Integrity Watch uses “Theater of the Oppressed” to engage communities in court proceedings

Ali Ahmad Mashal Afrooz, Provincial Coordinator Kapisa

Integrity Watch, in collaboration with Afghanistan Human Rights Development Organization (AHRDO), conducted the first-ever “Theater of the Oppressed” at Imam-e-Azam Darulolum (religious school) in Kapisa province to engage over 70 Ulema Council members and students in court proceedings. Participants not only the participated as the audience but also took part in the acts as characters. The religious scholars and students found the Theater of the Oppressed very useful to improve their understanding of court proceedings and how to engage with the courts to improve integrity in the process.

Theater of the Oppressed uses theatrical forms that the Brazilian theater guru Augusto Boal first used in the 1970s starting in Brazil and later spreading to Europe. Boal used theater as a tool to promote social and political change. His techniques mainly focused on getting the audience involved in the act by analyzing the play, expressing their views about their own realities, and performing the act in the way the audience themselves thought they could transform the realities they lived in.

In October of 2011, the first community-based monitoring of trails program was introduced in Kapisa province. Ever since the inception of the program in the province, Integrity Watch has strived to enhance the capacity of local communities, civil society networks and citizens to engage with local courts through monitoring of open trials and sharing their observations with court officials. This has resulted in more openness of courts to the public, increased the percentage of open trials, and improved compliance with the fair trial guidance. In addition, the courts in Kapisa province recently initiated accountability to the public sessions where the courts presented their reform achievements and answered questions raised by the public. This is a huge step forward in Afghanistan where courts normally interpret their independence as not being accountable to the public.