KABUL – Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior partnered with Ilia Events to sponsor the Police Film Festival, May 21, at the historic Babur Gardens in downtown Kabul.
According to the festival’s Executive Director Alexandra Meyer, the event was designed to open a cultural discussion between the Afghan community and Afghan National Police.
“The goal of the festival was to try and break down the barriers between the ANP and the community – to open a dialogue between the Afghans and their police force that removes any type of intimidation.”
According to a 2010 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime bribery report, more than half of all Afghan adults had paid at least 1 bribe to an Afghan police officer. Through the past 2 years, multiple programs implemented by both the MOI and the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption – who report directly to the Afghan president – have attempted to curve and disrupt corruption throughout the country. Despite efforts, tales of unethical behavior and scandal continue to shadow the ANP’s existence – a perception the festival hoped to address and change.
“We hope to help reshape the idea of the Afghan National Police in people’s minds. Make people reassess their perceptions of the police,” said Meyer. “The ANP is here to help the community.”
Previously, the ANP was a para-military force mostly dedicated to combat operations. Through the first half of 2011, the ANP suffered more than twice as many casualties then the ANA during battles with insurgents – 830 compared to 325 ANA deaths. With the buildup of the Afghan National Army, the ANP has been mostly repurposed to serve as a traditional community policing force.
According to Minister of Interior Gen. Bismullah Mohammadi’s ANP strategy outline on the MOI Web site, “the ANP can sometimes behave in a militaristic manner, which can intimidate the population. The police should serve the people and act in a manner that ensures their cooperation, trust and respect, using only legal, proportionate and necessary force.”
Examples of positive change and sacrifices made by the ANP were the focus for 13 filmmakers who were selected from hundreds of applicants. Kuchi Films Producer Sultan Mohamood’s “Uncle Traffic Sabur,” highlighted a 20-year ANP traffic officer who despite broken promises from the Afghan government, continues to serve the community with honor and respect.
“I love managing my roundabout – I’m there from morning to evening every day,” said Sabur. I don’t mind the dust and dirt. I’ve been doing it for more than 20 years, and I still get a great deal of satisfaction helping the Kabul community.”
Sixteen years ago, Uncle Traffic was promised land by the former Afghan president. As a married man and father of 5 children, Sabur recently wrote the Kabul mayor, asking for his promised land. The mayor responded saying that Sabur would not receive the property previously promised but that he would receive a new piece of land. The location, size and remaining details of the real estate won’t be told to Sabur for at least a few months. Still, after receiving the land, Sabur faces a new challenge.
“Kabul law says once I receive the land, I have to build on at least 50% of it,” said Sabur. “I don’t have the money to do this and could use the help of any organization willing to help me make this dream come true for my family.”
Sabur’s plight is a common challenge both endured and understood by the Afghan community. It was filmmaker Mohamood’s goal to illustrate Sabur’s dedication to the Afghan community, while still suffering the same frustrations as many Afghan citizens.
“I would see Sabur every day working the roundabout on my way to work. He would be there for 13 hours a day,” said Mohamood. “There are no traffic lights and the area is very congested – horrible traffic. Some officers would be standing around, sleeping or not doing their job, but not Sabur. My hope is that the Afghan community watches my film and sees how difficult Sabur’s job is and how dedicated he is. Sabur isn’t the only traffic officer who takes his job serious. Directing traffic in these busy streets is very hard and they deserve respect.”
According to the festival’s winner for Best Documentary Ahmad Sivar Noorzad, his film “Najmaoldin” illustrated the ANP’s sincerity to building positive relationships with the local communities.
“My film highlights a very dedicated ANP officer who trains other ANP soldiers on how to constructively speak to Afghan civilians – showing patience and respect,” said Noorzad. “The officer is very respectful, shows others how to be respectful, and I wanted to show the Afghan community this quality.”
The star of Noorzad’s film ANP 2nd Lt. Najmaoldin, is the head of training and police chief in Logar Province. Before he arrived, the ANP had a bad reputation and was unable to form good relationships within the community. Thanks to Noorzad’s film, Kabul citizens were able to see how positive leadership can remove the collective disdain some communities hold against the ANP.
The first Police Film Festival concluded with a series of televised discussions and debates on the ANP. According to festival coordinators, the event produced a space for thought, reflection and dialogue as festival goers sat down with filmmakers, civil rights activists and police leaders.
NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan is a coalition of 38 troop-contributing nations charged with assisting the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in generating a capable and sustainable Afghan National Security Force ready to take lead of their country’s security by 2014. For more information about NTM-A, visit www.ntm-a.com.
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