Afghanistan has suffered under a continual state of war for several decades, and although conflict continues, parts of the country have begun to experience relative stability. There may be no better time than the present for the ideas of liberty to flourish in Afghanistan. The Kabul-based Afghanistan Economic and Legal Studies Organization (AELSO) debuted its Silk Road Station online TV and radio platform in late 2015, with the support of Atlas Network and Network for a Free Society, to help demonstrate how the values of a free society can coexist with Islamic rule in the long-troubled republic.
“Mainly we are focusing on our programs to share and disclose the compatibility of the Islam religion with free society values for the Afghan nation, and also to improve the knowledge of our listeners, especially the regional countries, regarding libertarian ideas,” explains Mohammad Khalid Ramizy, general director of AELSO. Ramizy emphasized Silk Road’s goal to “educate and enhance the knowledge of not only the Afghan nation but also Iran, Tajikistan, and other countries in the region.”
Since its launch, Silk Road’s programming has grown to offer 38 programs that are available to everybody from youth and students to business groups and community leaders. Silk Road’s programs are broadcast in Pashto, Dari, and English.
“Since the establishment of AELSO, we are always trying our best to help individuals and groups to develop Afghan libertarian think tank networks in order to fight extremism in Afghanistan,” Ramizy continues.
Feedback for Silk Road’s programming has been positive, especially with younger Afghanis. More so, the number of listeners exploded in 2016. With almost 1,000 listeners daily, Silk Road has reached more than 300,000 listeners in the past year
More than 100 volunteers have made it possible for Silk Road to promote free markets, the rule of law, property rights, and individual human freedom. Many of them are Afghani youth, eager to spread these values and advocate human rights. AELSO has also helped establish the ideas of liberty among the young people of Afghanistan in other ways, such as through a youth-run think tank called the White Assembly, part of a national effort to bring those young and interested minds into the freedom movement.
Najibullah Mehri, one of the founders of the White Assembly, said AELSO is directly responsible for influencing his liberal philosophy and encouraged him to be an active member in the movement.
“When I learned all these libertarian ideas, I came to know that indeed Afghanistan needs champions of freedom, and I decided to work very hard to establish a young volunteer group for spreading the libertarian ideas in Afghanistan,” Mehri explains. “Now I am really proud that I am a young libertarian and working as a volunteer in 19 provinces of Afghanistan with the assembly members, to teach and equip the Afghan nation with free society values."