An Afghani human rights activist recounts his childhood and his persistent pursuit of education, despite obstacles of conflict and Taliban rule.

Content Warning: Violence, War, Death.

Recorded in Madrid.

Sting by James Iball, photo by Aa Dil.

Transcript

It was the year 1995 that Taliban captured Afghanistan. And it was hard for people of Afghanistan to live under that harsh condition the Taliban brought over the people. So with my family, all my family, my parents, my brothers and all. So, we immigrated to Pakistan. We had a harsh condition there in the beginning, because we didn’t have enough money to rent a home.

My brothers, who were well educated, they were all University graduated, they started working there in Pakistan in very bad conditions. Like my brother had a cart selling peas on the streets. I was very young, I was I think in seventh grade of school. I wanted to contribute, and to provide something for my family as well. I tried my best, I forced my family, despite the fact that my family is an educated family. We are against child labour, but I forced a lot. I said “I’m enough to work, I can work, I will go with my brother”. And then one of my brothers, who has been always a supporter to me, he said “You don’t have to work, I won’t let you. I will pay for everything you need. I will pay for your school, I will pay for your English course, I will pay for your computer course, I will pay even for gym if you want to go for exercise. For everything of you, you don’t go to work because you are still so young, and you can’t work.”

So when I saw my brother that he is trying his best to support our family, especially his attention towards me. And that hot weather of Pakistan, it was around 42-43 to 45 degrees. And I saw that he is working hard. So I got the idea not to lose his money. As I was a good student also in Afghanistan, I tried my best to be the same. In fact, I got admission in a school, an Afghani school. And it was difficult for people. Each month the fee of the school was 100 rupees. And that was a lot. My brother could earn it in three days that hundred rupees. And the English course fee was also 100 rupees, Pakistani rupees. The same the computer course, all had 100 100 100. So he was giving me totally 500 rupees. And my mum she was working also in a woman supportive organisation. She was also supporting me. I could get like 800 rupees per month, which is equivalent to like $10 for a month.

And I could resist with all of them. I tried my best, I got overall, in all school, I got the best students award. And in four years I got three times the best students award. And one time the second best students award there. I was trying my best. I studied, I followed English course there. And I graduated from school in Pakistan. And it was 2001 that the Taliban regime was defeated. And the new government took the power. So we felt that Afghanistan is back safe, we came back to Afghanistan and I followed my education back to Afghanistan.

So this was the history I had in Pakistan. It means like, you can get a good idea behind this. That when you see something in harsh conditions, someone is supporting you with a lot of difficulty; you get the idea to try your best, to be the best and to do something.

So again, when I came to Afghanistan, there is a concourse examination in Afghanistan in which thousands of people, young generation participants, after school graduation. And it’s very difficult to pass by your choice. So my first selection was law. And fortunately I got very good marks, enough for that. And I passed to come to the Law Faculty. I studied law in Afghanistan. I fortunately had my masters in France, I studied international and European law. My family’s really proud of me. My mother is a well-known personality in Afghanistan, she has been in several top positions of the government.

The position that I am right now, it all goes back to the support of my family. And of course, my own self, because if I didn’t try my best, I wouldn’t have been as I am right now. So yeah, my family’s really proud that I’m currently having a good time in my life and enjoying my time. And yeah, no one is in my family uneducated. We were six brothers, one of my brothers were killed. That was a harsh condition in 2011. He was killed with his entire family in a suicide attack in Kabul in a supermarket. If you want to Google I will give you the language. My sister in law was a human rights activist, and she had an interview on TV against Taliban. They stoned a lady, and she talked and she rejected. She said that they’re saying it is not in accordance to Islam, nor human rights. Then after two weeks, the whole family was killed by Taliban.

So we are five in our family. We are five brothers. And all our brothers are educated, no one is uneducated. We are three lawyers, two engineers and my eldest brother was a doctor. Yeah.

[Carys]: Okay, so there’s one question that I always ask at the end okay, which is: What’s the moral of the story?

Well, the moral of the story is, I advise all the young generation to try their best to take the opportunities that are in front of them. Because if we see – let me give you a good example: It’s a sunny day, there is no cloud on the sky. But sadly, sometimes it rains. So all escape from the rain, but there are someone who are enjoying the rain. So sometimes opportunities are coming like rain, we have to enjoy it. It’s up to us. So I always encourage that when you receive opportunity, when you see others are supporting you in very bad conditions, then you don’t stay reluctant. You try your best and try to achieve the goals that they wanted you to get it.

[Carys]: Thank you.

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