Previous Events


Video Conference: Perspectives on the US-Afghan Strategic Partnership

Afghan Security ConversationWatch the video conversation with Afghan civil society leaders to discuss the US-Afghan Strategic Partnership.

“The strategic partnership between Afghanistan and the United States…is not just a military agreement. It’s a guarantee to the achievements of the past 10 years that Afghanistan has made together with the assistance of the international community…in the areas of economic empowerment, economic prosperity of Afghanistan, fighting terrorism, legislative reforms…[and] women’s rights.” – Mohammad Hamid Saboory, Master’s degree consultant to Kardan University in Kabul

“What we need from the U.S. is that insurance…that there is help for us. If it’s not soldiers with guns, it’s political…[and] economic support that will help us maintain ourselves in this region.” – Sami Sadat, Director of Strategic Communications at Afghanistan’s High Peace Council

“The idea of a political transition and an economic transition to go with, and frankly overshadow, the military or security transition is really important, but it’s a conversation that is largely lost in Washington.” - Matt Southworth, Foreign Policy Legislative Associate for the Friend’s Committee on National Legislation

“I don’t believe [there will be] any civil war after 2014 and…it’s because we’ve got a different society. The difference between now and the’90s…is that now, when Americans are talking about the withdrawal, at the same time we are talking here about the emergence of a civil society.” – Abdul Waheed Wafa, Executive Director of the Afghan Center at Kabul University

Read the highlights from the conversation here and follow us on Twitter at @CSFilmOrg.

Broadcast live from Kabul, this conversation will address security issues from an Afghan perspective, with:

  • Sami Sadat, Director of Strategic Communications at Afghanistan’s High Peace Council
  • Abdul Waheed Wafa, Executive Director of the Afghan Center at Kabul University
  • Mohammad Hamid Saboory, Master’s degree consultant to Kardan University in Kabul
  • Matthew Southworth, Foreign Policy Legislative Associate for the Friend’s Committee on National Legislation

Moderated by Peter Lems, Program Director of Education and Advocacy for Iraq and Afghanistan at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).  Full bios below.

This is the second discussion in a six-part series, taking an in-depth look at various aspects of the Strategic Partnership, with a specific commitment to hearing directly from Afghans.  Watch the first conversation here!

Over the course of the series, topics will include economic development, the role of UN agencies, regional dynamics, and the US military presence.  This video dialogue series will highlight the important issues Afghans face in the coming years.

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Presented by:

Community Supported Film
Afghanistan's New Generation OrganizationAmerican Friends Service Committee


A strategic partnership is right now being negotiated between the governments of Afghanistan and the United States. At stake will be the number and type of U.S. forces after 2014, whether those forces will have immunity from Afghan law, what type of access they have to bases in the country, and the focus of financial assistance the U.S. will provide in the future.

These are fundamental questions for Afghans, and will dramatically affect their future and their country’s stability and development.

Because the US involvement is overwhelmingly military, we rarely hear about the goals of Afghan civil society and the type of relationship they would like to see with the U.S.

Join us for an on-going series of conversations looking at the key issues for Afghans. This dialogue will include what security looks like for Afghans, the regional dynamics of an on-going US presence, the need for assistance that supports civil society initiatives, and the broader question of accountability.

To submit questions to discussion subjects before or during the conversation, contact the moderator Peter Lems at

Bios of Participants:

SabooryMohammad Hamid Saboory

With over ten years of international experience and solid educational background,  Mr. Saborry is currently working with Kardan University as a consultant, developing Master’s Degree programs for the institution. Before joining Kardan University, Mr. Saboory was the Country Director for the Montreal-based NGO Rights & Democracy. Prior to that, he worked as the Acting Director of Strategic Communication at the Presidential Palace in the Office of the National Security Council. Mr. Saboory worked in Germany, the USA, Canada and Afghanistan over the past ten years. He delivered lectures and presentations on Afghanistan in many conferences and at prestigious universities across Asia, Europe and North America. Mr. Saboory is a graduate of Law Faculty from Kabul University, and has two Master’s degrees from New York University and Syracuse University. He is also a regular commentator and analyst on international affairs for media outlets such as the BBC, Al Jazeera, CCTV, TOLO NEWS and TV1.


SadatSami Sadat

Mr. Sadat has worked as Deputy Director for Strategic Communications and as policy advisor to the Minister of Interior in Afghanistan. He currently works as Director of Strategic Communications at Afghanistan’s High Peace Council. He is also a member of a youth policy advisory group, Afghanistan Analysis & Awareness. Sadat has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a master’s degree in Strategic Management and Leadership from the UK Chartered Management Institute. Sadat has also studied Advance Command at Staff College at the UK Defence Academy from where he graduated with highest distinction.


southworthMatt Southworth

As a US army veteran and activist, Mr. Southworth serves as the Foreign Policy Legislative Associate with FCNL – The Friends Committee on National Legislation.  While in the US Army in 2004, Matt Southworth served a tour of duty in northern Iraq, near Mosul. His experience in Iraq motivated him tobecome an anti-war activist. Southworth was eventually led to a quaker college. Southworth graduated Magna Cum Laude from Wilmington College with a BA in Political Science and History. He works on Afghanistan policy and drone issues on Capitol Hill, and motivates young adults around the country to get involved in lobbying. In 2011, Southworth organized a fact-finding mission to Afghanistan comprised of Congressional staff, journalists and non-profit leaders. The delegation discovered a number of urgent policy changes needed, and reaffirmed the fact that the U.S. military strategy has failed to deliver peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region. Southworth serves on the Board of Directors for Veterans for Peace.



Abdul Waheed Wafa

A native of Kabul, Afghanistan, Mr. Wafa has worked as a reporter for the New York Times’ Afghan bureau and also helped run the bureau from 2001 to 2009. In 2011, Waheed joined the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University as the first Executive Director. Waheed is working closely with ACKU’s founder Nancy Hatch Dupree. Waheed has a Bachelor’s degree from the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences of Kabul University. From 2010 to 2011, he was a Nieman Foundation fellow at Harvard University where he studied leadership, democracy and communications. Waheed is a frequent commentator about national and international issues on Afghan media.

Moderated by:

Peter Lems

Peter Lems

Peter Lems is the Program Director of education and advocacy for Iraq and Afghanistan at the American Friends Service Committee. He is also the co-coordinator of the Wage Peace campaign, a program initiative that seeks to wage peace with the same determination and energy that nations wage war.

The American Friends Service Committee carries out service, development, social justice, and peace programs throughout the world. Founded by Quakers in 1917 to provide conscientious objectors with an opportunity to aid civilian war victims, AFSC’s work attracts the support and partnership of people of many races, religions, and cultures.


Online Screening of The Fruit of Our Labor – May 17th on Culture Unplugged

culture unplugged




Did you know that Culture Unplugged hosts film festivals online free for all to see? Watch The Fruit of Our Labor: Afghan Perspectives in Film on Friday, May 17th at 11:30PM EST on Culture Unplugged.

In an effort to transcend isolation and ignorance, Culture Unplugged focuses on producing and promoting films that are socially sensitive and culturally conscious. Their mission is to nurture and spread enlightening films, fostering a strong sense of community on a local and global scale.

The Fruit of Our Labor

The Fruit of Our Labor is a collection of 10 short documentary films made by 10 Afghans during a training conducted by Community Supported Film in the fall of 2010. These character-driven shorts highlight the complex daily realities of contemporary Afghanistan, while also showing the agency and capacity of Afghans to solve their own problems. The films bring a much-needed local perspective to the debate about the immediate and long-term future of Afghanistan.



Screening and Presentation at West Virginia State University – April 25th

West Virginia’s Department of Communications & Media Studies will host a screening of The Fruit of Our Labor films, including a presentation by CSFilm director Michael Sheridan by Skype.  Q&A to follow.West Virginia State University

Thursday, April 25th 2013 at 7pm
West Virginia State University
Davis Fine Arts Theater
Washington Ave and Presidents Drive
Dunbar, West Virginia
The Fruit of Our Labor: Afghan Perspectives in Film is a collection of documentary shorts made by Afghan filmmakers during an intensive five week training by Community Supported Film.  The films bring to life Afghans’ daily efforts to address their challenging social and economic conditions, offering a personal and first-hand Afghan point of view rarely seen or heard in the US – even after 10 years of intense media coverage.


Community Supported Film to Present at “Art and Technology in the Middle East” Conference at Columbia University

ta'alimOn April 18th Michael Sheridan will be one of several panelists presenting at Intersections of the Global and Local in Education in the Middle East – the 2013 TA’ALIM conference on the role of art, media and technology  in education in Middle Eastern countries, held at the Teachers College at Columbia University in New York.

Thursday, April 18th 2013
Grade Dodge Hall 179,
Teachers College, Columbia University
525 W 120th St New York, NY 10027

Teacher   College at Columbia University




During the discussion the panelists will focus on how various media can help to aid the issues facing the Middle East. The day will consist of a video-conference between graduate students in the U.S., students at the American University in Cairo, and students at Notre Dame University in Lebanon. All students are in various stages of conducting or planning research on education in the region and will have a forum to share their successes and challenges. There will then be a panel of professionals and screenings of short films.

Panel: Art, Media and Technology in Education


Nada Elattar, Sesame Workshop
Kristyn Mohr, Global Nomads Group
Jennifer Lauren, T21
Abdullah Schleifer, Middle East Institute
Michael Sheridan, Community Supported Film
Moderator: Erin Twohig, Doctoral Candidate in French &
Roman Philology, Columbia University

Learn more about the event and register.


First International Women’s Film Festival in Afghanistan Features Two “Fruit of Our Labor” Directors

The first International Women’s Film Festival in Afghanistan was held this year from March 6th to 9th. The festival, scheduled to coincide with International Women’s Day, was in Herat and featured 36 films from 20 countries on the theme of women and marginalized populations.

Mona HaidariBearing the Weight by Mona Haidari and The Road Above by Aqueela Rezai, both from the Fruit of Our Labor collection, were official selections. Congratulations to these women and their continued success! Read below to find out more about the festival.


Light at the end of the tunnel

By Nupur Basu of The Hindu
March 23, 2013

Stories of resilience dominated the first International Film Festival on Women in Afghanistan.

Around 700 years ago, Queen Goharshad, wife of a Timouri heir, is said to have inspired a Renaissance in Herat, Afghanistan’s western province. Seven centuries later, a group of women filmmakers in Afghanistan have inspired a similar change in their war-ravaged country. The historic city of Herat, close to the Iran border and the setting for Khaled Hosseini’s celebrated novel A Thousand Splendid Suns, played host to the First International Film Festival on Women from March 6-9.

The citadel, better known as Qala Ikhtyaruddin or Arg and said to have been built by Emperor Alexander around 300 BC, made a stunning venue. Over the next three days, women, men and children braved news of bomb blasts, snowfall, rain, icy winds and bright sunshine to watch 36 films from 20 countries on the theme of women and the marginalised, even as dozens of armed Afghan National Police stood guard outside. Like the awesome venue, this festival for women to observe International Women’s Day was a daring first in Afghanistan. “This is an unbelievable event for us and gives us a lot of hope that things can change one day,” said Wida Saghani, a homemaker living with her children, husband and in-laws in Herat.

As a province that has produced the maximum number of women filmmakers in Afghanistan in the last 10 years, it was not surprising that Herat was the venue. Ironically, in recent years, the province has also reported the maximum number of self-immolations by Afghan women, frustrated by forced marriages, lack of access to education and work and domestic violence.

In a long tunnel-like structure in the Citadel, stories about women and people living on the margins unfolded on the screen. Afghan filmmaker Alka Sadat, who was born in Herat, explored a recurrent problem in her Violence Against Women: 10 Years On. “Although no longer in power, the Taliban, it appears, is present in the shadows and their brutal practices and policies towards women, especially in the countryside, are still profoundly visible,” says Sadat, whose debut documentary bagged the Afghan Peace Prize.

The theme of a country ravaged by civil war surfaced in different ways. Laila, directed Batool Moradi, was a poignant documentary on mental illness caused by the stress of war through the stories of women in the mental institution of Red Cresent Hospital in Kabul. Stories of resilience, of women fighting the most challenging odds, came up in story after story. Both Again Life, by award-winning director Hassan Fazeli, and Bearing the Weight, by Mona Haidari, tell the stories of Afghan women who pick up the pieces of their lives devastated by war and soldier on. Well-known director and actor Aqueela Rezai depicts how men’s addiction to alcohol and drugs affects women in The Road Above. Addiction is a recurrent theme in Afghan fiction and non-fiction films. Zabiullah Fahim in Flavour of Powder tells a terrifying tale of a poor addict who tears up his daughter’s belly and leaves his wife with the drug dealer in exchange for heroin. In Icy Sun, Ramin Mohammadi tells another chilling tale of a young woman who aspires to be an actor and ends up being raped and sold to a drug dealer.

The subject of immigration is also an important issue. In an Afghan and Slovakia co-production Light Breeze: Memories of an Immigrant Girl, Sahraa Karimi weaves a screenplay around her own experiences in a new country. Through poems and notes in her diary, the protagonist depicts her innermost feelings as an immigrant. In Where Do I Belong, a film from Iran, Mahvash Sheikholeslami tells the story of Iranian girls married to Afghan men living in Iran and Afghanistan.

“I find women filmmakers from Afghanistan very avant-garde, extremely brave. The women from Iran certainly have better technical expertise and support but, as far as depicting the feelings, emotions and storytelling go, women filmmakers from Afghanistan are on a par. Both tell their stories from the heart,” says Marziyeh Riahi, Editor-in-Chief of Short Film News from Iran.

Oscar-winning Afghan director Sediq Barmak was all praise for the courage shown by Afghan women filmmakers who are pursuing their creative talents, despite threats from fundamentalist forces. “This was a landmark festival for women in Afghanistan and filmmakers in this country and I hope that the government comes forward to support this festival every year in Herat.”

The festival was the brainchild of Roya Sadat, Afghanistan’s leading woman director, who was born and schooled in Herat. She chose Herat as the venue because “in a place where women do not really come out of their homes, they have stepped out to watch our festival. Nothing could give me more pleasure and joy.”

Afghanistan’s film industry, which was virtually decimated during the Taliban years, has been struggling to find its feet in the last 10 years. Director of Afghan Films Ibrahim Arify, who was at the festival, remarked that the number of women in Afghan films has been climbing. “What they need is co-productions, scholarships and training programmes.”

Besides films from Afghanistan and Iran, the festival included films from India, Venezuela, Tajikistan, Japan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Australia, Hong Kong, China, Turkey, France, Canada and Thailand.

As the curtains came down, the rich voices of Sufi singers and traditional Persian musical instruments filled the citadel square as hundreds of women, men and children enjoyed this cultural bonanza. The sounds of bomb blasts faded as Heratis once again relished this moment of deep freedom, even if momentarily, in the seat of culture in Afghanistan.

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