Student aims to change Afghan legal system
Imagine a law class that consists of a professor talking for 90 minutes about law theories from long ago. The professor does not use modern examples or statistics — just theory. Imagine lawyers and judges who practice with only a high school degree. These are realities in Afghanistan’s current legal system.
Clare Stanton/Old Gold & Black
Hafizullah Hamid, 29, an international student from Afghanistan hopes to take what he learns at Wake Forest University School of Law and apply it to help reform Afghanistan’s law system. Hamid was born in Mazar-e Sharif, in the northern part of Afghanistan. He graduated from Balkh University with a degree in law and political science. While working as an adviser for the Afghan Attorney General with Americans, Hamid was encouraged to pursue higher studies in the United States.
After passing a series of exams and interviews, Hamid joined the Public-Private Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan.
One aspect of this program is sponsoring Afghani students to earn their Master of Laws (LLM) degree in various schools around the United States. This better equips students for helping Afghanistan change its legal system. “When I get back, I will have more skills and knowledge,” Hamid said. “We will know better how to help reform the system.” Hamid hopes to improve the current judicial system in Afghanistan as well as the education system.
“Training needs to keep happening, people need to keep being updated,” Hamid said. He is unhappy with the people in the judicial system who have only graduated from high school and not law school. Hamid would like these people to seek formal education or be retired from the system and replaced with more qualified individuals.
“If someone graduated from law school, it doesn’t mean that he is a lawyer for the rest of his life,” Hamid said. “He still needs to be kept updated.” In addition, Hamid would like to see the system of teaching changed. In Afghanistan, universities use a system based solely on lectures.
“The teacher stands in front of the class and talks the whole 90 minutes — can you believe it?” Hamid said. At the university’s law school, Hamid was exposed to a different way of learning.
“Professors here use the most relevant articles, articles related to the subjects that they are teaching,” Hamid said. “They find the latest hot topics that are related, not only the ideas from 100 years ago.” Hamid also likes how professors use movies, television shows, statistics and recent cases. This way of teaching is typical to America, but different from Europe and Asia, where professors lecture more often.
“It keeps classes interesting,” Hamid said. “It shows the values and the practicality.”
According to Richard Schneider, associate dean for International Affairs and professor of law, Hamid received greater exposure to this way of teaching because of the small size of the university. “We have a small program that really integrates the LLM students into the law school as a whole,” Schneider said. He also mentioned that the small atmosphere allows the LLM students to get to know their professors better.
“Hafiz is a great student,” Kami Simmons, professor of law, said. “I think it’s nice for our students to have him sharing his point of view and his country’s legal system.”
Hamid chose to follow the path to education because of how Afghanistan’s history affected him. “My life as a child was with war,” Hamid said. “After Sept. 2001, there were many changes in the country. When I started learning law and political science, it changed my vision. I was not a young high school student anymore. I started learning about how life is, what rights people have, how other people live together. I started thinking, ‘why do we have this society, why do we not have a stable government system?’”
When Hamid graduated, there were a lot of changes in society. With a new government came new opportunities for Hamid. He hopes that by bringing education to the lives of other Afghanis, he will bring opportunities for them as well. If he doesn’t find a job in the government or a university, Hamid hopes to create a private firm to provide legal advice to Afghan citizens in civil or criminal cases.
“Education is key to a peaceful and comfortable life,” Hamid said. “We, the Afghan people, deserve to live a peaceful and comfortable life like the rest of the world.”