Jirga: A Tradition of Participation

description: 
<p>Violent headlines make Afghanistan seem like a place of uninterrupted conflict. But Afghans succeed every day in resolving conflicts and finding peace through a consensus process called jirga.</p>
Asset Media
Media Type: 
Video
Video Still: 
http://cms.afghanistan.asiasociety.org/sites/cms.afghanistan.asiasociety.org/files/still-jirga.png
Video URL: 
http://media.asiasociety.org/education/afghanistan/era4/2003.mp4
Video Thumbnail: 
http://cms.afghanistan.asiasociety.org/sites/cms.afghanistan.asiasociety.org/files/thumb-jirga.png
Era: 
Afghanistan Today
Theme: 
Identity &amp; Perception
Tradition &amp; Modernization
Year: 
2003
BCE/CE: 
CE
Date Period: 
CE
More Information: 
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Accessed January/February, 2010. http://www.flickr.com/photos/unama/3715331217/in/set-72157618947457368/.</div> <div class="hang">&nbsp;</div> <div class="hang">UNAMA. &quot;SRSG Kai Eide Addresses National Peace Jirga of Afghanistan, Kabul: 18 June 2009.&quot; Digital image. UNAMA's Flickr Photostream. Accessed January 5, 2010. http://www.flickr.com/photos/unama/3637679591/sizes/o/.</div> <div class="hang">&nbsp;</div> <div class="hang">U.S. Army, and Chris Shin. &quot;Town Meeting in Afghanistan.&quot; Digital image. The U.S. Army's Flickr Photostream. Accessed September 5, 2010. http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/531605535.</div> <div class="hang">&nbsp;</div> <div class="hang">U.S. Department of State. &quot;Hamid Karzai Became Winner at the 2002 Loya Jirga.&quot; Digital image. Wikipedia Commons. Accessed September 5, 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hamid_Karzai_became_winner_at_the_2002_Loya_Jirga.jpg.</div> <div class="hang">&nbsp;</div> <div class="hang">U.S. Department of State. &quot;Loya Jirga 2002.&quot; Digital image. Wikipedia Commons. Accessed September 5, 2010. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Loya_Jirga_2002.jpg.</div> <div class="hang">&nbsp;</div> <div class="hang">Waezi, Fardin, and UNAMA. &quot;SRSG Kai Eide Addresses National Peace Jirga of Afghanistan, Kabul: 18 June 2009.&quot; Digital image. UNAMA's Flickr Photostream. Accessed September 5, 2010. http://www.flickr.com/photos/unama/3637679589/.</div> <div class="hang">&nbsp;</div> <div class="hang">Waezi, Fardin. &quot;Attack in Kabul: 18 January 2010.&quot; Digital image. UNAMA's Flickr Photostream. Accessed September 5, 2010. http://www.flickr.com/photos/unama/4284846506/in/photostream/.</div> <div class="hang">&nbsp;</div> <div class="hang">Waezi, Fardin. &quot;Protest against Taliban.&quot; Digital image. UNAMA's Flickr Photostream. Accessed January 5, 2010. http://www.flickr.com/photos/unama/4174030728/in/photostream/.</div> <div class="hang">&nbsp;</div> <div class="hang">Waezi, Fardin. &quot;SRSG Kai Eide Addresses National Peace Jirga of Afghanistan, Kabul: 18 June 2009.&quot; Digital image. UNAMA's Flickr Photostream. Accessed September 5, 2010. http://www.flickr.com/photos/unama/3638488514/.</div> <div class="hang">&nbsp;</div> <div class="hang">Waezi, Fardin. &quot;Women Protesting.&quot; Digital image. UNAMA's Flickr Photostream. Accessed January 5, 2010. http://www.flickr.com/photos/unama/4146190177/in/photostream/.</div> <div class="hang">&nbsp;</div> <div class="hang">Wahidy, Farzana. &quot;Photo of the Day: 12 March 2010.&quot; Digital image. UNAMA's Flickr Photostream. Accessed September 5, 2010. http://www.flickr.com/photos/unama/4423950551/.</div> <div class="hang">&nbsp;</div> <div class="hang"> <p>Warsame, Abdurahman. &quot;Abdullah Abdullah.&quot; Digital image. Abdurahman Warsame's Flickr Photostream. Accessed January 5, 2010. http://www.flickr.com/photos/shirsoore/3946823503/.<br /> Creative Commons license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/deed.en</p> </div> <div class="hang">Wickman, Capt. Tony, and U.S. Air Force. &quot;091022-F-9933W-151.&quot; Digital image. Isafmedia's Flickr Photostream. Accessed September 5, 2010. http://www.flickr.com/photos/isafmedia/4048521207/.</div> <div class="hang">&nbsp;</div> <div class="hang">Wickman, Capt. Tony, U.S. Air Force, and ISAF. &quot;091022-F-9933W-134.&quot; Digital image. Isafmedia's Flickr Photostream. Accessed September 5, 2010. http://www.flickr.com/photos/isafmedia/4048522675/.</div> <div class="hang">&nbsp;</div> <div class="hang">Wickman, Capt. Tony, U.S. Air Force, and ISAF. &quot;091022-F-9933W-170.&quot; Digital image. Isafmedia's Flickr Photostream. Accessed September 5, 2010. http://www.flickr.com/photos/isafmedia/4048521923/.</div> <div class="hang">&nbsp;</div> <div class="hang">Wood, Graeme. &quot;Afghan Election Billboard, July 2009.&quot; Digital image. Gcawflickr's Flickr Photostream. Accessed September 5, 2010. http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/3770571295.</div> <hr /> <div class="hang">Producer: Kate Harding</div> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p>
Video Transcript: 
<p>Violent headlines make Afghanistan seem like a place of uninterrupted conflict, but these stories hide the quiet ways that people succeed every day in reaching common ground.</p> <p>For centuries, Afghans have governed their affairs through a system called the jirga.</p> <p>A jirga is a meeting of elders who gather to resolve conflicts and debates. These are traditionally Pashtun, but today several ethnic groups in Afghanistan have adopted them. But a jirga is perhaps the most challenging way to govern. It requires patience, compromise, and extreme diplomacy.</p> <p>The members must rule through consensus rather than voting which means that by the end of a meeting, every single person in the room must agree on the resolution. Jirgas can go on for days until all members are united.</p> <p>A loya jirga is a larger version of the jirga. Loya jirgas are only held periodically in history, for the most important national events. In 1747 a loya jirga met to declare Ahmad Shah Durrani the leader of the Durrani Empire. And in 2002, a loya jirga confirmed Hamid Karzai as the interim president of Afghanistan.</p> <p>The key to a loya jirga&rsquo;s success depends on whether the people accept the leaders as their representatives. In the 1980s, the Marxists in power held several loya jirgas but the people rejected both the decisions and the decision-makers&mdash;and the loya jirgas were deemed failures.</p> <p>What this means is that the success of the rule of law depends on whether all the people have been heard. In the past, this meant that laws were built by listening to what constituents wanted and by meeting adversaries halfway. This is a stark contrast to the democratic system where the majority makes the decisions, and the minority must swallow its pride&mdash;or protest from the sidelines.</p> <p>As Afghanistan builds a fledgling democracy, it&rsquo;s trying hard to reconcile the jirga system with the democratic system. In 2003, a loya jirga gathered to ratify Afghanistan&rsquo;s first constitution. That constitution declared that the loya jirga would remain the most supreme legal body in Afghanistan and could even overrule the decisions of the president and the government.</p> <p>Just how to build a loya jirga is another question. After 30 years of war, its harder than ever to build consensus. When it comes to militants and insurgents, it&rsquo;s not easy to agree on who should and should not be heard. This question came to the forefront in 2003 when a young parliamentarian challenged a loya jirga.</p> <p>Afghanistan will need to decide whether consensus or majority is the most effective way to heal its fractured nation.</p> <p>In January 2010, President Karzai made a bold move that attempted to make sense of this question. He announced that he would invite Taliban leaders to an upcoming loya jirga to engage them in more peaceful discussion.</p>