Originally launched in 2015, the Afghanistan Economic and Legal Studies Organization (AELSO)’s Silk Road Station continues to promote the values of a free society through 39 radio programs. The station includes eight weekly programs in English, Dari, and Pashto, and it surpassed 600,000 listeners in 2019 from Iran, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan and from other countries.
While Afghanistan has made strides towards increasing its literacy rate, a majority of its people remain unable to read and write, underscoring the importance of reaching a radio audience. AELSO has been extremely effective at utilizing radio as a means of disseminating ideas pertaining to human rights, a free society, and a market economy, and attracting a large and diverse audience. They have been able to do this by connecting with five FM radio stations. They have also produced over 30 two-minute messages in several languages to be played in between programming that promote liberal ideas.
The teachers of Afghanistan’s Police Academy, the only police education center in Afghanistan, sent a letter of appreciation to AELSO explaining how the Silk Road Station had helped them develop a deeper understanding of human rights and enhance training for their officers. The Silk Road Station has also received positive feedback from young people, who have benefited from the station’s entrepreneurship-focused programs and have learned the steps to starting successful businesses.
“Silk Road Station aims to impact local communities and rural places where access to internet is available and, if not through local FM radio stations, we broadcast ideas to bring a change in the mindsets of the people in accordance with the religion of Islam—which is in total agreement to the ideas of liberty—and stating these matters in the context of Islam will make it ever more interesting to the people and more attractive to find that they are not western ideas being enforced but rather born from the holy religion of Islam itself,” said AELSO Executive Director Khalid Ramizy.
The Silk Road Station has also worked to promote gender equality in Afghanistan with a number of programs dedicated to discussing women’s rights. In the “Compatibility of Islam with Free Society Values” portion of programming, AELSO seeks to create tolerance and better relations between Muslim and non-Muslim societies. AELSO also created CDs titled “Ideas for Peace and Prosperity” which focused on free-market principles and their integration into society. The team plans to continue these initiatives throughout 2020 and has begun a new session of programming.
“We are grateful for the strong support of Atlas Network with the AELSO team in Afghanistan; and indeed, Afghanistan is a country which needs more support and contributions to fight against extremism and bring peace, tolerance, and liberty,” Ramizy said when asked about AELSO’s partnership with Atlas Network.
AELSO has reached thousands of students and activists, as well as the broader Afghan public, with the mission of promoting liberal, free-market, and peaceful ideals. The team hopes to create its own FM channel in the future as the Silk Road Station expands to continue making a difference in the Middle East and spreading awareness of what a free society entails.
AELSO has received grant support from Atlas Network for the Silk Road Station.