A number of panelists met in Room 175 of the Art and Journalism Building on Thursday to discuss the repercussions of the United States’ military withdrawal from Afghanistan. The event, “Afghanistan: Status and Future,” was led by Larry Gerstein, director of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies.
Featured panelists included Muncie Mayor Dan Ridenour, Kenneth Holland — professor and dean at Jindal Global Law School in India — and Bibi Bahrami, founder and president of Afghan Women’s and Kids’ Education and Necessities (AWAKEN). Joining the conference over Zoom was Command Sgt. Major Jason C. VanKleeck.
The panelists discussed their histories in the wartorn country, with Bahrami discussing her organization’s work in the country, Holland discussing his role as president of the American University of Afghanistan — an establishment he said is educating “a new generation of leaders in a new generation of educated middle-class people" — and VanKleeck discussing U.S. military operations in the country.
Bahrami criticized both Soviet and American intervention in Afghanistan.
“We got behind probably 100 years by people trying to help us,” Bahrami said.
When asked by an audience member if he would accept relocated refugees from the state refugee Camp Atterbury to Muncie, Ridenour said he “would think there would be some federal funds … which would come through the Community Development Department,” but was wary of making any promises.
Holland and Bahrami said they were contacted by university staff and asked to participate in the panel to offer their unique perspectives. Holland teaches classes at an Indian university over Zoom from Ball State and Bahrami leads her nonprofit from Muncie to offer education and healthcare services to Afghan women and children in the Behsood district.
The audience consisted of members of the Muncie community, Ball State staff and students. Gay Nation, owner of the Brinkman Art Gallery, said she learned a great deal about the situation in Afghanistan and is greatful the panel happened.
Similarly, Barbara Alverez, docent at the David Owsley Museum of Art, reflected on the importance of raising awareness and said she was thankful panelists offered solutions for U.S. citizens to help people in Afghanistan and those who have fled the country.
Feona Dabson, junior biochemistry major, attended the panel discussion in hopes of gaining more knowledge about the past and present of Afghanistan. Dabson says although she feels she was only able to learn a sliver of that history, she was grateful for the several different perspectives and backgrounds everyone had, and appreciated the Peace Center for hosting the event.
The panel was rounded out by a call to arms from VanKleeck, who advocated for civilian support for returning servicemen, and from Bahrami, who said she will do everything she can to help the Afghans left behind in a country now under Taliban rule.
“I will continue to work in Afghanistan,” she said, “because I work for those women and children in the villages that have no focuses, no means, no healthcare … please help us help them.”
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