Students were shown a different side of Afghanistan on Wednesday as a speaker discussed her recent return from the distant country.
By invitation of the U.S. Department of State and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Executive Director of the Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy Laura Dupuy risked her safety in the danger-ridden country to assess the condition of Afghan citizens. During Dupuy’s lecture, she related the surprisingly positive state of the country and its people.
“Access to basic health care has gone from nine to 64 percent in the past 10 years,” Dupuy said in her lecture, beaming at the progress.
She also shared her discoveries concerning women and their rights as citizens.
“During the Taliban only 12,000 children attended school, and now over three million are attending school, and about half of those are girls,” Dupuy said.
Afghan Minister of Education Ghulam Farooq Wardak told Dupuy that once girls start to be taught, they’re like atom bombs and they can’t be stopped.
Dupuy’s lecture featured one woman who made herself a multi-millionaire by starting her own textile business. Unfortunately, her example as a successful woman makes her a target for assassination.
Dupuy herself had to fear for her life while overseas.
“We were not allowed to leave the Embassy compound without the security of being in an armored vehicle,” she said. “It is simply too dangerous.”
Dupuy also described reviewing the instructions on the door of her room on what to do in case of a rocket attack.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai was one individual she was fortunate enough to meet. During their meeting, he reiterated his wish to continue to work with the Americans. This continued partnership was an overarching theme Dupuy advocated in her presentation.
“It’s not going away once the U.S. leaves,” Dupuy said about Afghanistan.
She reasoned her stance by explaining the progress made in the country since the arrival of the U.S. as well as the threats presented by the country if it were to return to its prior, unstable state.
Dupuy encouraged students to help the cause of Afghan independence, safety and stability simply by being informed.
“Pay attention to the news and educate yourself,” she said.
Andy Miller, a freshman from Salt Lake City studying international relations, said about the lecture, “It informed me more about Afghanistan—changed my opinions a little bit. I didn’t know as much as I thought I did.
“I found it really fascinating,” Miller said. “I’m a freshman, and this is the first one I’ve ever gone to, and I’ll definitely be coming back to these again.”
Despite Dupuy’s remarks, some who attended the lecture are still unsure about whether or not the U.S. should remain in Afghanistan.
Maggie Nassif, the managing director of BYU’s National Middle East Language Resource Center, said, “You have to make a responsible decision to go into places when you need to. Pulling out is (an even) bigger decision, so I don’t know the right answer, but I see her point in saying it’s really hard to pull out.”