Discussion to promote tolerance, openness in Afghanistan

By Camiran Moore

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Activists Aref Dostyar and Sofia Ramyar of Afghans for Progressive Thinking will talk to students on Wednesday about their stated mission of fostering tolerance, respect and openness in Afghanistan.

The event will begin at 7 p.m. in Davis Marksbury Building’s first floor conference room; there will be an information and Q&A sessions. UK Peace Studies and Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice are sponsoring the event.

Afghans for Progressive Thinking provides university students in Afghanistan with opportunities to critically engage in contemporary issues, according to its website. The organization’s objective is to inform people of Afghanistan’s history and its relationship with Western countries.

The organizers of the event anticipate viewpoints and questions that could help spawn peace between Afghanistan’s contending factions.

“What we hope to get at are some Afghans’ perspectives on the international involvement in Afghanistan, the future of Afghanistan and what hope there is for bringing the different competing groups in Afghanistan together in any kind of national unity,” said Kerby Neill, appointed adjunct faculty of peace studies in the Department of Political Science.

Dostyar is the founder of Afghans for Progressive Thinking and now serves as the board chairman. He is currently a Fellow at the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C., where he works with the Afghanistan Study Group.

Dostyar has a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and economics from the University of Lucknow in India. He is also a graduate of the Institute of Leadership Development in Kabul.

Ramyar graduated from Kabul University in 2011 with an economics degree. She became executive director of Afghans for Progressive Thinking in January of 2014 after having served in several programs with the organization.

Afghans for Progressive Thinking has worked with over 10,000 students from 30 universities in six provinces of Afghanistan, according to Dostyar.  They plan to share their ambitious goals for the future on Wednesday, which they hope the attendees find inspirational.

The information session will begin with a handout that will go over some basic background information about Afghanistan. Dostyar and Ramyar will then talk about their work with Afghans for Progressive Thinking and end with a Q&A.

The event is expected to attract a diverse population.

“We’d love to have a broader range of people as possible,” Neill said. “I am hoping we get a very interesting and significant turnout.”

Neill helped to start the Peace Studies program at UK and has visited some other peace studies programs, including the one at Notre Dame. This is how Neill found out about Afghans for Progressive Thinking and why he reached out to Dostyar about coming to UK.

“This is unique,” Neill said. “I don’t know if it is happening anywhere else.”