Sanctuary Spotlight

Story one – Embracing change, inspiring hope

Have you ever seen a country that hinders its own progress, destroys its treasures with its own hands, is satisfied with the persecution of its people, brainwashes young men into committing acts of extreme violence for religious ideology and always discriminates against its women, seeing their only role and duty in life is to give birth and satisfy the sexual needs of men?

Yes! This is Afghanistan, a country that has had all its progress undone; for 20 years, the people had strived with unremitting efforts to create a good society, one in which women could achieve their minimum rights, freedom of education and work. Afghanistan had become a flourishing country but with the coming of the Taliban everything was shattered.

For women especially, the changes were severe and immediate. One of the first actions of the Taliban was to seize the ‘Institute of Women’s Affairs’ and rename it ‘The Ministry of Enjoining the Good and Forbidding the Evil’, a chilling forewarning of what was to come. Schools for girls were closed, women’s travel was restricted, and even in public areas women were not allowed to be near men or share the same space.

So now women live with the fear of being seen and are too afraid of going anywhere on their own in case they are punished and harmed. They are restricted to the home. Even boys who have permission to go to school are suffering from exclusion because of bombs going off at the school gates. This is an environment where if someone wants to improve their life but their goals contradict the beliefs of the Taliban, that person will never have the future they dream of.

Despite all these difficult conditions that the government imposed on us, we women continued to study, but after seeing the strong motivation of the girls, the Taliban closed universities to us as well as schools. Every day I saw another of my goals disappearing because of the rules of this government. Since the Taliban came, I always see my people in sadness. We can’t even find relaxation outside by breathing the fresh air of our surroundings because now it is filled with danger; in Kabul, there have been explosions in the area of the Hazara people. The Hazara are especially targeted and discriminated against. Why should there always be ethnocentrism between people? I am from the Hazara community, persecuted as a woman and for my ethnicity. I just want to have a positive effect on the world. I am not guilty of any wrongdoing. Are we all human? If yes, why is there no humanity between us? Thousands of hopes and desires are being buried in Afghanistan.

Many of us are being forced to leave in search of our goals. I managed to get a passport and then a student visa to Iran to continue my education. My mother stayed in Afghanistan and, to support me, she sent me here with my father because I couldn’t cross the border without a mahram. This is a very hard decision for me because my mother is unwell, and my brother can’t find a job to support my family. Every day my thoughts are in Afghanistan because of the dangers for my mother and siblings. Being alone in a strange city is hard for me too. Some people insult me because I am an Afghan, creating a sense of danger and fear in my heart. But I cannot leave this city because of my ideals and trying to achieve them. Through my university degree, I’m looking forward to being able to help Afghan women know their rights and to fight for them. Because of my mother, who gave her life for me, I will continue to live every day with all my heart and motivation to succeed in my dream, and for the dreams of the girls of my land. Even while we are still facing problems, we believe that anything is possible.

We Afghan girls live in a big community. From economic sanctions to war and violence, all of these have affected our lives. But we still hope and stick to our dreams. We are looking for education and jobs that allow us to contribute to our community and address the future of ourselves and our country. But to achieve these goals, we need the support and help of the world. We need more opportunities to study and work. We need security and human rights. We need to protect women’s rights. However, we are still facing economic sanctions, violence and security threats. We still face a lot of problems, but still, we stick to our dream and continue to try to achieve it.

As an Afghan girl, I am sending a message to the whole world to please help us. Give us more opportunities and allow us to study and contribute to our community. With the cooperation and efforts of the world, we can achieve our dreams and create a better life for all Afghan girls.