One of the greatest things in life is finding inspiration. Whether that be in the form of people, nature, or anything in between. Inspiration is what drives us. I am fortunate enough to call Shamsia a good friend, having met her on the first day of my sophomore year of high school, being my roommate for a portion of my year. Shamsia is a year older than me (17) and is from Afghanistan.
Up until I met her, I have never met anyone from Afghanistan and didn't know much about the country. I have read about the conflict going on their, however, none of my information was first hand. Throughout the year I have been learning more and more about Afghanistan through her stories and personal experiences. Conversations about gender equality and war have always been key subjects that I'm interested in, and I am fortunate enough to have received insight into the country, through the lens of Shamsia. Being an advocate for inquisitive thinking and learning from others, I am so excited to share an interview I did with Shamsia. It was partially odd to label our conversation as an ‘interview’ as heavy topics have always been organic topics of conversation for us, however, I tried my best to interview her in the most natural way possible for us, (which included a lot of laughter), enjoy x
Shamsia is originally from Ghazni but resides in Kabul
ZG - "what do you believe is the biggest misconception about Afghanistan"?
S - “I believe that the biggest misconception is people believing that as a society, we are behind. In terms of education, mindset etc, I also think that people view us as violent people (as usually, Afghanistan is common in war discussion). I wish people would rather see how much we value our culture and people, instead of reading the headlines regarding terrorist attacks, and generalize the whole country in a conflict and war riddled one. There are many incredible people in Afghanistan advocating for peace, who need support. We should focus on people like this instead of all the negative stuff.
ZG - "Would you say women are generally viewed as less than men in Afghanistan"?
S - “Unfortunately, there are a lot of issues regarding women's rights at the moment back home. Women usually count as a second gender. The biggest problem is that women don't usually have access to basic rights that men have. The fact that the Taliban occupies 70% of Afghanistan really affects women. They don't have equal opportunities, mostly in regards to education.
ZG - Would you say that majority of girls your age (17) in Afghanistan attend schools?
S - “ Not really. Those who live in the city will usually attend a government school. It really depends on the family, however, it is highly likely that boys will receive an education over a girl”.
ZG - “in simple terms, how would you explain what's going on back home?
S - “There is a lot of conflict happening with the government. The Taliban and ISIS are also involved, prohibiting citizens from being more democratic. They do this through fear, bombing, shootings, kidnappings etc. I truly believe lack of education and support is a big problem. If every teenager had the same opportunity as adults and if every man and every woman had an equal opportunity I believe that we wouldn't face the majority of our problems. Very few girls like myself are lucky enough to study abroad.
ZG - “ What are some things you are proud of in Afghanistan’?
S - “The greatest thing about back home is the people. Despite all the conflict, there are so many good people working towards the good. I see teenagers and parents working so hard, and I would say that's my biggest motivation. I believe that opportunity is something you create for yourself. With more security, I believe that people would have more opportunities.
ZG - “Is it common for people to leave Afghanistan and seek refuge in countries such as Greece?
S - “security is the main reason people leave. I don't see why people want to leave behind their homes, family, and culture behind. Leaving doesn't mean they aren't proud of where they come from. People usually leave for better security and to support their families and communities back home, by working in different countries with higher paying jobs.
ZG - Do you have a final closing message, something you want people out there to know?
S - “I am proud of being from Afghanistan, my message is that I know that the situation is so difficult and a lot of the time our voice isn't heard. The school shooting that unfortunately happened a few days ago in the US was worldwide news, however, I feel like people there are so many people being killed in other countries, and no one hears their voices. People should be more open to listening to what people have to say, especially what the refugees have to say. Generalizing a country and judging it by its news and stereotypes is also wrong. We should work with our communities for a more peaceful world, Afghanistan isn't a bad place we just need to be patient and positive for it to be a better place to be”.