National Identity and the Need for Empathetic Dialogue

Under the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan, tensions have arisen concerning the national identity, which have become more intense than ever before. National identity is a part of the process of nationalism, which began in Europe and America in the eighteenth century, reached its peak in the nineteenth century, and its complexities were revealed in the twentieth century. It is now being heavily reviewed and criticized in the twenty-first century, particularly its extreme forms, which can lead to the promotion of national biases and divisions among people, and sometimes even incite hatred and racism. However, national identity is not always synonymous with nationalism; it can also have a political-legal connotation that refers to the stipulations outlined in the Treaty of Westphalia. This agreement was designed to recognize national borders as a political unit that has national sovereignty and to create an administrative unit for the citizens of a land, regardless of language, descent, race, and religion.

The emergence of nationalism as a sociopolitical trend in the West was accompanied by concepts such as social contract, citizenship rights and democracy. However, the version of nationalism that was promoted in many Eastern countries lacked these dimensions, resulting in an inadequate and defective form of nationalism which caused internal tensions and fragmentation rather than unity. As Afghanistan is currently facing another of its historical challenges, this topic and its structures are being explored once again. It is acceptable to explore and debate national identity, provided that it is not done with malicious intentions such as seeking superiority, revenge, or reviving past hostilities, as these intentions will only deepen divisions, increase grievances, provide the basis for further bloodshed, and lead to even greater disasters.

If the aim is to reach a consensus among political and social forces, then dialogues should be conducted in an empathetic manner in order to foster understanding and agreement. In such dialogues, the objective is to comprehend the other party‘s viewpoint, while simultaneously resolving any misunderstandings, so that common points can be identified and accepted. This process continues until a social contract is drafted. These common points may include the recognition that all parties have endured and sacrificed in past events, some of which were caused by interventions from Great Britain and Tsarist Russia. Additionally, it should be acknowledged that the continuation of the current situation is detrimental to all parties, and that establishing a governance system based on the will of the people would be beneficial to everyone. With these points in mind, it is possible to discuss what the national identity framework should be, and ultimately how to open a new chapter in the history of the country by ending the conflict. Compassion should be exercised in dialogue and efforts should be made to promote and institutionalize it, while preventing warmongers and opportunists from widening the divide between us.