Dr. Faramarz Tamanna: Life in brief
Dr. Faramarz Tamanna (b. 1977), is the Chancellor and Professor of the University of Afghanistan-Kabul. He did his PhD in International Relations in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)- New Delhi, India and has taught in several universities since 2008. Dr. Tamanna was the Presidential Candidate for the Afghanistan Election in 2019.
Dr. Tamanna is the author of the following five books:
1- Afghanistan’s Foreign Policy: Regional Cooperation,
2- US Foreign Policy in Afghanistan,
3- Political Development in Afghanistan
4- Afghanistan’s Peace and Security Dilemma
5- Afghanistan’s Foreign Policy: Dynamism, Scope, Actions;
He has also authored/co-authored tens of articles and policy reviews covering human rights, security and international politics.
Dr. Tamanna has also previously served as Director General of the Center for Strategic Studies of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, of Afghanistan (2012-2019) and represented his country in several international conferences on regionalism, terrorism and extremism around the world.
Dr. Tamanna is the founder and president of the Afghanistan Association of Political Science and International Relations (AAPSIR).
He ran for the presidential election for changing Afghanistan’s image in the international community, for institutionalizing democracy, liberalism, equality, human rights and women’s empowerment, and for developing a new roadmap for peace and development in Afghanistan. He has been recognized as a young leader by the country’s young generation and He took 5th place among 18 candidates in 2019 presidential election.
Dr. Tamanna’s wife is Arezou Noorestani. Arezou, a university Professor, an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a human rights activist, is also a well-known public figure in Afghanistan. She is basically one of the very few Afghan women in the last 100 years of Afghanistan history who alongside their husbands campaigned for democracy and women’s rights during the Afghan presidential elections. Arezou had many public media engagements and appearances with Dr. Tamanna.
I was only six years old when my dear brother, Dr. Abdul Hakim, took me to Aton Herawi School (in Herat Province) on his bike to take the first step in my journey towards knowledge. I remember I was so excited and full of childish curiosity that I insisted on filling the registration form by myself. I had already learned the alphabet at home. Of course, I had to read the questions again and again before I could answer them. That day, I wrote neatly on the form: “Faramarz Tamanna, son of Abdul Karim, born on 25 Dalw 1355 (Solar Hijri calendar) in Bagh E Zaghan alley in Heart, Afghanistan”. It was only later that I found out that I was born on 14 February 1977, on the “Valentine’s Day” celebrated in many Western countries as the day of love.
When I was born, my father, who is a poet and an intellectual, was in Kabul because he was appointed by late Sardar Mohammed Daoud Khan as a member of the Loya Jirga (“grand assembly”), the traditional assembly to ratify the constitution in Afghanistan. It was only 10 days after my birth that he came back home to join my mother, Rahima Amirzada, a truly caring, compassionate and selfless woman. He called the newly-born baby “Faramarz”. Otherwise, I might have been called “Abdul Basir,” the name suggested by my maternal grandfather. I cannot say how glad I am that nine of my siblings are also named after characters in Shahnameh (“The Book of Kings” in Persian), the great epic poem by the grate poet Ferdawsi.
My wife, Arezou Nooristani, holds a Master’s degree in International Relations and is working in the Office of the Spokesperson and the Directorate General for Public Information of the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She is also teaching at the University of Afghanistan. She is a kind lady full of dignity and wisdom, who shares her love with me and our children, Siawash and Afrasiab. If it was not for her, the difficulties of life would be unbearable. She has been with me every moment of our married life, especially when she helps me make big decisions with her invaluable advice.
I completed the elementary school in Herat, secondary school in Tehran, and the final years of high school in Mawlana Abdul Rahman Jami School back in Herat. I took the university entrance exam in 1994 and was admitted to the Faculty of Economics at Herat University. After the Taliban’s invasion of Herat, I transferred to Kabul University and received a degree in Economics. When Taliban took over Kabul, I moved back to my hometown, Herat.
In 1997, I was granted a scholarship from the Faculty of Economics and Political Sciences in Shahid Beheshti University of Tehran. I started a second bachelor’s degree, but this time in Political Science. I received my BA in 2001, and started my graduate studies at the same university in 2003. I received an MA in International Relations in 2006. My thesis was titled: “The United States Strategies to Combat Terrorism: The Case of Post-9/11 Afghanistan.” In graduate school, I had the pleasure to meet some well-known Iranian professors of International Relations, of which I always find myself in debt to Dr. Abdul Ali Ghawam and Dr. Mahmood Sariolghalam. I was a student of Dr. Sariolghalam for almost 10 years and he was always a great role model for me to look up to. Dr. Sariolghalam is undoubtedly one of the greatest experts in International Relations in Asia, best known for his research and studies on the issues of the Third-World developing countries.
In 2006, after several examinations and interviews, I was admitted to the PhD program in International Relations at Tehran University on a scholarship from Afghanistan. I was studying there till 2010, when I wrote my doctoral dissertation on “India-Pakistan Disputes and their Impact on the Continuation of Insecurity in Afghanistan after the Deposition of Zahir Shah.”
When I returned to Afghanistan in 2010, I intended to continue my academic life as a postdoctoral scholar. Unfortunately, I was not able to find a suitable postdoctoral position in any of the universities in the region. As a result, I submitted my application for a second PhD to the School of International Studies (SIS) of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in India. I went through several exams and interviews again to enter a PhD program in Security Studies. In 2014, I defended my dissertation on “Security Problem in Afghanistan: A Study of Domestic Factors” using a theoretical approach to Constructivism.
The priceless guidance of Dr. K. Warikoo, my professor and supervisor, certainly opened new doors to knowledge and scientific methods of acquiring it to me. Studying both in Iran and in India provided me with the opportunity to combine two different methodological approaches. My “deductive” understanding of international relations in Iran was merged into my “inductive” reading of that field of knowledge in India, and new pathways in scientific studies were opened to me as a result. Such experiences have provided me with the competence to teach Research Methods and Analysis in International Relations for many years in different universities.
My first book, titled “US Foreign Policy in Afghanistan,” was published in 2008. A few years later, in 2014, as the head of a research team at the Center for Strategic Studies of the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I compiled and published the first volume of the seven-volume “Afghanistan Foreign Policy” subtitled as “On Regional Cooperation”. There are Three other volumes coming soon, titled “Wisdom and Governance”, first volume subtitled as “On Afghanistan Foreign Policy”, second volume as “On Afghanistan Development”, and Third volume as “On Afghanistan Peace and Security”. There is another book which will be published very soon titled as “Securty Cooperation in Afghanistan Foreign Policy”. The last upcoming book has been written collaboratively by my wife, Arezou, and me. I have also published more than 30 research papers and articles on Security and International Politics and issues related to Afghanistan’s foreign policy and relations in various scholarly national and international journals and magazines. One of my articles, titled “The Transformation of the Concept of Interactor and the Issue of Security in International Relations,” is now a chapter in a textbook (on Conceptual Change in IR) for Master students of International Relations edited by my dear professors Dr. Homeira Moshirzadeh and Dr. Nabiullah Ebrahimi. In order to interact with the scholars of different countries in the world, over the past years, I have been invited to more than 30 international scientific conferences where I have had the honor to be the keynote speaker in many of them.
During my 11 years of experience teaching at various universities in Afghanistan, from Herat to Kabul and from undergraduate to graduate courses, one thing that has always been most valued and remembered to me is my first teaching experience. I started teaching at Herat University in 2008. For two years, I was simultaneously working at the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) and travelling two days a week from Iran to Afghanistan to teach at the Faculty of Law and Political Science of Herat University. Teaching specialized courses such as Research Methodology in Political Science and International Relations, Diplomatic and Consular Law, International Crisis Management, Principles of Foreign Policy and International Politics, International Political Economy, and Political Development and Administrative Reform, as well as conversations with the students and academics at Herat University created some of the most beautiful memories in my life. I will never forget my students’ curiosity and their eloquent and constructive arguments and discussions in class. Their thirst for knowledge was my biggest motivation to travel 3,500 km each and every week for two years from Tehran to Herat to teach.
The students’ efforts and their enthusiasm in learning made me confident that it is possible to be a life-long learner and also teach my students to do so. I feel in debt to all my students, who helped me hone my thoughts and improve my critical thinking abilities with their thoughtful questions and constructive criticism. Those were the people who welcomed openness to criticism, altruism, tolerance, acceptance, elitism, rationality, and avoiding hasty reactions; they believed in a “reform in the character of all Afghan citizens” and wasted no time in finding and eliminating their shortcomings. Some of my students have now become ministers, members of parliament, senators, ambassadors, or general directors in Afghanistan’s current government. They are all helping with the development of Afghanistan. I am proud of all of them and urge them to think of nothing in their careers but the development of Afghanistan and the welfare of all Afghan citizens.
From the time I was a student, I was determined to stick to “scientific” politics as long as possible before attempting “executive” politics. However, that did not happen and I entered politics earlier than I thought. Following the event of 11 September 2001, there appeared a wonderful wave among all Afghan people, particularly the young academicians, to serve their country even better. That was a strange atmosphere, with a lot of hopes and fears suddenly facing our nation. At first, we did not have a clear idea of what threats and opportunities the relation between Afghanistan, as one of the most “peripheral” nations in the world, and the more “central” Western countries would entail. In such an atmosphere brimming with hopes and fears, I joined the Afghan government in 2002. From early 2002, I served as Deputy Cultural Attaché at the Embassy of Afghanistan in Tehran and, later, the third secretary of the embassy until the Fall of 2006. I stepped down from 2006 to 2008 to pursue my PhD education in Tehran.
In 2008, I returned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and I was immediately appointed as Expert in Cultural Affairs of Afghanistan at the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO). I worked there for 2 years before I returned to Kabul in summer 2010 to continue my activities at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I became a professor at the Institute of Diplomacy and, then, the Deputy Spokesperson of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. In summer 2012, I was appointed as head of the Center for Strategic Studies at Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since then, and while working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I have taught at various universities.
In 2012, along with a group of Afghan political scientists, we established a private Afghan university. Since then, I have been teaching at both undergraduate and graduate levels there. Our ultimate goal is to turn that university, primarily called the “Specialized Higher Education Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies,” to the hub for studies in International Relations and Foreign Policy in Afghanistan. Therefore, I have brought together the best professors of International Relations and Foreign Policy in “University of Afghanistan” to help us achieve that goal.
Reflecting further upon what I previously mentioned about not merging the “scientific” and “executive” politics prematurely, I strongly believe that the later this combination happens, the more successful one could be in both areas. Plato’s “Philosopher King” theory is basically based on such a philosophical reasoning. The timely engagement of political scientists in politics will lead to the maturity of the country’s political management process. Now that we are institutionalizing democracy and our country has been experiencing a new type of relationship with the world, particularly the powerful countries (both in terms of knowledge as well as industrial and military technology), it is essential to answer these questions: Who are the elite in the country’s governance structure? How do they decide? How do they think? To what extent do they know the world? What is their sense of belonging to our country and society like? How familiar are they with the system, structure, and rules of our country? Have they benefited from knowledge and insight through both formal and informal education before they entered politics? Or, they have merely “stumbled into politics accidentally and whimsically,” according to one of my professors.
In other words, the qualifications of those who are ruling the country are key factors. Therefore, employing the knowledge and capabilities of “scientific elites” to manage a country that has suffered from lack of order and structure for a long time will be an indicator that our leaders are determined to bring substantial changes to management at different levels. In a way, it would demonstrate their determination to aim for a “house cleaning” in the government. In my opinion, this house cleaning is one of the most important and beneficial consequences of the new developments in our country since 2001.
In my studies on the factors leading to underdevelopment in Afghanistan, I have mostly emphasized on the internal factors and threats to our development. Scholars in development issues have come to the conclusion that more than 70% of every country’s development depends on the capabilities, planning, integrity, and rationality of the internal environment, and only 30% depends on relations and interactions with the outside world. It is evidently because if there is no internal integrity, reaching out to the external world will be ineffective. Hence, two of the most significant areas that need to be studied thoroughly are “Political Culture” and “Structures Leading to Personality Development”. We have frequently changed our social, economic and political structures over the past few decades, but we have only seen negative results. Therefore, until we do not change the structures involved in personality development, the political and economic structures will not improve or will not last long even if they do.
What needs to be done is to educate Afghan citizens according to the requirements of living in the 21st century. We need people who are equipped with reasoning abilities, love of science and rationality, openness to criticism, critical thinking skills, teamwork skills, tolerance, altruism, and systematic planning; people who despise any form of “radicalism”. In fact, the most important feature of a developed citizen is the ability and tendency to avoid radical “thoughts” and “habits”. There will be a serious problem if the rulers and leaders of a country tend to radicalism; they will certainly disrupt the development of the nation and bring doom to it. That is why rationality in the “government system” is much more important than rationality in the “society” in general. Nevertheless, one cannot deny the serenity that the tendency to rationality brings to every society. Therefore, in a society where “rationality” is a common practice and “politics” is dominated by the experts, issues or disputes are often resolved more quickly, more logically, and in less costly and frustrating manners.