Linfield College, Afghan students debate human rights via Skype

Students at Linfield College bridged a 12-hour time gap and a centuries-old cultural gap to connect with college students in Afghanistan.They staged two debates via Skype, where they deliberated whether the Afghan government should negotiate with the Taliban and whether access to the Internet is a fundamental right.

Afghan students opened the second debate in Allah’s name, and formal arguments were followed by a conversation among college students curious about each other. Young people on opposite sides of the world asked each other, “What stereotypes of us did you bring to this debate?” and both sides prefaced their comments with, “Well, I don’t want to sound offensive, but …” It turns out, perhaps not surprisingly, that Afghan students had thought of Americans as “soldiers with a gun waiting to kill,” and the American students sheepishly admitted that they had often thought of Middle Easterners as “the people who took down the Twin Towers.”

Students at Kabul University asked Linfield College students to let Americans know that Afghans are more multidimensional than they are often portrayed, with one student saying, “We have to solve these things.” And as far as future student exchanges, “We have to have hundreds of debates.”

Student debaters at Linfield and in Afghanistan included Rashed Ahmadi, Tamana Aziz, Matthijs Baurichter, Amanda Bowers, Muhammad Dawood, Muhammad Fahim, Samantha Javier, Kole Kracaw, Sadaf Maqsoodi, Clara Martínez, Khyber Rasulzy, Amin Sangar, Megan Schwab and Michael Zier.

The debates were organized and facilitated by Linfield graduate Rachel Mills ’11, Linfield Professor Jackson Miller and Adam LeClair, a coordinator with the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening in Afghanistan. The event was sponsored by the Department of Theatre and Communication Arts.