Elders are taught ways to resolve community conflict amicably – and without breaking the law
3 JULY 2013 | NANGARHAR, AFGHANISTAN
When Siraj‘s son quarreled with Ghulam Muhammad’s, no one could have imagined the playground dispute would set off a fateful chain of events that resulted in bad blood between their families and the accidental death of one of the children. The case came up before the Bati Kot District Court in Nangarhar province and the enmity looked likely to continue for generations with Ghulam Muhammad insisting on compensation for the death of his son in the form of two young girls from Siraj’s family. As the dispute became ever more fractious, the District Governor’s office requested two elders of the community to intercede. It became Malik Esa and Malik Matiullah’s task to explain to Ghulam Muhammad that he should drop his demand for daughters from the rival family. The traditional practice “brings more violence inside the home and the girls will never have a bright future,” the elders said, adding for good measure, it’s also against the law.
Instead, the elders suggested that Siraj’s family apologize to Ghulam Muhammad and offer him a bull and nearly $4,000 as compensation for the loss of his son. Both families agreed and the District Court supported the outcome.
The conclusion can be chalked up as a success stry of the USAID-funded Rule of Law Stabilization Program – Informal Component (RLS-I). The Program, which supports legal awareness workshops for elders, encourages the use of traditional dispute resolution methods within the spirit of the law.
This is especially important in Afghanistan, where disputes that start with perceived insults can easily evolve into intractable conflicts. As happened with Siraj and Ghulam Muhammad, a petty dispute between children escalated into one that involved family honor.
Malik Esa and Malik Matiullah, who mediated between Siraj and Ghulam Muhammad said the workshop informed the way they dealt with the dispute. “In the past we gave girls as compensation for a debt as we would give animals. After participating in the training, which insists on eradicating this practice, we rejected this custom.”
Last updated: January 16, 2015