Hadi Marifat

If Afghanistan is to move forward, its people will have to shed their fear. Motivated by this idea, Hadi Marifat has embraced the power of the arts to transform his country.

Marifat was seven years old when fled home to escape the Afghan civil war. For 16 years he remained a refugee in Pakistan while across the border, the Taliban reigned. He returned in 2002 to an Afghanistan which had changed beyond recognition during his absence.

When he got there, the Taliban were not entirely defeated, but Marifat noticed among his compatriots an increasingly positive energy and a desire for a “new Afghanistan”. At the same time, he recalls, it was clear that people were still “traumatized by the horror and terror of the Taliban.”

Marifat became interested in the power of music, theater, art and poetry - which he calls the “software” of peace building - to enable people to shape a more peaceful, just society.

Traditionally, conflict resolution and peace-building efforts focus on “hardware” such as military intervention, statist diplomacy and real politics. None of these “demonstrate enough potential to control and transform the complex nature of contemporary conflict,” Marifat says. “The role of art is especially vital to create space for dialogue at the social level.”

Marifat is a co-founder of the Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization (AHRDO). He currently oversees initiatives related to human rights, transitional justice, women rights, democratization, peace building and community mobilization.


Personal Items Unleash Memories of Conflict, Loss


While the search continues for a permanent exhibition space, the Memory Box exhibit travels the world, helping Afghanistan's war victims share their stories of loss and resilience with international audiences.

Memory Boxes contain donated personal items that once belonged to ordinary people killed in Afghanistan. Surviving family members or friends of the dead present the boxes at the exhibition, using the items contained in them to tell the audience more about loved ones who lost their lives. Their stories trace Afghanistan's violent history of mass murder, genocide, palace revolutions and unrelenting political upheaval.

The Memory Box initiative resembles earlier exhibits commemorating those killed in the Second World War. It was introduced in 2011 by TEDxHagueAcademy speaker Hadi Marifat and others at the Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization (AHRDO). Their aim was to give conflict victims a place in the country's peace and reconciliation process.

Memory Boxes contain a wide range of items such as clothing, jewelry, books and games. Lined up in a row, the 20 boxes represent both individual stories and the wider social impact of war and impunity.