Voices Ready to be Heard



The people of Afghanistan have been through unimaginable horrors, including the violence of the Taliban, the poor treatment from the US military, hunger, and even their President running away. Most people who live in the United States have only seen films from the American side of the Afghanistan War, or have had family serve, however, many of us have not talked to the Afghani population about their struggles. 


Fatima Joya, a refugee who has been living in the United States for the last five years, is from the Bamyan province in Afghanistan. Her primary concerns for Afghanistan’s future are in women’s rights and the world alliance with the Taliban. Growing up, Joya remembers girls who were only at the age of 6 or 7 being pulled from school. The Taliban came into power in 1996 and banned women’s education. Women who still sought education during the time of the banning would go to underground schools, hidden from the Taliban. If the teacher or student was caught, they would suffer a punishment that usually included death. The best time for an Afghani woman to get an education was during 1978-92 when it fell to the communist regime. Joya says, “The Taliban is saying right now that they will give a woman a chance when in fact it is all a lie.”  The Taliban currently is promising that women will get an education. However, this consists of allowing young girls to attend school until 6th grade with a mahram– a male figure related to her, usually a brother, husband, or father– along with their side.  


Fatima Baher, the head of a nonprofit, Afghani and Middle Eastern Women, helps primarily female refugees find their route when they come to Utah. Some of Baher’s fears are also for the women of Afghanistan. “The backlashes are going to be back at the women,” she says. For women to even get groceries, they will need a mahram. For a woman, talking to the man selling groceries is looked down upon. This is not due to Islam practice, but cultural structure. In the Prophet Muhammed’s time, a mahram used to come with women to make sure she was protected, but it was never taken this far. The Prophet Muhammed’s teachings focus on gender equality in the world and encourage women to seek education to be active in society. Women are not supposed to be hidden like jewels. 


A common misconception would be to assume that non-Muslims are in danger due to the Taliban being in power. In reality, everyone is. The ethnic group Hazara, in Afghanistan, is one of the groups targeted by the Taliban. Most Hazara are Shia Muslim, a branch of Islam. They are getting forcibly displaced from their homes not only because of the sect they follow, but also because the Taliban claims their land. They have been treated this way for centuries. Since the U.S.’s recent withdrawal from Afghanistan,  displacements have skyrocketed.   


Terror is an individualized feeling, something we all know but all have a different perspective on. The fear of never seeing their family again, their home, and everything they ever knew is plaguing the Afghani Americans and new refugees who have just set foot on American soil. Imagine waking up one morning and everything you had was no longer in your reach. What if you couldn’t see your family anymore because they are missing or left behind? What if you couldn’t go to school or your favorite hangout spot. To you, this is unimaginable but to the Afghani population, this is their reality. To my brothers and sisters of Afghanistan, take your chance here and live the life you desire. To the masses, remember the resilience of these incoming refugees. They are not glass birds in danger of falling. These are the same people that jumped onto planes to stay alive, the uncertainty has not and will not shatter them. They deserve human decency and respect and there is no shame in being a refugee.