Sanctuary Spotlight

Story three – Breathing hope

I started my life in a small family in rural Afghanistan. My family contained three people: me, my father and my mother. My parents lost their first child. I am their second child. I am also the first person in my family who went to school.

When I started going to school, my father was in Iran working to provide for his family. The situation was very difficult for us. Apart from my little brother, who was only six months old, we had no men to do the shopping for us – and women were not allowed to do the shopping. I always wished that my father would return from Iran to buy me school equipment. As the eldest child of my parents, I was always responsible for helping my mother and taking care of my younger brother. I remember that I used to sit in front of the window to watch my little brother while my friends were playing sports. There were lots of hardships I was enduring. I had no one in my family to help me with reading and writing. I always wished to have someone who would support me in my school assignments.

Despite all the difficulties, I got third position in the first grade. I was studying hard and never gave up because I had many goals for my family. I aimed to make a better situation for me and other women in Afghanistan. I aimed for my mother to not have to take care of her children alone. Also, there was my cousin who was one year older than me, and no one felt responsible for sending her to school because she was a girl. I have felt responsible for my cousin and for many other girls who lost their rights of going to school.

It was difficult for me to solve these problems. I knew I was very young to solve them but I never gave up trying. I had belief in the effort it takes to reach the goals I had set myself. My father was a workman; his wages were just enough for our basic requirement. My mother was a housewife. Although they were not able to pay for all of my school equipment, they had faith in knowledge and learning. They have always encouraged me to become knowledgeable. My interest in education made me do knitting to pay for tuition and some school equipment. I haven’t paid any money to buy a book, but I have read lots of books. When I was very young our school did not have any library or books for self-study. I borrowed books from my friends to read. When I could not find more books to read, I met a bookseller to borrow books from. When he saw my interest in reading, he agreed to lend me books for 500 Afghanis, and after returning the books he gave me back the money. That man gave me a chance to read many books.

Going to Kabul to get prepared for the Kankor university entrance examination was another challenge to pass. It was the first time I had to go far from my village. Kabul was a strange city for someone like me, who was raised in the countryside. My three friends and I rented a room that had nothing. We used one corner of the room as the kitchen. It is difficult to study during the night if you walk two hours every day to sit for five hours learning in the class. But I did it all because I had many goals to reach. I told myself and my mother the day I moved from my home to Kabul that I will spend my time and my money wisely.

It was very hard to survive for the five months in Kabul with only 12,000 Afghanis. I paid for food, admission fees, equipment for studying, water and electricity. It made me decide to study in the military university because I did not want to be a burden on my family anymore. I hoped this would take me on a path to becoming a lawyer. I took the exam and went back to my village. After a few months, the university informed me that I got the highest score of all the girls in the military university.

I was very happy to start my life in the military university. However, my mom was very concerned because security was not established in Afghanistan, and it was difficult for her to accept that her daughter had chosen a path that ended in danger. She prayed for a resolution and asked her relatives to persuade me not to go. So, then I had two families involved in opposing my decision to study at military university. I still went ahead with my plans and after a physical examination, I started going to university. I was happy with the military environment and my uniform. It was impressive to wake up early in the morning and attend the military, but that did not last long. One day a man who had graduated from the military university called me and advised me that studying at a military university was not a good choice for me. He said that because ‘you are a talented and hard-working person, you can find a better opportunity at a civil university’. His words affected me a lot. I decided to talk to my husband who told me the same as the man. Their arguments influenced me to study at another university.

After one year of effort, and after passing the Kankor examination, I entered Kabul University’s Faculty of Pharmacy. I studied at this university for four years. Everything went well and it was very enjoyable. Unfortunately, life turned to another page for me and other women in Afghanistan. After the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, they declared that women and girls were for serving men in the house and were not allowed outdoors. Women were not allowed to go to school. It was difficult for me to believe that I could not go to university because I was aware of my rights. I refused to be stopped from continuing my education and started to search the scholarship websites to find another way to continue my lessons. I applied to the Asian University for Women and after passing the entrance exam, I went to Bangladesh.

The day when I left Afghanistan, I promised my parents and my husband that I would use every bit of this opportunity. I promised that I would study to the equal of 10 girls, and I promised that I would make them proud and all the girls of my country too. Despite all the difficulties, I am happy that I have had the opportunity to educate myself. Now I am in Bangladesh, I am part of a music group. Through music, I want to show the world that all the girls in my country are powerful and capable. I want to show that the people of Afghanistan are not just sad, but they are very qualified and capable if given an opportunity.