I Am Fond of These Kind People

An Interview with "Hassan Kazemi Qomi", Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Kabul By Maryam Mahdavi Asl - Nimrooz Magazine.

Hassan Kazemi Qomi is one of the Iranian diplomats with a long experience of presence in Afghanistan. He was Iran's consul general in Herat during the Afghan resistance against the aggression of the communist army. He currently serves as both the ambassador of Iran to Kabul and the special envoy of the Iranian President to Afghanistan.

Here is our short conversation with Hassan Kazemi Qomi for our special issue on Herat. We asked him to consider the economic and cultural prospects of the relations between Iran and Afghanistan from an entirely different perspective, as far as possible away from official and political considerations, and also to address the topic primarily from the "cultural diplomacy" view, which will be interesting to the knowledge, culture, and art enthusiasts. Although we are aware that the "economic diplomacy" component of relations between these two neighbouring countries cannot be ignored, we also have to take into account all the political-security issues that extra-regional and international nations have brought about in the Iranian cultural civilization area in various ways over the past 200 years, based on their "long-term strategic" and "short-term tactical" interests.


Is Iran engaged in an active policy of cultural diplomacy in Afghanistan? How do you assess the indicators and frameworks of this diplomacy?

Because of the long-standing ties between the two countries, Iran has always maintained active cultural diplomacy in Afghanistan. Since I have lived in Herat for many years, I have a special attachment to the friendly and kind people of this historical city. Owing to shared historical, linguistic, cultural, and regional characteristics, cultural diplomacy has been the core of efforts made to enhance ties between the people of the two countries. The main markers of this diplomacy, despite the shifting political, social, and security conditions in Afghanistan, are initiatives to fortify cultural affinities, such as bolstering linguistic ties, encouraging academic and scientific collaboration, communicating with religious centres and groups, and collaborating with journalists, artists, and cultural and artistic elites.


Many calligraphy, painting, and architecture artists and elites claim to know very little about the artwork and architectural designs found in Herat. In what manner is it feasible to enhance the relationships and connections between Afghan and Iranian designers and artists based in the context of Iranian cultural civilization?

Fortunately, communication between the two countries' elite groups has improved significantly in recent years. However, organizing art programs and joint exhibitions and communication between art institutions, such as associations of calligraphers, painting schools, universities, and art and architecture groups, can help to promote mutual recognition and collaboration between Iranian and Afghan artists. 

As can be observed, numerous of these initiatives can be executed by the artists of the two nations, and we undoubtedly endorse such collaborations with all our might. If programs for visiting historical places in Afghanistan - which are numerous - are proposed by Iran's universities and scientific and cultural centres, we will try to provide the basis for these visits.

The relationship between the scientific and cultural elites of the two countries is basically an important source of human capital; the more exchanges occur between them, the more this shared capital is enhanced. Recently, with the support of our cultural agency in Herat, a strong researcher from the Cultural Heritage Research Centre visited this city in order to document the historical monuments of Herat. The results of this research can undoubtedly enhance the understanding of Iranian artists and elites about the cultural and artistic heritage and treasures in Herat. It is noteworthy that we will support any other measures taken in this regard.


Did the Iranian consulate in Herat continue to organize training courses and maintain university relations after the Taliban retook power in the summer of 2021, or were they shut down entirely?

Thanks to the effective communication of the Consulate of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Herat with the local government, over 25,000 individuals have attended training courses and knowledge-enhancement workshops in the areas of business, skills, family structure, Islamic lifestyle, and scientific, academic, and artistic subjects since 2021. The educational activities in this period also included scientific, cultural, literary, and university programs, as well as special training courses for school teachers in Herat. Our cultural centre in Herat, which is equipped with a very large library and a standard conference hall, has always welcomed elites and artists from Herat for various exhibitions and meetings. 


Considering the importance of the Persian language, on the one hand, and the negative approach of the Taliban toward Persian speakers and the language, on the other, what measures have been taken to preserve and expand Persian?

Since Pashto and Persian languages are of the same root, there is an unbreakable bond between the speakers of these languages and the other languages spoken in our region. Thus, by fostering more cultural exchanges between the two nations, we hope to raise awareness about the necessity of preserving the current linguistic foundations and to advance a conversation about how to keep this civilization stable. Some of the joint measures taken in this regard are as follows:

  • Organizing programs to commemorate the eminent figures of the Persian language jointly by academicians of the two countries in collaboration with Afghan professors and writers
  • Granting scholarships to Afghan applicants to study Persian Language and Literature at various educational levels in Iranian universities
  • Organizing book reading competitions


Following the second Taliban government took power in Afghanistan, are teachers and university professors, some of whom were Iranian university graduates, still working in Herat and other cities, or have they returned to Iran due to security concerns?

Afghan academicians and professors, similar to those in other sectors, experienced unstable conditions in the aftermath of recent developments in this country. These new conditions forced many professors and educators, including those who were graduated from Iranian universities, to migrate to other countries, including Iran. Nevertheless, many Afghan professors are still engaged in teaching in universities of this country.

It should be also noted that the migration of professors is mostly due to reasons such as the economic crisis, reduced salaries and wages of university professors, barriers to the education of girls, reduced number of students, and attractive scholarship plans granted by some Western universities to attract Afghan elites. 


What commercial and economic initiatives did Iran undertake in Afghanistan both in the Republic and current eras, particularly in the western provinces such as Herat?

Iran has pledged to contribute $560 million to Afghanistan's reconstruction at the 2002 International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan in Tokyo. Accordingly, Iran annually implemented several projects based on bilateral agreements. 

Among these projects were the $60 million "Dogharun-Herat" road, the 200 km network installation finished in the winter of 2004, and the electricity supply plan that included the 400 KV Torbat-e Jam substation. Moreover, Iran's effective contribution to the establishment of the "Herat Industrial Town," which was primarily made possible by logistic, technical, and engineering support from Iran, transformed Herat into Afghanistan's industrial centre. Several Iranian businesses, including Zarif Mosavar and Golrang, also took part in the establishment of factories in this industrial town. 

The Iranian investment in the "Khaf-Roznak" railway project, which was inaugurated in the fall of 2020 in the presence of Mr. Rouhani and Mr. Ghani, the then-presidents of Iran and Afghanistan, is another example of economic cooperation between these two neighbouring countries. Despite international aid, the inflow of US dollars to Afghanistan, and the unwillingness of the West, particularly the US, Iranian goods have been regularly exported to Afghanistan, as Iran exported $3 billion worth of goods to Afghanistan in 2020. Despite all the security issues in the region, approximately 60 km of the 120-km Mahiroud-Farah road has been put into service thanks to the efforts of engineers of Iran’s Ministry of Roads and Urban Development. 

Other projects managed by Iran in Afghanistan are the construction of the Shah wa Arus Dam and water supply projects in eastern Afghanistan. 

Iran has sought to strengthen its economic cooperation with Afghanistan over the last two years. Over the past two and a half years, Iran has successfully completed several projects, including the operational and commercial utilization of the constructed "Khaf-Roznak" railway line and its extension to Herat in partnership with the Iran-Afghanistan Railway Development Consortium. Another achievement was the formal opening of the "Mahirud-Farah" road, which faced fundraising challenges during its construction phase. Additionally, despite policies promoting national production and restricting imports of goods similar to those produced in Afghanistan, Iranian manufacturing and industrial companies have established multiple factories in Afghanistan. Furthermore, Iranian companies have actively engaged in mining operations in Afghanistan, and Iran has consistently exported goods worth 2 billion dollars to Afghanistan annually. Additionally, the "Herat-Ghor" and "Herat-Badghis" roads are ready to be constructed. One of our future projects is to build the "Zabol-Milak" and "Chabahar-Zahedan" railways. These projects have the potential to significantly boost the economy of Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan Province and connect this region to Afghanistan.

As an Iranian ocean port, Chabahar can play a major role in the cooperation of Iran and Afghanistan with India, Persian Gulf states, China, and other Asian countries. The recent visit of the Taliban's economic delegation to Chabahar and their willingness to invest in this port could be a prelude to increased regional cooperation. The recent visit of the Taliban's economic delegation to Chabahar, as well as their announcement of their willingness to invest in this port, could be a precursor to the expansion of regional cooperation. 


Note: In a valuable initiative, Nimrooz Magazine, in collaboration with the Afghan Institute of Strategic Studies, has dedicated its latest special issue to the historic city of Herat. This special issue comprises articles, dialogues, and notes from prominent professors, researchers, and writers, examining various aspects of Herat, including its history, culture, politics, and sociology. To download the Persian PDF version, please follow this link.



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The article does not reflect the official opinion of the AISS.