Thebastidge: Afghan Diaspora
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    Monday, November 15, 2004

    Afghan Diaspora

    Previously, I posted links to Chrenkoff's Good News series. I didn't have much more to say than to point to it. It did make me think quite a bit about some longer term trends though. Now he has Good news from Afghanistan, Part 6 available.
    After decades of war and oppression, which left one million dead, forced some five million to flee across borders, and utterly devastated and impoverished the country, the Afghans are finally finding some reasons to be happy. Largely out of the international media spotlight, Afghanistan continues to progress along the winding road to peace, freedom and democracy.

    I have little of a factual nature to add, merely some commentary. The continuing repatriation of Afghan nationals and emigrants spurred some thoughts about progress. It seems to me that with the return of literally millions of Afghans who were brave enough, or educated enough, (or in some cases merely fortunate enough) to leave Afghanistan when the Taliban (not to mention the Soviets) took over will definitely be a significant modernizing, and quite likely very liberalizing influence.

    The Afghan Diaspora started with the Soviet invasion 25 years ago, but it seems to be reversing itself, a circumstance which clearly would not have happened without U.S. intervention. In fact, I would say that not only is the brain trust being rebuilt from the resources that once left Afghanistan, but the overall education, experience, and broadened viewpoints of the returnees has actually been improved by their time in more developed nations...
    the loss of human resources that Afghanistan experienced following the Soviet invasion of 1979 is often referred to as the ‘brain drain’. This paper postulates that a similar but ‘reverse brain drain’ is currently in progress as former Afghan nationals return to the country in droves to assist in the rebuilding of Afghanistan. While remaining aware of risks and challenges, the potential for building the capacity of civil society and the private sector is at its peak. This thesis is examined within the context of Afghan culture, opportunities for personal and professional growth in the United States for the Diaspora, and how these positive externalities can be harnessed to bring the maximal value added to the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

    In fact, it's doubtful that progress could have been so rapid without the returnees:
    Members of the Afghan Diaspora are already a major actor in the rebuilding of Afghanistan. Prominent Afghan intellectuals and entrepreneurs have returned home and are actively involved in public and private institutional capacity building. Other resourceful Afghans in developed countries should follow suit to fulfill their dream of helping reconstruct Afghanistan.

    It's complicated by the fact, having started with nothing or next to it, and likely many fled with only portable wealth or none at all, Afghans are not generally an affluent demographic in western nations, although to give credit where it's due, they have come a long way from where most started.
    Afghans in Germany
    The Afghan Diaspora Is characterized in two ways: Firstly, nearly all Afghans living in Germany came as refugees, and secondly, the vast majority especially of those arriving in the 1970's/ 1980's have a high level of education.

    Number of Afghans in Germany
    According to the German Federal Ministry of economic cooperation and development (BMZ) about 100.000 Afghans live in Germany. 22.000 Afghans live in Hamburg and constitute herewith not only the largest Diaspora community in Germany but also in Europe.

    Another thing that exiled Afghans are bringing back to their homeland is literature:
    Most of the literature is by Afghan exiles simply because they can afford time to write their ideas, have a press which will publish their work, and have the resources for such luxuries as paper and pen or a computer.

    Just having been exposed to different ways of thinking and loosening of class and ethnic boundaries by the democratic influences of the west will affect the future of Afghanistan in myriad subtle and obvious ways, and from my point of view, that seems to be a good thing.


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