Good People Good Work
Dr. Habiba Sarabi: Afghanistan’s Peacemaking Governor (In Dari)      
Today’s Good People, Good Works will be presented in Dari and English, with subtitles in Arabic, Aulacese (Vietnamese), Chinese, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Mongolian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Thai.

Greetings, cheerful viewers, and welcome to another edition of Good People, Good Works on Supreme Master Television. Imagine a scene where businesses are thriving along a town’s main street, people meet and greet one another with warm hugs, and children happily walk to school. This is a common sight in Bamyan, one of Afghanistan’s safest, cleanest provinces, and this pleasant lifestyle owes much to the wise leadership and efforts of the first and only female provincial governor in Afghanistan’s history, Her Excellency Dr. Habiba Sarabi. Today we’re pleased to feature our interview with Dr. Sarabi, who will share her ideals and vision for a more peaceful, green Afghanistan.

My name is Habiba Sarabi. I am the governor of Bamyan Province, and I trained as a pharmacist. My background is medical, but I’m involved with politics due to my commitment to the people of Afghanistan.

Dr. Sarabi was born in Mazari-e-Sharif, northern Afghanistan in 1956 to an ethnic Hazara family. In medical school, she specialized in hematology. After graduating, she was awarded a fellowship by the World Health Organization and did further training in India. She left Afghanistan with her children and went to Peshawar, Pakistan when a Taliban-led government took control of Afghanistan in 1996.

When the Taliban regime ended, Dr. Sarabi returned to her homeland and immersed herself in politics, serving in His Excellency President Hamid Karzai's government as Minister of Women's Affairs and Minister of Culture and Education. Having visited Bamyan Province previously, Dr. Sarabi was deeply impressed with the region and the people and sincerely wanted to help them build new lives. In 2005 she was appointed Governor of Bamyan by President Karzai.

I made a request to President (Karzai) if I could go to Bamyan and work and help the people, and of course it was difficult at the beginning, but he accepted and I went there and when I saw everything over there, the environment, the (World) Heritage site and everything, I thought it’s better to have a plan. Without a plan we cannot do anything. So I started to make a plan with UNESCO, the Culture Master Plan for Bamyan. I worked with the Ministry of Urban Development to make the city plan for Bamyan, and after that the Management Plan for the Culture Master Plan was another issue that with the support of UNESCO we did.

The picturesque city of Bamyan, the capital of Bamyan Province, lies in a remote, mountainous valley through which the ancient Silk Road passes and is where the famous 1,500-year-old statues called the Buddhas of Bamyan once stood. The city is located about 240 kilometers northwest of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul. Under Dr. Sarabi’s guidance, needed infrastructure has been built in the region and various social needs have been addressed.

I was appointed in 2005, and now it’s the sixth year that I am working there. There are a lot of changes in Bamyan. For example, the big change that we have, there was no asphalt road in Bamyan before, so we have big changes there, an asphalt road. You can see the asphalt road inside the city and also our national park. And also Bamyan will be connected very soon to Kabul by an asphalt road. This is the biggest change.

Of course, at the moment we have the City Master Plan and the new town is growing up, and our education system is set up. And we have some 320 schools, and with these 320 schools, 119,000 students are studying and out of these 119,000 students, 43% of them are girls. We have one provincial hospital, we have three district hospitals, we have more than 65 health facilities. So I have made hundreds of kilometers of road in Bamyan Province. These are the biggest changes that I was able to bring to Bamyan.

Determined to preserve the region’s environment and natural wealth for future generations of Afghan children, Dr. Sarabi has embarked on a cause to turn Bamyan into a model green city in Afghanistan with the help of many non-governmental organizations.

The landscape of Bamyan is unique, something very beautiful and the nature of Bamyan is very beautiful. So we as human beings, we should keep it, we should protect it. So there were some organizations involved with the environment, so I thought that it’s better to encourage these organizations to work with us. So I supported them and they were very happy and of course this support made us stronger. And some of the organizations used to do some vegetation, especially the watershed programs.

Now we have plenty of watershed programs around Bamyan to have more trees and more green areas. Bamyan Valley has a nice and beautiful landscape. Bamyan is on the list of World Heritage sites, and eight sites are included in this list. I made the Eco-tourism Program in Bamyan. This Eco-tourism Program is running very well. And the Ecotourism Program organized two times this year and last year the Silk Road Festival, and thousands of people came and visited, enjoyed, and participated in the Silk Road Festival.

Comprised of a chain of six beautiful turquoise lakes, Band-e Amir, in the western part of Bamyan Province, is a major tourist attraction. In 2008, in cooperation with the US Agency for International Development and the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Afghan government declared Band-e-Amir the first national park in Afghanistan.

During the 1960s there was a plan to announce Band-e Amir, the lakes, as a national park, but it didn’t happen. And 2008, I was able, with the support of the international community and some other organizations, to announce Band-e Amir as the first national park in Afghanistan.

Dr. Sarabi’s commitment to safeguarding Band-e-Amir’s ecology has won her recognition from the global community. She was named one of the “Heroes of the Environment 2008” by the prestigious American news magazine Time.

The first time when I went there I was with my family and nephew, and he was young, very young, about six, seven years old. When I saw all the rubbish around the lakes, I became very sad and started to clean and there were some young boys, but they were watching me. And I talked with them (and said) that it’s a shame that if you just watch and we have the responsibility to clean our environment.

And after that I thought that Bamyan is very clean, and it’s my responsibility as a governor, a person responsible for the province to not allow damage to this clean environment, so I announced for the municipality, for the mayor, and the Department of Environment to announce to the public and also to the market to collect all the plastic, especially the black plastic, and then don’t allow plastic anymore. This is another interesting thing that I always encourage the youth and some volunteer organizations to do, campaigns for the environment.

Dr. Sarabi has even traveled internationally to promote environmental protection.

And we did work with some other women from different countries, a lady from Thailand, the other one from the Caribbean. The name of the campaign was Women and Environment, Women’s Role in Environment. So we conducted a good campaign in the United States in Washington DC. And we had so many meetings with the decision-making people and even with the (US Secretary of State) Hillary Clinton. We had the meeting and asked them to care about the environment and make environmentalism a global strategy.

As the first and only female provincial governor in Afghanistan’s history, Dr. Sarabi is indeed a strong role model for Afghan women in a male-dominated society.

Afghan women have gotten a lot of things since 2001. One of the things that Afghan women got was political rights. For example, in Afghanistan we have a quota of 26% of women that can participate in the parliament. This is something that I think is quite unique in the region. So for women the rights for education, rights for health service, these are the things that Afghan women are getting gradually and women to be in the public, women being included in the decision-making bodies, these are the positive things that Afghan women have been getting since 2001.

Dr. Habiba Sarabi believes true leadership includes taking into account the people’s views and conducting open government.

I was able to continue to stabilize all the peace in Bamyan because I built up a trust between the people and the local government. And I shared everything with the people. And so people, they should know about everything that’s going on in Bamyan. So that’s why when we share everything with the people, and take advice or get some feedback from the people, there will be trust-building between the community and also the local government. If we can build this trust, sustainable peace will be everywhere in Afghanistan too. I'm praying to have prosperity and peace in Afghanistan.

We salute you, Your Excellency Dr. Habiba Sarabi, for your determined, selfless commitment to creating a cleaner environment and enhancing community welfare in Bamyan Province. May Allah forever bless Afghanistan with stability and prosperity.

Thank you for joining us today on Good People, Good Works. May Divine love shine in all corners of our planet.

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