Monday, July 7, 2014

The meaning of Ashraf Ghani's Presidential win

Breaking News: We won! Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai is officially the new President of Afghanistan, garnering 4.485 million votes and making up 56.44% of votes.

Ashraf Ghani’s win represents a triumph for democracy in the heart of Asia. Electing the right candidate to lead at this tumultuous time is testimony that Afghan civil society has come-of-age within a decade’s time.

With Dr. Ghani’s landslide victory, the Afghan people have spoken loud and clear: our homeland is finished with the politics of corruption, Jihad, and kleptocracy and ready to embark on the path of modernization, meritocracy and peace.

This highly contested election was unique for Afghanistan. It was the first time there were nationally televised debates and once Dr. Ghani is inaugurated it will be the first democratic and bloodless transfer of power in the nation’s history.

This election also witnessed one of the most spirited campaigning evident in the democratic world. At times, it got very ugly as passionate supporters from rival teams engaged in mudslinging and fiercely defended their candidates. As heated the exchanges were, fighting with words in a free press and on social media is a relief from the firing of rockets and silencing of voices during the decades of civil war under the dictatorial communist and Islamist regimes.

Naysayers doubted whether Dr. Ghani could come this far. The odds were stacked against him. He was perceived as an outsider—for not being a Mujahid, for not being part of the machinery, for not having an Afghan or Muslim wife and for living so many years abroad that he was somehow out of touch with the average-day Afghan. But Dr. Ghani has proven all of his opponents wrong. That’s because greatness, regardless of the obstacles, will always rise to the top.

There was also much confusion and doubt after I announced nine months ago, my endorsement for Dr. Ghani and my intention to mobilize LGBT Afghans to vote en masse for the former academic. After I started disseminating my public messages, I was accused of damaging Dr. Ghani’s reputation and bullied to keep my mouth shut. I was told that if the general public in Afghanistan found out that gay activists were using their underground sex network to campaign for Ghani then ultra-conservatives would incite mass protests and sabotage his chances of winning.

I was also told that my gay rights campaigning would result in a Taliban attack against the American University of Afghanistan and was pressured if I didn’t discontinue my association of the LGBT vote with Dr. Ghani than Karzai’s government would round up all the gay activists and torture them to death. None of these horrible scenarios happened and it was merely scare tactics meant to destroy my political will and sabotage the LGBT campaign effort.

My refusal to remain quiet proved every assumption made about the LGBT Afghan community—and me—wrong. After all, how can the participation of a unified mass-voting bloc representing more than 10% of the Afghan population (according to the US Kinsey study) prevent a candidate from prevailing? Besides, everyone knows that Afghanistan is one of the most homoerotic countries in the world; a place where homosexuality is a quietly a national obsession and where millions of LGBT Afghans are yearning to be openly gay, love their own kind and have free will.

Recently, a few scholars have reached out to me to interview me about my coming out and the gay awakening in Afghanistan for forthcoming academic articles and/or PhD dissertations they are working on.

Now is also a good time for graduate students and researchers to examine the role of “The Gay Factor” or the “Nemat Sadat Effect” in determining the outcome of Afghanistan’s election and how much the emergence of a new identity group was responsible for securing Dr. Ghani’s victory.

Certainly, it has changed the discourse in identity politics and has redrawn the political landscape in Afghanistan. While the traditional ethnicity-based voting blocs (Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, etc.) are concentrated by provinces, the LGBT community is evenly distributed throughout the country with the largest clusters both in Kabul, Balkh, Herat, Kandahar, Kunduz and Nangahar.

Furthermore, my accurate prediction and successful campaign for Dr. Ghani allows me to maintain my title as political strategist and social psychologist.

Right now is a moment of ripeness for all the parties involved in the conflict in Afghanistan. Islamists must discontinue their enslavement to Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and end their oppression against the Afghan masses. Dr. Ghani’s win signals a new chapter whereby Afghan citizens can unite to serve the national interest and individually honor their own sexual and religious identity.

For the survival of Afghanistan, it’s inevitable that Afghanistan completely abandons radical fundamentalism and becomes an inclusive, open and secular society based on contemporary liberal values. Afghanistan’s rainbow coalition (LGBTIQ, atheists, feminists, humanists and internationalists) will play a vital role as its sphere of influence expands and becomes the majority-minority voting bloc and pave the way for a national identity informed by the supremacy of enlightenment ideals and individual human rights for all everyone.

Now that our voice has been heard and harmonious vision has been shared, we hope that Dr. Ghani’s administration will address the critical needs of the LGBT community and allow us to claim our right to live as equals. As an urgent first step, we ask that you decriminalize homosexuality, give us a legal status and permit us to establish advocacy groups and community centers to promote awareness about our rights and to create economic empowerment and social integration so that we can be part of the cultural fabric of Afghanistan.

Many narrow-minded Afghans who lack compassion have said that I’m wasting my time to protect the rights of sexual and religious minorities. But I cannot think of a greater cause in the world to fight for than to end institutionalized bigotry in Afghanistan. Promoting gender equality and religious freedom for millions trapped in a chronic state of darkness is in my mind the greatest form of humility, nobility and service any person can make in their lifetime.

My fellow gay, lesbian and intersexual compatriots in Afghanistan look up to me as a role model and see my energy and strength as a source of inspiration in our mutual struggle to overcome internal, interpersonal and societal level conflict. A great leader is one who lifts others while moving up in the world. Helping LGBT Afghans come out of obscurantism is a righteous act since they are collectively the most denied and deprived group in Afghanistan.

Our Afghan nation shall become very beautiful country when every life is given dignity and respected. Denying justice to our children, siblings and parents in the name of Islam and tribalism doesn’t protect our core family values. On the contrary, it is the reason why we are so divided and dysfunctional and at the hems of the rest of the world to support us.

With Dr. Ghani as our new leader, we have a chance to reinvent ourselves and transform Afghanistan from a tainted spot to a beacon of civilization. This is an exciting time for Afghanistan. I’m optimistic about our bright future ahead.

Affectionately yours,

Nemat Sadat
The Civil Lord

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