Afghan party leader telecommutes from Helsinki
Daboud Razmyar uses Skype and mobile telephones to keep in touch with political allies
By Suvi Turtiainen
Ten years ago Afghans had to travel to their neighbouring countries, either Pakistan or Iran, just to make an international telephone call. Now the mobile telephone network covers almost every corner of Afghanistan.
“Telephone calls are one of the few positive examples of development in Afghanistan”, says Daboud Razmyar from his living room in Helsinki’s Käpylä district.
On the table in front of the sofa in the apartment stands a flat-screen computer which makes it possible to make internet calls, but mobile telephones are the most convenient way to be in contact with Afghanistan. Razmayar intends to call Mohammed Daoud Rawesh, a well-known politician in the Afghan capital Kabul.
“It might take some time to reach him, because it is Friday and a day off”, Razmyar warns. The Muslim weekend begins on Friday, and the working week starts on Sunday.
The fear proves to be unfounded; his fellow party member, who is known as Dr. Rawesh, answers the call right away. “Salam Aleikum, good friend” is Razmyar’s traditional Muslim greeting – a wish for peace.
Peace is certainly needed in Kabul, where recent news is depressingly familiar: rebels disguised as police officers have killed NATO forces, the hard-line Islamist Taleban are in control of the restless southern part of the country, and President Hamid Karzai has held a television speech, accusing foreign troops in Afghanistan of interfering in the country’s internal affairs.
Razmyar dismisses the President’s speech as an election campaign gimmick.
Razmyar and Rawesh are united by politics. Together they lead the Afghanistan People’s Party, with Razmyar serving as the party’s chairman in Europe, and Rawesh as the chairman in Afghanistan.
The party, with a leftist liberal point of view, functioned already before the 1992 coup, and has now been revived, but like its members, the activities of the party are spread out over the world. The party maintains contact via Skype, allowing up to about 100 people around Europe to take part in a single conference call.
Party congresses are organised in Kabul, and the travel has brought Razmayar to Afghanistan twice in recent months. His visits to his home town are disconcerting.
“Differences in income have never been as great in the history of Afghanistan.” There is prosperity for a small elite, but most people have difficulties making ends meet in the increasingly expensive capital.
Käpylä has been the home of Razmyar’s family of four since 1993. The diplomat family fled to Finland a year earlier after the Mujahedeen took power in Afghanistan. Razmyar was Afghan’s Ambassador in Moscow, and also represented his country in Finland. He has pictures in his home archives in which he poses with both Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Finnish President Mauno Koivisto.
The revolution brought the career of the gifted diplomat to an abrupt end. “Father will not admit it himself, but his acquaintances and colleagues say that he would have had every possibility to be elected Afghanistan’s next president”, says his daughter Nasima Razmyar.
Nasima’s father’s former status in the old Afghanistan is not easy to describe, because there are no equivalent titles elsewhere. Razmyar was at least a deputy Prime Minister, a civil servant responsible for the security of all the people, and his party’s financial officer. At 63 years of age, Razmyar retains his politician’s charisma.
“I have been in politics since the age of 17. The desire to help the home country never goes away. Now I am simply doing it from Finland.”
His fellow politicians keep their telephone calls short. Personal news is not exchanged, although the weather in Kabul is touched upon (it’s hot).
The telephone call inspires Razmyar to sharply criticize the Karzai administration. “It is a total mafia administration. There is no real democracy.”
Razmyar says that more than a decade of help from the West has not brought the progress that might have been possible to achieve in Afghanistan.
“Another tragic matter is the position of women: every single day a woman somewhere commits suicide, and girls are forced into marriage at the age of 12. A mother and daughter were recently beheaded for some reason. This kind of cruelty did not exist even in the Middle Ages.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 28.7.2012
SUVI TURTIAINEN / Helsingin Sanomat