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Changes in My Identity

I have struggled with my identity in my whole life. Born in Afghanistan, I moved to Pakistan with my parents when I was two and it was there when I started to know myself and choose either to be Afghan or Pakistani because at school as an Afghan, I, my accent, and my appearance were made fun of. During the 13 years that I was in Pakistan, I slowly got accustomed to it and changed my way of clothing and accent from Afghani to Pakistani. I slowly forgot my mother-language, Dari. However, in 2005, I had to return back to Afghanistan by the force of Pakistan’s government so I had to change my identity again.

In Afghanistan, I felt like people are making holes in my body by staring at me from the moment they saw me to the moment I got lost from their sights. It made me feel to be a stranger in the country where I was born and thought I belonged to. It is not impossible to get changed struggling to get an identity but needs time, so in a few years I got Afghan-like again but still the ethnic that I belong to was a minority and was not “real” Afghan. My identity was my ethnicity, Hazara. Five years was enough for me to accept all these and live the way I had to. However, I had to come to another diversity of cultures at AUW where my identity is my name and my country.

“Rabia.” This is the first thing that people know me by. Some people think that Rabia is a Muslim name, so I am Muslim but when they check from my head to my toe I do not seem a Muslim to them. It is because I don’t hide my hair and I wear short dresses or t-shirts which are not the qualities of a Muslim girl, so my identity can’t be defined by my religion. The moment my country is mentioned it comes to “Oh, Osama/Taliban” and ask with a sad face, “isn’t it difficult to live in war” or “are your parents alive?” Most of the times I come to the point that all along that I lived in Pakistan, I was an “Afghan” and when I was in Afghanistan I was either “Pakistani” or Afghan but an unreal not a pure Afghan. Now in Bangladesh, I am Afghan, a niece of Osama or maybe coming back after my death in the wars.

I have spent the greater part of my life in Pakistan but none of the countries I have lived in accepts me fully; however, I define my Identity to be from the place that I feel I belong to, Afghanistan, and where I have spent only five years of my life. My first identity is my name, “Rabia Salihi,” and secondly, I am “Afghan.” I do not or maybe I cannot define my identity by my language, religion, culture, gender, appearance, or ethnicity because that time I will be no one and I will get lost, having no identity.

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