The goal is people’s dignity

Human rights

We interviewed ARCI’s Filippo Miraglia who is responsible for immigration, asylum and the fight against racism, to discuss the “Corridoi umanitari dall'Afghanistan” (Humanitarian Corridors from Afghanistan) project supported by the Istituto Buddista Italiano Soka Gakkai through its 8x1000 funds. The project aims at granting shelter to people who are fleeing the Afghan regime.

Could you describe the current situation in Afghanistan since the Taliban regime has gotten to power? What are the living conditions for the population and for those most at risk?

The Afghan society made a leap backward, it went back to when the Taliban ruled twenty years ago.
The situation in terms of freedoms and rights is completely disrupted; the economic situation is extremely serious, and it’s difficult to find basic goods.
The Taliban are retaliating against those who collaborated with or held institutional roles with the previous government and especially against the women who are rebelling against the antidemocratic Taliban regime.
In this context we are intervening with humanitarian corridors, also thanks to the contribution of the Istituto Buddista Italiano Soka Gakkai.
We receive so many requests for help, from Afghanistan and elsewhere; they report people in danger to be saved and brought to Italy through the humanitarian corridors. These people have the most diverse jobs: from female magistrates to journalists, as well as people who simply collaborated with Western forces. And their families, of course.

What are the main obstacles for those who want to flee the country? The “Un corridoio per la libertà” (A corridor for freedom) project was implemented by ARCI and financed by the Istituto Buddista Italiano Soka Gakkai through its 8×1000 funds: how does the project fit into this context?

The first challenge is being able to cross the country to reach a border without being tracked down by the Taliban government.
Furthermore, the two borders that are “easier” to cross ‒ so to speak ‒ are those with Pakistan and Iran, but the authorities of these countries are not so willing to let people in.
In fact, in almost all cases ‒ at least the ones we know of ‒ those who are fleeing have to bribe the border police, both the Afghan and the Iranian/Pakistani.
Paying is not a guarantee, though. There is the possibility to be sent back to the regime because these bordering countries have ties with the Taliban, who are also present in some areas of those countries.
On November 4 last we signed a protocol with the Italian government, together with other organizations, and we signed it based on the agreement that our network of shelters ‒ already funded by the Istituto Buddista Italiano Soka Gakkai in 2021– will be ready to welcome people.

We are talking about the collaboration between the Istituto Buddista Italiano Soka Gakkai and ARCI two years ago: our 8×1000 funds supported the project “Nessuno in strada ‒ Circoli rifugio” (No one in the street – ARCI shelters). How can the results of that project contribute to the current project supporting the Afghan people?

For the humanitarian corridors project we used the human resources we had activated around the country in that first experience, which the Istituto Buddista Italiano Soka Gakkai supported: the network of shelters. We were able to guarantee resources and stability to our shelters, we committed to granting shelter to people with the same standards foreseen for asylum seekers and refugees arriving in Italy.
Every ARCI shelter created a network of actors supporting Italians or foreigners who couldn’t find housing and had to temporarily live in the streets. We helped them get out of that situation.
That first experience activated human resources and services linked to our leisure groups all over the country, as well as a social network: all of this is now useful in this new experience with Afghan women.

As Soka Gakkai Buddhists, every day we act to protect the dignity of life, aware that dialogue plays a crucial role in transforming the principles at the basis of our lives and choices. Over your many years of activism, you have met many people with different views: how have you been able to create a constructive dialogue with “others” so as to reach a shared vision, always giving priority to the dignity of life?

I was young between the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 80s; in that period social and political movements mainly focused on peace and disarmament. So I was trained as a pacifist; I learned to believe that, when people unite, they can set a shared goal and achieve it together.
Whether they are together by accident or by choice, they can always mediate between different positions through dialogue. This is an advanced mediation, one that doesn’t race to the bottom but always focuses on people’s dignity.
This is the method we tested for the first time with the pacifist movement in Italy and in Europe, it was an international pacifist movement. ARCI is one of the organizations that participated in that movement, both locally and nationally, and it still uses this same method.
Thanks to international meetings we were able to meet with pacifists from other European countries, from the US, Africa and the East. Even in the small town in Sicily where I come from we had an experience as pacifist movement, discussing with people who had ideas different from ours, and we even organized international meetings. We knew that the ultimate goal was to reach an advanced mediation, respecting everyone’s opinion, looking for a shared solution to protect people’s dignity.
This was my training and I think this is what I have brought into my experience with ARCI to protect the rights of foreigners.

Soka Gakkai International (SGI) President Daisaku Ikeda strongly supports women’s empowerment and maintains that this is the century of women.
Recently Afghan women took to the streets to demonstrate for their rights, putting their own lives at risk.
Are there any examples of women who inspired you in your role as the protagonist of many social battles?

In my life I have met many women in politics and in the pacifist movement, most of my training was influenced by them.
The emancipation of women is a turning point for the whole planet, especially in those countries like Afghanistan or Iran, where social structures force women to be subjected to men’s will, regardless of their education, social class or economic level.
As Westerners or Europeans, we often give lectures about democracy. However, in my view, the emancipation of women can come more from the protagonists rebelling than from external actors making decisions. Of course, external actors should question themselves in Europe as in those countries.
In the case of humanitarian corridors, our priority is saving women and LGBTQ+ individuals. Fleeing that situation, they become free, they can build their own life and, if they want to, they can help their country move towards democracy.
Until women live in subjugation in those countries, we cannot talk about democracy. Theirs is a total lack of freedom.
A positive example of a woman who has inspired me is Luciana Castellina who is now over 90 years old and whom I consider my godmother. She played a crucial role in Italian and international politics participating in the feminist and pacifist movements and creating bonds with the whole of civil society and liberation movements in Europe, Africa, the US and South America.
I certainly learned many things from her, in particular how to ensure consistency between one’s personal behavior and the way relations are handled in politics and in the public space.

Back to news