The Tragedy of Afghanistan: What Can We Do Now?

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Ideas & Society: The Tragedy of Afghanistan: What Can We Do Now? The general public in the nations that have been at war with the Taliban in Afghanistan for the past twenty years were unprepared for the surrender of the Afghan government, the capitulation of the Afghan armed forces and the emergency evacuation of tens of thousands of Afghans to whom we owed protection.

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Wednesday 22 September 2021 05:00 pm until Wednesday 22 September 2021 06:30 pm (Add to calendar)
University Events
Presented by:
Ideas & Society Program
Type of Event:
Alumni; Community Event; Public Lecture
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The general public in the nations that have been at war with the Taliban in Afghanistan for the past twenty years were unprepared for the surrender of the Afghan government, the capitulation of the Afghan armed forces and the emergency evacuation of tens of thousands of Afghans to whom we owed protection.

The Ideas and Society Program has assembled an outstanding panel for our next event that will be moderated by the chief political reporter for The Saturday Paper, Karen Middleton. Professor William Maley is Australia’s pre-eminent scholar of Afghanistan’s complex politics; Maryam Zahid, the leader of an NGO advancing the interests of Afghan women; Dr Niamatullah Ibrahimi, an expert on the Afghan Hazaras and other minorities; and David Manne, the admired legal advocate who has been fighting for the settlement of refugees in Australia, including the Afghans, for the past twenty years, as the tragedy of Afghanistan unfolded.

The panel will address some of the most fundamental questions arising from the victory of the Taliban and the humiliating defeat of both its Afghan and Western enemies.

  • How can the victory of the Taliban best be explained?
  • Why did the 300,000 strong Afghan Army capitulate and the Afghan President flee his country with scarcely a shot having been fired when the date for the United States’ withdrawal of its armed forces was announced?
  • Why did the United States and Australia wait until the last moment before evacuating their citizens and the Afghans to whom protection was owed? What is the likely fate of those we failed to evacuate?
  • Has the character of Taliban changed over the past two decades?  What will now happen to Afghan women? And what will happen to the Afghan Hazaras and other Shia minority peoples?
  • There will soon most likely be hundreds of thousands Afghans in camps in Pakistan or Iran. Will the Morrison government agree to the resettlement in Australia of 20,000 Afghan refugees, as almost all the relevant humanitarian movements have called for?
  • Will it now finally offer secure homes to those Afghans who arrived by boat after mid-2013 and who, for the past eight years, have been slowly destroyed in body and spirit by the purposeless cruelty of Australia’s bi-partisan policy.
  • And most importantly of all for Australians: What lessons have we learned from our complicity in the tragedy of Afghanistan?

Do not miss out on this unique event.


Karen Middleton

Karen Middleton is a political journalist with more than three decades' experience reporting on national and international affairs in print and broadcast media. Currently chief political correspondent for The Saturday Paper, Karen was in Washington DC on September 11, 2001, covering then prime minister John Howard’s official visit for The West Australian newspaper. She reported from Afghanistan as an SBS TV correspondent in 2007, 2011 and 2012. Her first book, An Unwinnable War - Australia in Afghanistan, was published in 2011. Karen is a regular political analyst and commentator for the ABC’s Insiders and The Drum, the Ten Network’s The Project, and a range of international radio and TV networks. Her second book, Albanese - Telling it Straight, was published in 2016. A former president of the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery and a Churchill Fellow, she holds an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Canberra.

Maryam Zahid

Maryam is the founder and director of Afghan Women on the Move. Afghan Women on the Move creates a safe platform for women as survivors of war and trauma, to gather and participate in arts and cultural programs, outside of religious and political influences. With the over 18 years of experience working in the community sector Maryam’s work focuses on gender equality, women`s right and the displacement of the Afghan diaspora around the world with a focus on those from minority backgrounds. She is currently employed as a Domestic Violence Prevention Project officer for SydWest Multicultural Services, working with newly arrived refugees and migrants in Western Sydney. She is also a bi-lingual health educator at NSW Refugee Health and casual voice dabber at SBS Australia. She is an active consumer representative at Western Sydney Health district advocating on behalf of culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) communities. She is also active exclusive committee member of Australian south Asian Forum proudly representing the Afghan community.

Dr Niamatullah Ibrahimi

Dr Niamatullah Ibrahimi is a Lecturer in International Relations at La Trobe University in Melbourne. He completed his PhD at the Australian National University in 2018, where his doctoral thesis examined the dynamics of contentious politics in Afghanistan since 2001. He has published extensively on Afghanistan’s politics and history. He is the author of, ‘The Hazaras and the Afghan State: Rebellion, Exclusion and Struggle for Recognition’ (London: Hurst & Co. 2017), and co-author (with Professor William Maley) of ‘Afghanistan: Politics and Economics in a Globalising State’ (London: Routledge, 2020).

Emeritus Professor William Maley

William Maley is Emeritus Professor at The Australian National University, where he was Professor of Diplomacy from 2003-2021. He is a Member of the Order of Australia, a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of International Affairs. He was admitted as a Barrister of the High Court of Australia in 1982. In November 2003, he received the AUSTCARE Paul Cullen Humanitarian Award for services to refugees. He is author of Rescuing Afghanistan (2006), What is a Refugee? (2016), Transition in Afghanistan: Hope, Despair and the Limits of Statebuilding (2018), The Afghanistan Wars (2021), and Diplomacy, Communication, and Peace: Selected Essays (2021).

David Manne

David Manne is a human rights lawyer who has worked in various capacities assisting refugees and asylum seekers for over 20 years. Since 2001, David has been the Executive Director and Principal Solicitor at Refugee Legal, which is the largest provider of free legal assistance to disadvantaged migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Australia.  During this time, David has led the legal team at Refugee Legal to successfully argue 10 out of 10 landmark High Court challenges. He is the recipient of numerous prestigious legal and human rights awards. He has also been appointed to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Advisory Board of Eminent Persons, and presented at the UN High Commissioner's Dialogue on Protection Challenges on numerous occasions.

Welcome remarks:

Professor John Dewar AO

Professor Dewar AO is a graduate of the University of Oxford, where he was also a Fellow of Hertford College from 1990-1995. He taught at the Universities of Lancaster and Warwick in the UK, and worked for the London law firms Allen & Overy and Farrer & Co. He came to Australia in 1995, and held senior leadership positions at Griffith University and the University of Melbourne, where he was Provost, before taking up the position of Vice-Chancellor of La Trobe.


Emeritus Professor Robert Manne

Robert Manne is an Emeritus Professor of Politics, Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow and Convenor of the Ideas and Society Program at La Trobe University. He is the author or editor of twenty-seven books, including The Petrov Affair: Politics and Espionage; The Culture of Forgetting: Helen Demidenko and the Holocaust; In Denial: The Stolen Generations and the Right; Left, Right, Left: Political Essays 1977-2005; Making Trouble; Cypherpunk Revolutionary-On Julian Assange; The Mind of the Islamic State; and most recently On Borrowed Time. Manne was editor of Quadrant between 1990 and 1997 and has been chair of the boards of both The Australian Book Review and The Monthly. He has been a regular public affairs columnist for several Australian newspapers and magazines since the mid-1980s and a frequent commentator on ABC radio and television.  He is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.



5th Jul 2022 11:17am

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