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Breaking the Barriers

While I went to interview Fatima Sabri, a 19 years age girl, from Afghanistan at the roof of Asian University for Women in Chittagong Bangladesh, she welcomed me with a large smile holding a book, Anne Frank, on her hand. I was so surprised to hear that Fatima is even unknown to her home address. While talking with Fatima, I remembered an inspiring proverb from Albert Einstein which says Try not to become a man of success but a man of value.

Living as a Refugees in Pakistan

The political chaos between Afghan government and Taliban create uncertainties to people. When I asked to share her childhood, she says I do have my childhood; I don’t know what to tell you. I was more curious to know what she meant to say. Finally after half an hour, she reveals the truth. Robberies and kidnapping were common during her childhood. Thus, the fearful situation forced her to be inside the house. Fatima recalled her childhood When I was 3 years old, about 40 robbers came to our house and take everything they like. (Pause)… Everyday girls were kidnapped in front of our eyes. A mischievous glint in her eye revealed that she was not satisfied with her childhood.

Finally, the political turmoil forced her family to live refugees in Pakistan for nine years. Fatima said firmly, Can you imagine leaving Afghanistan only with a pair of clothes we have worn? We didn’t take anything instead we dug the ground floor and hide whatever treasure had left after the robberies so that when the situation become normal we would come back and can still use our hidden treasure. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees as of September 10, 2001 reported that 3,695,000 Afghanis moved to Pakistan, Iran, Russia, Central Asian Republics, Europe, North America and Australia and India because of the war. Additionally, it also depicts that 900,000 Afghani were internally displaced during the war.

In the beginning of the interview, she hesitated to share her stories but when I asked about the situation of women in Afghanistan then she paused for a while and makes her face gloomy and started to speak up about the bitter truth. The first year in Pakistan was so horrible. We rented a small room where seven of us stayed together. As we didn’t have money even to afford the kitchen, my mother used to share with others. We were unable to eat when we were hunger because lack of own kitchen. During the time, Fatima’s parents do not have any job neither they were familiar with the language. She added We were suffering from money shortage. Therefore, my elder sister started working in a dental clinic and supported the family.
While Fatima was in Pakistan, she felt lonely because she didn’t have relatives to go neither she had friends to play. When she saw people talking each other and sharing their feeling, she wished she could have some relatives. She explained Many of our relatives who were still in Afghanistan thought that we were happy in a sense that we didn’t have to think about war but no one understands our lives.

In 1997, Fatima’s mother decided to go back to Afghanistan, hoping that she would be able to sell the hidden treasure and make some money. But when she went back to her home, the ground floor of their house was full of water and there was no hidden treasure. Someone had already dug out and sold before us, she said staring at me.

Returning Homeland from Pakistan

After 9 Years in 2002, Fatima’s family returned to Afghanistan and Fatima started to join the school. Students used to sit on the floor. There were no classrooms instead had a hall where five thousands students were taught in different corners of the hall. Once Fatima complained her teacher that the floor hurts her while sitting and the teacher replied back It’s our life and we have to sit on this floor my child which is the most inspiring words in her life. Gradually, the days were passing, it was during the Ramjan, someone called to the teachers and said that the Taliban has kept bomb in their school. It was the first time; Fatima saw a huge numbers of children running to save their life. Everyone was running but I was searching my two best friends, she said taking a deep breath. However, there was no bomb in their school. From the next day, there was a strict rule in the school. Every student’s bags and body were checked by the teachers to make sure that students do not carry the bombs in their body. I hate someone checking my bag and body but I don’t have the choice, explain about the situation by Fatima.

From her childhood, Fatima is against the rules that are made only for women. She didn’t wear Chadari (A veil that is used to cover the whole body of women) from her childhood. However, she added If you do not wear Chadari, it does not mean that you do not love your country. I love my country but I prefer not to wear. She even shares her friend, Humaira, stories who was beaten by Taliban for not wearing the scarf while coming to buy food. Although, Fatima family had gone through these entire traumas, she never gave up her education and her parents supported her in every step of her life. Finally, she got chance to study at Access Academy of Asian University for Women in Chittagong Bangladesh.

At last Fatima would like to say We need more universities with high qualities degrees in our countries. There are some universities but that is not enough according the population and also everyone cannot afford it. They are so expensive. I wish that once Afghanistan become the most peaceful country which everyone could stay there without any tension. We as a powerful Afghan women need to work really hard to bring peace in our respected home land. I am proud to be an Afghan women, and until I die I will try hard to help Afghanistan to become manifest of this situation. I think that is why Horace Bushnell has says The more difficulties one has to encounter, within and without, the more significant and the higher in inspiration his life will be.

Comments

This is a powerful project, Sunita. I love that you are interviewing women from so many different countries from right there at your university.

This is a powerful project, Sunita. I love that you are interviewing women from so many different countries from right there at your university.

sunita.basnet's picture

Thank you!

Dear Corine,

Thank you so much for your beautiful words. I am also enjoying a lot talking with my fellows and understanding their lifestyle. These days I am so much busy with my project ; free health clinic and street drama. We also have power cut off so I am unable to connect with pulse wire. Thank god! Today I get chance to connect with my network.

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

JaniceW's picture

So moving

Sunita,
Thank you for bringing Fatima's story to life and for sharing with us what a young girl's childhood looks like in a country under conflict. You have assumed this responsibility of giving young women from your region a voice with dignity, respect and dedication. With each story, your voice grows stronger and it is so exciting to see you speaking out on behalf of your fellow students. Thank you for being such a powerful advocate for your AUW sisters and for your loving heart that will not allow these stories to remain unheard.

Hardik subhakamana,
Janice

sunita.basnet's picture

Didi, Namaste, Thank you so

Didi,
Namaste,

Thank you so much for your valuable time to read my post and leave an inspiring comment. Yes! I have more focused on fatima's childhood because what I find talking with her is that childhood affect much more to shape their future and career.

I miss all of you while I am in Nepal. We have a big power cut off in Nepal. Miss u all and love you so much.
Hajur ko Bahini

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

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