two iconic Australian locations, including the first performance by an Afghan group at the Sydney Opera House. Both concerts at Monash University and the Sydney Opera House were attended by over 3500 guests, who all gathered to celebrate the beauty and resilience of Afghan music, women and youth.

The Zohra Orchestra concert was a grand conclusion to a series of events held across Australia, Fiji and New Zealand to mark the 100th Anniversary of Afghanistan’s Reclamation of Independence; 9 events throughout 8 cities in 3 countries. 

In Australia, the Embassy of Afghanistan supported gatherings in Sydney, Perth, Canberra, Brisbane, Auckland, Suva and Melbourne to commemorate 100 years of Afghanistan’s independence and the ongoing sacrifices that Afghan people make for peace and stability in the face of extremism. DFAT also commemorated the milestone in August in a joint celebration of the 100th and 50th anniversaries with the launch of a Photo Exhibition on bilateral relations in Afghanistan. The official addresses at each gathering praised the efforts of Afghan people in rebuilding their country, and the progress that has been made despite the setbacks. It was also an opportunity to thank the Australian government for hosting Afghan communities and for assisting the people of Afghanistan in various spheres.

This includes the Australian and Afghan Government’s commitment to improving the lives of women and youth, and to providing a safer, more equitable country with equal opportunities for Afghan women. This was reflected in the 2nd Annual People-to-People Dialogue held in March, which focused on women’s empowerment. As part of this, a delegation of nine talented Afghan women representing a range of professional backgrounds visited Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. These visits allowed the delegation to engage with a variety of government bodies, think-tanks, universities and diaspora communities. The visit also allowed the Delegation to celebrate International Women’s Day with the Embassy and its staff and friends. 

The messages conveyed in these cultural and people-to-people events were also reaffirmed in the range of official visits and meetings strengthening the political and diplomatic dimension of the Australian-Afghan relationship throughout 2019. This included a February meeting with then-Governor of New South Wales, His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret'd), and a later meeting in May in his position as Governor-General. In both instances, opportunities for enhancing bilateral cooperation were discussed. Further, the peace and security dimension of this cooperation was reaffirmed by Afghan National Security Advisor, Dr. Hamdullah Mohib during his meeting with visiting DFAT Assistant Secretary South and West Asia Division, Dr. Lachlan Strahan, in Kabul in May. Both sides discussed Afghan peace process, possible cease fire, upcoming election and regional cooperation and enhancing bilateral relations in security.

After a successful visit of the Afghan higher education delegation from the Australian universities in November 2018, the Grifitt University and the Kabul Polytechnic University in Kabul have signed a memorundum of understanding to start a Master of Integrated Water Resource Management (MIWRM) program for Afghan government water professionals and potentially beyond in the future. This is a great opportunity to contribute to strengthening both the water sector and the higher education sector through the MIWRM project in Afghanistan. The project will start within the next few months and begins working with the first cohort in March 2020 following the necessary development and preparation work.

In December, three Afghan cadets were graduated from the Australian military schools. Colonel Hassib Sediqi and Major Farid Noor graduated from Defence and Strategic Studies Course and Australian Command and Staff Course under Australian War College respectively. The third graduate was Lieutenant Mirwais Aryan who graduated from Army Officer Commissioning Course, Royal Military College (RMC). Two other Afghan cadets will graduate from RMC in June 2020.

These points, and more, were articulated beautifully and succinctly in the Australian National University Professor William Maley’s booklet published in collaboration with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute; ‘Australia-Afghanistan relations: reflections on a half century’, and the publication launch was an opportunity to reaffirm its key points and an invitation for other think thanks and Australian Government institutions to join in laying out an outlook for the Afghan-Australian relationship in the coming decade.

His Excellency President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani received His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd) at Presidential Palace in Kabul on 18th of December 2019. This was Mr. Hurley's first trip to Afghanistan after assuming the office as the Australian Governor-General. Both sides discussed about peace, security, combating international terrorism and the strong and ever-growing Afghan – Australia relations.

In December the Afghan Embassy, representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and members of the diplomatic corps gathered alongside students, children, friends and family to ring the Canberra Rotary Peace Bell. This symbolised a fitting conclusion to this year’s many events, and sent the message of Australia’s love, dedication, and commitment to Afghanistan being a true inspiration for everyone. 

The strong relationship built in these 50 years has paved the foundation for continued future developments, as we transition from a security and military-focused relationship to one highlighting economic and people-to-people cooperation. The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan extends its sincere gratitude to all those who have joined us and helped us to celebrate and commemorate what 2019 represents. As we conclude this momentous anniversary year, let us reflect upon our flourishing relationship and safeguard its strength for generations to come and look forward to enhancing it into the future.

Dr. Aminuddin Muzafary, Deputy Minister of Haj and Religious Affairs of I. R. of Afghanistan paid an official visit to Australia and attended several religious and other public gatherings in Sydney and Canberra from 1 to 18 December 2019.

On 2nd December, addressing the International Islamic Conference and Multicultural Mawlid Celebration organized by the Islamic High Council of Australia, Dr. Muzafary highlighted the key message of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) as bless to all human beings, regardless of their religious, tribal, linguistic and other differentiations.

On December 4, Dr. Muzafary delivered a speech at the International Islamic Youth Symposium where he emphasized the critical role of youth and intact families in Islamic societies. 

During his visit to Canberra on 10 December, DM Muzafary attended an Afghan Embassy reception that was held in honor of three Afghan cadets who graduated from two Australian Defense and Military educational institutions.

In the spirit of empathy with Australian communities on the recent droughts and bushfires, Deputy Minister Muzafary prayed Salatul-Istisqa (the prayer observed when seeking rain) together with members of the Afghan and other Moslem communities at Hazrat-e Usman Afghan Mosque in Blacktown, NSW on 13 December.

Afghan President Received Australian Governor General at Presidential Palace

His Excellency President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani received His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd) at Presidential Palace in Kabul on 18th of December 2019. Both sides discussed about peace, security, combating international terrorism and the strong and ever-growing Afghan – Australia relations. President Ghani talked about the Afghan Peace Process and his Government’s peace plan in an effort to end the four-decade long war and conflict in the country, which is the basic need of the Afghan people. 

President Ghani added that terrorism is still a threat for Afghanistan and its partners. The focus of the Afghan national security forces is to fight terrorism. He referred to the latest defeat of Daesh in the Eastern part of Afghanistan where the Afghan security forces were able to eliminate Daesh from the area. President Ghani thanked the Government and people of Australia for their generous and continued support in both security and development sectors contributing mainly in the areas of governance, women empowerment, agriculture, water resource management, food security and mining. 

Since 2001, Australia has been involved, through military presence and financial contribution with more than 1.4 billion Australian Dollars of security and humanitarian assistance, which has been instrumental for Afghanistan. 42 Australians in uniform have lost their lives during service in Afghanistan. currently, 323 Australian military personnel under the Resolute Support mission, train, advise and assist the Afghan national security forces. Australia, based on Warsaw commitments, provides $100 million to Afghan security forces and $ 80 million for the development sector in Afghanistan on annual basis. 

Governor General Hurley congratulated President Ghani and the people of Afghanistan for successfully holding the Presidential elections. Mr. Hurley added that Australia supports the peace process in Afghanistan and will continue to support the security and development sectors based on the priorities of Afghanistan.  Governor General Hurley expressed Australia’s willingness to expand its bilateral relations with Afghanistan and stated that Australia is ready to share its experiences in the areas of mining, education, agriculture and water resource management with Afghanistan. 

On Tuesday the 10th of December 2019 the Embassy of the I. R. of Afghanistan organized a farewell reception in honour of first Afghan cadets who successfully graduated from the two major Australian military and defence education institutions namely the Australian War College and Royal Military College-Duntroon.

Representatives of Australian Department of Defence, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, first Australian veteran and first Australian diplomat who served in Afghanistan, Director of the Asia Pacific College of Diplomacy, ANU, Deputy Minister of Haj and Religious Affairs and former deputy of Independent Directorate of Local Governance of I.R of Afghanistan were among the participants.   

Ambassador Wahidullah Waissi thanked Australian Government for providing education opportunities for Afghan cadets as part of Australia's contribution in train, advice and assist of Afghan defence and security forces and emphasized on the importance and need of continuation of such contributions.

Brigadier Warren Gould, former Australian Attaché in Kabul thanked the graduates for their dedication and hard- working during their study and wished them further success in their home country.

Three Afghan cadets were graduated this year. Colonel Hassib Sediqi and Major Farid Noor graduated from Defence and Strategic Studies Course and Australian Command and Staff Course under Australian War College respectively. The third graduate was Lieutenant Mirwais Aryan who graduated from Army Officer Commissioning Course, Royal Military College (RMC). Two other Afghan cadets will graduate from RMC in June 2020.

In his first official state visit of South Australia, His Excellency Ambassador Wahidullah Waissi, called on His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le AC, Governor of South Australia in his Governoment House in Adelaide on 9 December 2019.

Ambassador Waissi has discussed about current status of bilateral relations between Afghanistan and Australia and the activities the embassy has managed in 2019 marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between both countries. 

The Governor of South Australia discussed about history of Afghans in Australia from multiculturalism and business points of view. For the first time, Afghans have stepped in South Australia as a camel drivers in around 1860. The new waves of migration have happened in late 70s and post 9/11 to Australia. 

Both sides discussed enhancing bilateral relations, people to people contact, business and cultrual activies in future relations. 

 

Transcript of Ambassador Wahidullah Waissi's speech at the nationwide Association of Australian Tertiary Students from Afghanistan (AATSA) conference held on Saturday, 7th of December at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), Adelaide.

 

Distinguished participants,
Fellow members of the Afghan community,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure indeed to join you all in this momentous community-led gathering to share some foods for thoughts with regards to issues affecting Afghan-Australians and discuss solutions.

I thank the organizers for putting together such a meaningful theme and relevant topis for this year’s conference. I also wish to commend AATSA`s outstanding contribution in promoting education and critical thinking among Afghan- origin Australian communities.

Dear joint friends of Australia and Afghanistan,

We are in the last month of 50th year of Afghanistan and Australia bilateral relations. Before to give few remarks on the main issues of our discussion today, it will be good to refresh our minds in recalling the important milestones in the history of bilateral relations between the two countries. I do not want to further comment about the first milestone, the Afghan cameleers who migrated to Australia, because you know this background quite better than me. Rather, I would like to reflect on the most recent milestone, which was the first state visit of an Afghan Head of State to Australia, President Ghani`s visit in April 2017, just one month after I presented my credentials to Government of Commonwealth of Australia. 

Since then, the healthy and growing relations between the two countries fine- tuned from security and defence- centred cooperation to more development, education and cultural cooperation as well as people to people engagements. 

Initiation of Afghan-Australian People to People dialogue, the first Afghan higher education delegation`s visit to Australia, signing of development cooperation framework and establishment of Australia-Afghanistan Parliamentary Friendship group were among the core elements of that milestone. Arguably, both countries are now enjoying a closest and ever strongest bonds in the history of our bilateral relationship. 

Ladies and gentlemen, 

While we showcase and are proud of our strengths, we must also acknowledge the shortcomings and realities on the ground and within fellow Afghan-Australian communities in order to explore solutions and jointly make efforts to tackle the challenges we are facing.

Let me start from the issue of resettlement and integration. Within the context of state responsibility as well as migration policy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, defending the rights of Afghan migrants abroad as well as ensuring their voluntary, safe and dignified return to their homeland are the integral parts of my Government`s commitments. 

In this essence, while we are generally like-minded and have common understandings with the host countries, including Australia regarding legal migration, we cannot let illegal migration to harm and undermine other crucial spheres of our bilateral relationship. Overall, migration, resettlement and integration are common global issues which are very much interlinked with insecurity, poverty, democratic challenges in one hand and intolerance, lack of human resources and capacities within the communities involved on the other hand. 

We must acknowledge and invest on the positive side of the migration and eventuate the mutually beneficial bonds which exists as a result of Afghan diaspora`s settlement in Australia over the past decades who continue to contribute to the economy, business, cultural diversity and public services sectors across Australia. We must avail the multicultural society of Australia for the benefits of our communities where rule of law, democracy and freedom of expression including religious believes are respected. No religious extremist, nor any white supremacist can harm the cross-cultural understating and mutual respects and tolerance between our communities. We must promote people to people dialogue and understandings and education to tackle cultural and linguistic barriers during resettlement and integration processes provided that our Afghan values be preserved.

Secondly, the issue of increasing mental health problem among our Afghan refugees is an issue of major concern to all of us. The saddened death of late Sayed Mirwais Rohani, an Afghan migrant who apparently died as a result of suicide attempt in Brisbane on 15 October was a tragic example as such. We urged Australian Government to follow up the issue with the relevant law enforcing agencies for a full investigation of the case to avoid similar unexpected incidents in the future. In this respect, despite the repeal of the “Medevac” legislation in the Australian Parliament last Wednesday, we do hope that the Government of Australia to continue utilising pre-existing legislative processes to enable Afghans under immigration detention centres who are in need of urgent medical treatments. 

Thirdly, with regards to helping back home, I strongly believe that there is a huge potential in our dynamic, educated and decent Afghan diaspora to contribute and be the drivers for change in their home country in many areas including to assist the most vulnerable and at risks populations, in particular women and girls in rural areas, families of martyrs and veterans of the Afghan defense and security forces. 

Nowadays, remittances are a major source of national incomes in many developing countries. For example, in 2018-19, Bangladesh received record of $16.42 billion in remittance with a 9.6 percent growth. With the new remittance, Bangladesh Bank's foreign currency reserves stood at $31.85 billion. By better regulating, channelizing and distribution of remittances we can make positive changes in Gross National products (GNPs) in our own country. 

We can further explore possible solutions to most of the challenges which are hindering our communities to prosper in Australia, but I would like to emphasis more on investing in tertiary education, especially in most needed sectors at home such as civil engineering, mining, agriculture, water recourse management and health. Let us be optimistic and always stand ready for the post peace settlement in Afghanistan.

I conclude my remarks with a long- lasting aspiration of all Afghans wherever they are for a sustainable and enduring peace in Afghanistan. I quote a single poet of Maulana Jalaluddin Mohammad Balkhi – Rumi: “Everyone who is left far from his source, wishes back the time when he was united with it."

هرکسی کو دور ماند از اصل خویش – باز جوید روزگار وصل خویش


Thank you.

On the bright and clear morning of Wednesday December 4th, the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, members of the diplomatic corps, DFAT and the Afghan community and friends of Afghanistan gathered at the Nara Peace Park to share their well-wishes for Afghanistan’s future. 

The ringing of the Canberra Rotary Peace Bell symbolised a fitting conclusion to this year’s many events, which celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Afghan-Australian diplomatic relations and the 100th Anniversary of Afghanistan’s reclamation of independence. It has been a busy year at the Embassy of Afghanistan in Canberra and coming together with our friends to ring the Peace Bell reaffirmed the messages of support, goodwill and prosperity for the future. It also showcased solidarity with the people of Afghanistan, who have been affected by conflict for over 40 years and are now beginning to look forward to a future of enduring and lasting peace. 

This has been a shared mission with our Australian colleagues, who in many shapes and forms and in a wide range of capacities, have shown their dedication to supporting a resolution to Afghanistan’s troubles and to structure meaningful peace negotiations. Each ring of the Peace Bell commemorated the sacrifices and dreams of Australian and Afghan people; their civilians, their military personnel, their students, their teachers, and their children.

We now look forward to moving into the next 50 years of this robust relationship, where the two countries can come together to overcome the forces of extremism that stand in the way of peace. The Embassy of Afghanistan also wishes to take this opportunity to thank all of our friends and supporters who have attended this year’s events and joined with us to celebrate all that 2019 represents for Afghanistan and Australia.

Ringing the Canberra Rotary Peace Bell

It has been more than four decades since Afghanistan has lost peace. Afghans deserve peace. Australia, like many other nations, is a strong supporter of resolving the current conflict through peace negotiations to ensure endurable and long-lasting peace in Afghanistan

After the 9/11 terror attacks, Australia as a non-NATO ally, significantly contributed in fighting against international terrorism in Afghanistan – joining the international community led by the United States and NATO allied countries. 

The diplomatic relations between Australia and Afghanistan was established 50 years ago in 1969. During the past 18 years, Australia has been a great partner in both security and development sectors of Afghanistan. The contribution of Australia in fighting insurgency, training, advising and assisting Afghan security forces as well as effective development assistance has been exemplary. Arguably, now, the relationship between the two friendly nations is the strongest ever exercised before, and it is still growing. 

Given the excellent and ever-growing relations between Australia and Afghanistan, the Embassy of I.R. of Afghanistan, along with its friends, gather at the Canberra Nara Peace Park to mark the end of a successful year, celebrating the 50thanniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries and demonstrating solidarity in overcoming international terrorism and establishing a sustainable peace in Afghanistan by a special event of ringing the Canberra Rotary Peace Bell. 

Join us in this exciting event and signify your will for an excellent Australia-Afghanistan relations and peaceful Afghanistan. 

  

First Afghan Film Festival: post-event report

Between the 15th and 21st of November, the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Canberra hosted the First Afghan Film Festival in Canberra, in collaboration with the ANU Film Group. The Festival was held at the ANU Kambri Cultural Centre, and attracted guests from around Canberra, the ANU community, government and the diplomatic corps, as well as those members of the Afghan community who travelled from Melbourne and Sydney to attend the screenings. 

The Festival was opened on Friday 15th November by H. E. Wahidullah Waissi, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, and Mr Ian Biggs, Acting First Secretary of DFAT South and West Asia Division. In their official addresses, Ambassador Waissi and Mr Biggs spoke of the strength of the Australian-Afghan relationship and its growth in the area of people-to-people links. Both praised the resilience of Afghan cinema, particularly in its ability to shed new light on the flourishing cultural dimension of the Afghan-Australian relationship, now in its 50th year, and reaffirmed the commitments of both countries to a future of stability, security and ongoing cooperation.

This inaugural festival was a part of a series of celebrations and events throughout the year 2019, which marks the 50th Anniversary of Afghan-Australian relations and the 100th Anniversary of Afghanistan’s Reclamation of Independence. As part of this, the screenings showcased the growing cultural dimension and people-to-people links between Australia and Afghanistan, and the contributions which both countries have made to the arts, security and social movements, amongst others. 

The Festival was, importantly, a celebration of the resilience of Afghan cinema and its role in conveying powerful and diverse messages across the globe. This has been made possible by the brave women and men who work as directors, producers, documentary-makers, actors – and more, across the spectrum of film and documentary production. It is these talented individuals who make the First Afghan Film Festival possible, each with their own unique insight into life in Afghanistan. 

Several of these individuals travelled to Canberra from across Australia and Kabul to attend the Festival, giving attendees a rare opportunity to meet with and speak face-to-face with the talent behind the films and documentaries they saw. These included Salam Sangi, celebrated Afghan film star; Fahim Hashimy, the founder of the Ghan International Film Festival and documentary-maker on the history of Afghans in Australia; and Parwiz Shamal, Kabul-based reporter for Afghanistan’s biggest new corporation TOLO TV. The Festival also welcomed guest speakers including Fred Smith, Australian diplomat and singer/songwriter, and showed exclusive video interviews, including that with Sahraa Karimi – director of Hava, Maryam, Ayesha, which screened on the opening night. 

This added a rich dimension to the First Afghan Film Festival, and each director, actor and documentary-maker answered questions posed by the audience and spoke in detail about the themes of their work. It also gave an opportunity for guests to learn more about such topics as the status of women in Afghanistan and the work done by women’s organisations, about the Afghan film industry throughout history, and about the history of Australia’s Afghan cameleers. 

The range of 6 full-length feature films, many of which have been screened at international film festival and have won prestigious awards, and 4 short films and documentaries each touched on a different aspect of life in Afghanistan and the challenges and triumphs of its people. The 6 films which were screened were Hava, Maryam and Ayesha, Osama, The Orphanage, A Letter to the President, The Patience Stone and Jirga. Begana was the Festival’s selection in the short film category, and What I Saw on the Roof of the World, Cameleers and RocKabul were the documentary entries. 

These spanned several decades of Afghanistan’s political, social and cinematic history; reached across different provinces – from Kabul, to the farthest reaches of the Afghan territory in Badakhshan, to the villages of Kandahar; showed the plight of men, women and children, young and old, Afghan and non-Afghan alike. The films ranged in focus from Afghanistan’s music scene, to the experiences of Australian troops who served there, to the lives of those Afghans who travelled thousands of kilometres to make Australia their home – these, amongst others, truly exemplifies cinema’s role in acting as a tool for the wider outreach of important messages 

The selection of films and documentaries focused on different themes – and when combined with the question-and-answer sessions and guest speakers – created a unique learning experience for attendees of the Festival. There was a positive turn out for all screenings, with an active and engaged audience, and comments and reception from guests and media which covered the event particularly praised the diversity of the selection and the brave themes they covered. In particular, guests applauded the First Afghan Film Festival for leaving its guests with a new understanding and appreciation of Afghanistan. 

The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan wishes to extend its sincere thanks to the volunteers of the ANU Film Group, who provided invaluable advice, support and technological expertise which enabled the Festival to go ahead. 

Dignitaries, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Members of the Diplomatic Corps, 

Representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,

Good evening.

I extend my sincere thanks to all of you who have gathered here tonight to witness a truly historical event. Tonight marks the Opening Night of the First Afghan Film Festival held in Canberra. The Embassy is proud to present the Festival in collaboration with our friends at the ANU Film Group and our sponsors, Mr Mustafa Alande Safi and Mr Basir Abbas.

As I have mentioned, this will be the first Afghan Film Festival hosted in Canberra, and a fitting end to what has been a busy year at the Embassy of Afghanistan. 2019 marks the 50th Anniversary of Afghan-Australian diplomatic relations and the 100th Anniversary of Afghanistan’s Reclamation of Independence, and this Film Festival aims to commemorate both of these significant milestones. I have been humbled by the support that has been shown throughout this year, by all those of you who have regularly attended our events and celebrated alongside us. 

The week-long Festival we are opening tonight promises an exciting line-up of full-length feature films, short films, and documentaries, both classic and contemporary. The Festival boasts 10 exciting screenings; showcasing the breadth of Afghanistan’s filmmaking, directing and acting talent. From nostalgic classics and historical narratives, to Afghanistan’s unrivalled natural landscape, to contemporary films highlighting today’s social issues – this selection of 7 full-length feature films and 3 documentaries and short films offers a unique glimpse at what Afghan cinema is about, and the women and men who drive it.

There will be stimulating panel discussions with academics and filmmakers, and a chance to hear directly from the directors and actors of these brilliant movies – including those who have travelled from all around Australia and from Afghanistan to join us. 

I hope that this will all shed new light on the flourishing cultural dimension of Afghanistan and Australia’s friendly relationship and applauds the contributions of the people of both countries to the arts, sport, security and stability, and social movements. I assure you that the screenings you will be treated to reflect this exciting diversity; each of them a rare and unforgettable insight into Afghanistan’s unique landscape, people and history.

The first AFF is a celebration of the history of Afghan cinema and the talents of the country’s new generation of directors and filmmakers. These brave women and men, with 3 female directed-films in this year’s inaugural festival, draw from diverse backgrounds and exemplify cinema’s role in conveying different narratives and acting as a tool for the wider outreach of these messages. Most importantly, this year’s inaugural AFF is a testimony to the resilience of Afghan people and their dedication to telling the stories of their country. 

I invite you to join in celebrating the survival of Afghan cinema, and its triumph over the forces of extremism, which had once attempted to silence it. 

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