Center for Global Citizenship hosts live debate between SLU, Afghan students

Courtesy Michelle Peltier

On Tuesday, Feb. 17 in the Center for Global Citizenship, a live feed connected St. Louis University with Kabul, Afghanistan for the second-annual Black History Month debate between SLU students and students in Kabul.  The students discussed the contradictions between civil rights laws and the real life experiences of marginalized groups.

The rationale for the inclusion of an Afghan debate team was that women in Afghanistan face many of the same civil rights issues as African-Americans in the United States, and while civil rights movements have occurred for both groups in their respective countries, the real-life experiences of these groups do not always match what the law has mandated.

Afghan women face fewer job and educational opportunities than their male counterparts.  Similar situations can be found in the United States for black citizens.  Many predominantly black communities are plagued with overcrowded and underfunded public schools in comparison with white Americans.  Governments from both countries have worked to fix these issues in their communities, although sometimes with mixed results, which formed the basis of the criticism of government actions.

According to Danielle Mueller, a participant in the debate, the speakers engaged in the dialogue were very passionate while still being, in her words, cordial.  Mueller said that after the debate, both teams complimented each other’s strengths and discussed the weaknesses each team had in their arguments.

Courtesy Michelle Peltier

The debate consisted of four teams, two from Kabul and two from St. Louis.  Of the four teams, there were two government teams and two opposition teams.  The government teams spoke of the importance of understanding root issues related to social inequalities.  This included discussing the creation of collective identities and shared meanings in order to promote social change.  The opposition groups spoke on implementing to promote definite change.

Mueller stated that the opening government team from Kabul “kick-started” the discussion by speaking about the deaths of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin in the United States.  The Kabul team spoke of the safety concerns and disparity in education for women in Afghanistan; those participating in the clock-tower discussion this past fall used similar speaking points.

Situations, like those in Missouri, Ohio, New York and Florida, are similar to events that happen to women in Afghanistan.

Wide Angle View. Courtesy Michelle Peltier

In August 2009, the Afghan government enacted the Elimination of Violence Against Women Act: criminalizing child marriage, human trafficking, and assault among other violent acts.  In 2012, major protests spread through Kabul after a video of a woman who was publicly executed, due to being accused of adultery, was released.

The debate finished with rankings for the four teams; SLU took second and third out of the four places.  The SLU team of Roya Massoudnia and Danielle Mueller took third, while the SLU team of Amelia Meigs and Connor Williams placed second.  The Kabul team for the closing government position took first.

7,208 miles and a ten-hour time difference separated the students of Kabul from the students at SLU.  Completely different cultures and governments; however, both groups found themselves discussing problems facing their home countries.  Discussions like these help bring up the struggles marginalized Americans and Afghan face, and increase the understanding of what it means to have civil rights.

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