“I want to bring Brazilian football culture to Afghanistan”

Syed Zafar Mehdi

A young beach soccer player, Hazratgul Baran is the first Afghan player to play in Brazil’s beach soccer league. He also plays for Afghan national beach soccer team and has impressed all and sundry with his performance. In an interview with Afghan Zariza, he talks about his passion for beach football, and experience of playing in Brazil, the Mecca of world football.

Q. You are the first Afghan beach soccer player to play in Brazil’s beach soccer league, which is unarguably the best league in the world. Where did they spot you?
A. It all happened last year when we went to play in Qatar against some of the world’s best beach soccer players. It was a totally new experience for all of u. We defeated the host team Qatar in the opening game by whopping margin of 7-3, and after that game, a Brazilian coach who watched us play came to me and offered me an opportunity to play in Brazil, the Mecca of football. After the tournament was over, we went back to Kabul and then I got the official letter from Brazil, inviting me there. I packed my bags and left and ever since I have been playing here.

Q. How does it feel playing in Brazil under totally different conditions with some of the world’s best players and trainers?

Afghans have always been passionate about soccer and beach soccer is also catching up fast. I think the future is bright for beach soccer in Afghanistan

A. It has been an awe-inspiring experience. I am playing in the second league of Sao Paulo, a province that has 42 million population and more than 3 million football players, so competition is really stiff.  I play with CAP football team now, and I am training really hard, putting in more than 45 hours a week under scorching sun. There are about 2 months dedicated to playing beach soccer and I play in Chepacoence Santa Catarina, which is one of the three best teams in Brazil, with some world-class players and three of them play for Brazilian national team and one plays for Portugal. It is incredibly wonderful playing in a world-class league of Brazil and rubbing shoulders with a galaxy of talented players from different countries. People here still cannot believe an Asian player is playing in Brazil and that too from a beleaguered country like Afghanistan. We have got the talent and ability to be the world beaters. We just have to believe in ourselves and run the gauntlet. I hope to bring Brazilian football culture to Afghanistan some day.

Q. You were born in Iran and played for a local football team. Why were you dropped from the team for national football league despite good performance?
A. I was born and grew up in Iran. I took to football at the age of 10 and never looked back. I worked really hard on my football and wanted to play at the highest level. I started with some local teams like Kaghaz Pars Khuzesta. A team I captained was crowned the champions in Khuzestan province. Everything was going well, before all the hell broke loose. My dreams were shattered and hopes were dashed when I was literally thrown out of the pitch during national league matches because I was an Afghan refugee.  It was really hard for me and my family. That is when I decided to move to Afghanistan, because I realized I never belonged to any other country. I am a proud Afghan.

Q. At the age of 16 you came to Afghanistan to rebuild your career. How was your reaction when you were picked for Afghan national team two years later? 
A. On my return from Iran, I started playing for a local club in Kabul and I thought I will not go ahead. But if you want something badly, the whole universe conspires to help you get that. I wanted to represent my country at the highest level. I was waiting for a call from national selectors to play in the national side. I trained hard with my first football club Sanayee Football Club, and my coach Din Mohammad Safi helped me hone my skills. For a football player, running and dribbling is not enough to excel.  The mental conditioning is important and that is where the role of coach comes into play. He has to prepare you psychologically and make you mentally strong. I was lucky to train with a coach of his caliber and it helped me tremendously. I got a call from the national football side and national beach football team, I went to play in China and Qatar and now I am here in Brazil, playing with the best. Life is taught me that you should never give up. If you believe in the beauty of your dreams, you will get what you want.

Q. In 2011, you represented Afghan beach soccer team in China for the Olympic 2012 qualifiers, but the performance was not up to the mark. Has the team made improvements in last three years?
A. We had a coach without any experience of beach soccer, so it was difficult to improve and hone our skills. To compete in international tournaments, you have to be at your best. That is why we lost all the games in Olympic 2012 qualifiers in China and ended up in the last position. It was heartbreaking but we really did not put up a good show. In the last two years, we have improved tremendously under a foreign coach and things are different now. We are ranked 68 in the world and our aim is to break into 30s by the end of this year, which will be a great thing to happen to beach soccer in Afghanistan.

Q. Beach football is new to Afghans and there are no beaches in this country. Are youngsters here interested in this sport?

We are ranked 68 in the world and our aim is to break into 30s by the end of this year, which will be a great thing to happen to beach soccer in Afghanistan

A. In Kabul, we already had two beach soccer leagues that attracted huge number of football enthusiasts representing many professional clubs of Kabul. Afghans have always been passionate about soccer and beach soccer is also catching up fast. I think the future is bright for beach soccer in Afghanistan.

Q. You idolize former Brazilian footballer Roberto Carlos. How did he inspire you?
A. He has been the biggest inspiration for me to play football. I consider him the all time best defender, with amazing technique and power. I am particularly in awe of his power play, the fast and ferocious kicks. I hope to bring this Brazilian power to Afghanistan some day.

Q. How much difference do you see between Afghanistan and Brazil in terms of football training and facilities? Are you enjoying playing there?
A. People in Brazil are married to football. It is the thread that binds the nation together.  They love their football players and follow the game with great interest. Players here are real professionals; they have all the facilities at their disposal, state-of-the-art academies and world class coaches to train with. In Afghanistan, we do not have good coaches; there is no training facility and no professional culture. The football federation needs to take the game seriously and make sure the abundant talent we have is utilized properly.

(http://www.afghanzariza.com/2014/05/22/i-want-to-bring-brazilian-football-culture-to-afghanistan)

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“My interest in telling our story, telling about our journey always motivated me to write”


Syed Zafar Mehdi

Zohra Saed is a poet and scholar. Her poetry and essays have been published in numerous anthologies and journals. Her most recent publications include One Story, Thirty Stories: An Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature (University of Arkansas Press, Nov. 2010) co-edited by Zohra Saed and Sahar MuradiChapbook: Misspelled Cities/Falsch Geschriebene Stadte: Notebook 105, by Sahar Muradi and Zohra Saed. Poetry Chapbook for Documenta 13 in English and German. She is a PhD candidate in English Literature.

Q. You were born in Jalalabad before you moved to Brooklyn. What are the earliest memories you have of your country?
A.
 I was born in Jalalabad and then we left for Tehran, then Riyadh, then New York after my first birthday. I have no memories of that time. We came to New York when I was 5 years old, just in time for school. My father worked many jobs to support our initial years in a new country. I only have photos and stories as memories. What I cannot remember, I absorb from my father.

Q. Your father only spoke Pashtu while your mother did not speak much Pashtu. How was it growing up in a multilingual family?

There are a variety of writers, now with a diaspora of Afghans; you have literature about Afghanistan and Afghans in English, French, German and in the native languages

A. My father’s family was among the first dentists in Jalalabad. My grandfather and great uncle served in Jalalabad since the 1930s. My father grew up speaking Pashtu first – he told me how he lost a competition with students from Kabul because he didn’t know the dari word for ‘cloud’. He said the word ‘cloud’ in Pashtu and lost the competition. He grew up speaking three languages: Dari, Pashtu and Uzbek. My maternal side was from Mazar e Sharif. I am not close to my maternal side and they had settled in Kabul for generations. So there was a middle language, Dari and Uzbek. My mother understood Pashtu; it is almost impossible to be in Afghanistan and not understand or speak a few sentences of Pashtu. I do not think many people in Afghanistan speak just one language. You need to know at least two to get by in Afghanistan, at least in my parents’ time. Growing up in a multilingual family is a blessing. But it also makes for good comedy since we, the children of such a match, merge multiple languages thinking it is one language. My father speaks seven languages and so one of the things we do is break down words to their origins and because of his background in language, he is rather good at figuring word origins out.

Now that I am thinking of how many languages we spoke at home – I will say that we spoke a different language in a different part of our home. In the kitchen, we spoke Uzbek because I know a lot of words for cooking in Uzbek. In the living room, we spoke Dari because I know a lot of poetry and zarb e masalin Dari and in Pashtu as well. I know how to go get things in Pashtu because my father always sent us on errands and he would ask for it in Pashtu, so words for hardware (hammer, nails etc) is in Pashtu and then jokes were in Pashtu as well because my father has a great sense of humor. I never thought of our languages like this – then of course, outside the house door and in our rooms by our desks, we spoke and thought in English. Of course, our prayers were Arabic. It is kind of funny to give a room to each language.

Q. Your poetry and essays have been published in numerous anthologies and journals. When did the journey into literary field begin for you?
A.
 I started quite young. I listened to my father’s stories and then I would write, translate and write them out. This was how I started. Then I became quite good and won a lot of awards in high school and college. I hold a Masters in Fine Arts in Poetry. My interest in telling our story, telling about our journey always motivated me to write.

Q. The folklorist Margaret Mills calls Afghanistan, “the most literary illiterate society.” As a literary figure, how do you interpret these words?
A.
 Yes, this is my favorite quote from Margaret Mills. I studied with her old colleague when I was in college so I was happy to be introduced to her work early on. When Sahar Muradi and I wrote the introduction to the Afghan American anthology, we used this exact same quote. I find it powerful that people may not be able to always write but speak through poetry. I remember aunts who did not know how to write their name but could play poetry games in the kitchen with such flair.

Sahar and I had written about all of this in One Story Thirty Stories, An anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature, which was published in 2010.

Q. What is your take on the contemporary Afghan literature and young Afghan writers?

I see them (Afghan women) as claiming their place as leaders and educators and creators, as is their right within in the cultural heritage of Afghanistan and in our religion

A. There is a beautiful talent out there. There are a variety of writers, now with a diaspora of Afghans; you have literature about Afghanistan and Afghans in English, French, German and in the native languages. A dream would be to bring all writers together in one conference so we can meet and share our experiences. This would bridge our experiences and pool together our knowledge and networks to help each other gather more of an audience for the written works. This would be a dream come true.

Q. What is the relation between literature and war? What role can you, as a poet and author, play to defeat war and bring peace?
A. Well, this is a rather big question to ask. War literature is always from the perspective of the survivor, whereas history, as they say, is from the perspective of the victor. Literature after war is like a testimony from a witness of what happened. We can begin with Homer’s epic poems documenting the Trojan Wars, The Shahnameh, The Mahabharata – all of these texts are after wars and the documenting of what happened. Remembering and learning from what happened to cause the wars seems to be something literature can gift us with.

As a poet, I feel the way Khalil Gibran, the Lebanese poet, the Arab-American poet, felt in his poem Dead are my People. He wishes he was an ear of corn rather than a poet so that he could feed his people. This poem was published in The New York Times and written during the food blockade in World War I. He feels powerless and helpless as a poet to help his people. I would say that I felt this poem deeply.

Q. After the 9/11 tragedy, was it difficult being an Afghan in United States? What did you do to bridge the gap between the people of two countries?

A. This is a long story. Was it difficult being Afghan in America? Yes, I was lucky; I did not face any problems. I heard a lot of racist remarks but I was able to learn how to respond to this. I was teaching my first class when 9/11 happened. The class was Arab-American Literature. We took some time away from class and then came back together to speak about what was happening. It was one of the most emotional classes that I have ever taught.

There was racism but there was also a great deal of reaching out to Muslims and Afghans to come be bridges between cultures. I worked on promoting film projects about Afghans and Afghanistan at that time; I consulted on film projects; I spoke on panels – there was a great deal of educational activities that I was involved with at that time. As much as there was hatred among some groups, there was more peace and love from other groups who wanted to build relationships with their Afghan, Arab and Muslim friends and neighbors.

Q. Do you believe the Afghan women have finally arrived on the big stage after groping in dark for years?
A.
 I have always said that Afghanistan has a long history of powerful women. It just happened that for thirty years during the wars, Afghan women became known as powerless victims. There were great injustices done in this time but I do not think that with thousands of years of history that Afghans have, that it is in only the 21st century that Afghan women have ‘arrived’ as if they were hiding all these centuries.

There were strong women running schools, writing, and raising families during the war. I think the world has made more media space for Afghan women. I believe in the strength and wisdom of Afghan women and it is a part of their pre-war history and culture. So I certainly do not see Afghan women as ‘arrived’. I see them as claiming their place as leaders and educators and creators, as is their right within in the cultural heritage of Afghanistan and in our religion.

Q. There is a huge Afghan community abroad and all of them are doing well. Do you ever feel like returning to your home country?
A.
 Well, you cannot say ‘all’ because you do not know what people are going through to survive and raise families in their adopted homes. There is still much racism and class struggles in the world to assume everyone has ‘made it’. I have not physically returned, but for the past 13 years, I was involved in projects in the cultural, literary and artistic sectors. I do not have family left in Afghanistan and I have not been able to travel with my father because of his work here. I cannot travel alone away from my family. I am still finishing up my degree here, so what choices I make will come after I complete my work hopefully.

(http://www.afghanzariza.com/2014/05/05/my-interest-in–telling-our-story-telling-about-our-journey-always-motivated-me-to-write)

“I have pulled back some of the taboos around rape that hurt the hearts of Afghan women”


Fereshta Kazemi
is an Afghan-American movie actress, who was born in Kabul at the height of Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Her family fled to Thailand and then to New York where she was raised and where she studied acting at Marymount Manhattan College.  She also studied Philosophy & Cultural Anthropology at University of California.

In this freewheeling interview with Afghan Zariza, Ms. Kazemi talks about her life, films and growing up in New York.

Q1. You took flight out of Afghanistan with your family when Russians took over the country. What was going through your mind that time? Do you have any memories of that?
A.
 Although I was just a toddler, I have some vivid memories because I was the first one in the Kazemi family clan to see the attack on my grandfather’s home where we lived. I was in the front courtyard playing a game of trying to get my little sandals on my feet without using my hands, when I heard a loud rumbling. It was military vehicles and tanks higher than our compound walls and Russian & Afghan Communist soldiers were jumping over the walls. I screamed for mother.

The next memories are a blur of all the adults being sat in a row of chairs in the courtyard, big long guns and bayonets being pointed inches from their faces. My mom and aunt hiding their Afghan jewelry behind a big armoire. My sister and I afraid to go to the bathroom because a tall, terrifying white Russian soldier with piercing blue eyes stood guard. The panicked discussion among the adults that they were here to take my father who was on their communist death list, that they were going to take my grandfather instead because my father was away studying abroad for graduate studies.

I had an idea suddenly that I would tell my grandfather and hide him under the bed and put pillows around the bottom of the bed so the soldiers cannot find him. I rushed upstairs to tell my grandfather and came to a dead halt at the top of the stairs, when I saw my grandfather in prayer prostration. In that moment, I suddenly realized, what a childish idea it was. They dragged him away harshly. After some time, I was very angry and started circling around the yard near soldiers, and they were unprepared as they were not in guard against a toddler, then I suddenly took off my little sandal and started beating an Afghan communist soldier on his giant leg, and also bit him on the leg. He screamed and was truly startled. He yelled for someone to take me away or else he will hurt me, so one of my uncles ran and grabbed me away.

Q2. How was it like growing up in New York City? Did you ever miss your home country when you were growing up?
A. Growing up in NYC was a mixed blessing. It was a blessing because it was a multi-cultural city, the melting pot of the people from all over the world in the United States. I had access to education and was not under the terror of war, so I was very lucky. New York is also hailed as one of the ‘toughest’ cultures for an American kid to grow up. Children learn to become sharp witty speakers from a young age and street smart and savvy, so I learned all this. It was also difficult for me and my family dealing with severe racism because we were from another country, in particular for the Afghan-American youth. Many American children passed racist comments on other children in school. I defended Afghan culture from the time I was eight years old, even getting physically attacked numerous times from age eight to twelve. I always fought back and won every fight, except for two different times when a mob of children attacked me. After some time Afghan kids started to come to me for protection, and I became sort of a twelve year old little girl Godfather (like the movie) in what became our ‘New Yorkistan’.

Q3. You have the distinction of being the first Afghan female to study acting in the United States. What prompted you to take up acting?
A. I was seven years old, watching TV and the actors, and remember thinking, “I can do that. I am going to do that, become an actor”. When I told my parents at age seven I was going to be an actor, they were very upset and I got into big trouble, but it only made me more determined. All throughout high school, even with great academic grades to pursue other professions, I was consumed and pulled by a calling to act. Even with all the obstacles, financial uncertainty, many difficulties, all the very small odds of making it as an actor, I have been compelled by a force bigger than myself.

Q4. You have been hailed as a trailblazer and someone who has broken the conventional norms by doing bold and brave roles. How does it feel?
A.
 It is somewhere between normal and an honor. I came to Afghanistan to act and do a documentary. I already had a number of films out such as Heal & Targeting (soon to be released). I had a kissing scene with a character that played my husband in the film Targeting to demonstrate the passion and love an Afghan woman can have for her husband. When I came to Kabul and accepted the role of a rape victim in The Icy Sun, I was excited to play a deep role where, as an actor, I could delve into the humanity of the character. It never occurred to me that it would be breaking conventional norms in Afghan culture. I knew it was not the norm, but I had lived with that my entire life, so by then it was just normal to me. I just wanted to create art. Nevertheless, it has become one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and if I died, I would die truly happy.

Q5. Your film The Icy Sun, which has projected excesses against women in Afghanistan like rape, has broken new grounds. How was the experience of working in this film?
A.
 The experience was fast, quick, amazing, and very hard. I worked sometimes 12 to 18 hours a day. There were days I was almost collapsing from exhaustion, but the energy of love for my work kept me going. I am honored to help pull back some of the taboos around rape which hurt the hearts of Afghan women. Afghan women, both overseas at times, and in Afghanistan live having their every feminine move under deep cultural scrutiny from the time they are born and are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. It is an unfair and stifling psychological situation, and an alienating and deathlike experience for women in Afghanistan if they are raped. It feels like I broke some psychological freedom for myself, and for many Afghan women being held prisoner to these unfair cultural norms, both by addressing one of its most feared taboos, rape, the violation of a woman’s honor, and showing some of the woman’s body that was abused.

Q6. What does it mean to be an Afghan woman? What are your dreams for the country?

A. I think each Afghan woman can define what that means for her. For me, being an Afghan woman means to stand up for my honor myself, as well as demand that I have a voice in defining what my honor means. The notion of honor for an Afghan woman is dictated by unfair and illogical notions in this day and age in Afghanistan, where women are jailed & forever stigmatized and outcast for being raped or running away from domestic violence. This is an attack on feminine human rights, not honor. My dreams for the country are that women will be able to show their honor by more than just the limited definition being set forth currently in culture, to show it by their hard work, achievements, education, powerful choices and success.

Q7. Despite numerous challenges and odds, the women in Afghanistan have managed to arrive on the big stage. What will be your message to young Afghan women?
A.
 Every problem has a solution, you just have to believe it and start to search for it and never give up. Know that you have a human right to think for yourself. Despite a family identity which demands to dictate your beliefs for this life, you also have your own mind and no one knows what’s best for you like you do. Understand that right, deep within your own mind, and within that place let your goals for your happiness begin. Nature gave women their own minds like it did for men, so don’t be afraid to own it. You will be amazed what you can do in this life if you put your ‘mind’ to it. It is something my Afghan mother told me when I was a child, and had made all the difference in my life.  is an Afghan-American movie actress, who was born in Kabul at the height of Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Her family fled to Thailand and then to New York where she was raised and where she studied acting at Marymount Manhattan College.  She also studied Philosophy & Cultural Anthropology at University of California. 

In this freewheeling interview with Syed Zafar Mehdi, Ms. Kazemi talks about her life, films and growing up in New York. 

Q1. You took flight out of Afghanistan with your family when Russians took over the country. What was going through your mind that time? Do you have any memories of that?
A.
 Although I was just a toddler, I have some vivid memories because I was the first one in the Kazemi family clan to see the attack on my grandfather’s home where we lived. I was in the front courtyard playing a game of trying to get my little sandals on my feet without using my hands, when I heard a loud rumbling. It was military vehicles and tanks higher than our compound walls and Russian & Afghan Communist soldiers were jumping over the walls. I screamed for mother.

The next memories are a blur of all the adults being sat in a row of chairs in the courtyard, big long guns and bayonets being pointed inches from their faces. My mom and aunt hiding their Afghan jewelry behind a big armoire. My sister and I afraid to go to the bathroom because a tall, terrifying white Russian soldier with piercing blue eyes stood guard. The panicked discussion among the adults that they were here to take my father who was on their communist death list, that they were going to take my grandfather instead because my father was away studying abroad for graduate studies.

I had an idea suddenly that I would tell my grandfather and hide him under the bed and put pillows around the bottom of the bed so the soldiers cannot find him. I rushed upstairs to tell my grandfather and came to a dead halt at the top of the stairs, when I saw my grandfather in prayer prostration. In that moment, I suddenly realized, what a childish idea it was. They dragged him away harshly. After some time, I was very angry and started circling around the yard near soldiers, and they were unprepared as they were not in guard against a toddler, then I suddenly took off my little sandal and started beating an Afghan communist soldier on his giant leg, and also bit him on the leg. He screamed and was truly startled. He yelled for someone to take me away or else he will hurt me, so one of my uncles ran and grabbed me away.

Q2. How was it like growing up in New York City? Did you ever miss your home country when you were growing up?

A. Growing up in NYC was a mixed blessing. It was a blessing because it was a multi-cultural city, the melting pot of the people from all over the world in the United States. I had access to education and was not under the terror of war, so I was very lucky. New York is also hailed as one of the ‘toughest’ cultures for an American kid to grow up. Children learn to become sharp witty speakers from a young age and street smart and savvy, so I learned all this. It was also difficult for me and my family dealing with severe racism because we were from another country, in particular for the Afghan-American youth. Many American children passed racist comments on other children in school. I defended Afghan culture from the time I was eight years old, even getting physically attacked numerous times from age eight to twelve. I always fought back and won every fight, except for two different times when a mob of children attacked me. After some time Afghan kids started to come to me for protection, and I became sort of a twelve year old little girl Godfather (like the movie) in what became our ‘New Yorkistan’.

Q3. You have the distinction of being the first Afghan female to study acting in the United States. What prompted you to take up acting?
A. I was seven years old, watching TV and the actors, and remember thinking, “I can do that. I am going to do that, become an actor”. When I told my parents at age seven I was going to be an actor, they were very upset and I got into big trouble, but it only made me more determined. All throughout high school, even with great academic grades to pursue other professions, I was consumed and pulled by a calling to act. Even with all the obstacles, financial uncertainty, many difficulties, all the very small odds of making it as an actor, I have been compelled by a force bigger than myself.

Q4. You have been hailed as a trailblazer and someone who has broken the conventional norms by doing bold and brave roles. How does it feel?
A.
 It is somewhere between normal and an honor. I came to Afghanistan to act and do a documentary. I already had a number of films out such as Heal Targeting (soon to be released). I had a kissing scene with a character that played my husband in the film Targeting to demonstrate the passion and love an Afghan woman can have for her husband. When I came to Kabul and accepted the role of a rape victim in The Icy Sun, I was excited to play a deep role where, as an actor, I could delve into the humanity of the character. It never occurred to me that it would be breaking conventional norms in Afghan culture. I knew it was not the norm, but I had lived with that my entire life, so by then it was just normal to me. I just wanted to create art. Nevertheless, it has become one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and if I died, I would die truly happy.

Q5. Your film The Icy Sun, which has projected excesses against women in Afghanistan like rape, has broken new grounds. How was the experience of working in this film?
A.
 The experience was fast, quick, amazing, and very hard. I worked sometimes 12 to 18 hours a day. There were days I was almost collapsing from exhaustion, but the energy of love for my work kept me going. I am honored to help pull back some of the taboos around rape which hurt the hearts of Afghan women. Afghan women, both overseas at times, and in Afghanistan live having their every feminine move under deep cultural scrutiny from the time they are born and are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. It is an unfair and stifling psychological situation, and an alienating and deathlike experience for women in Afghanistan if they are raped. It feels like I broke some psychological freedom for myself, and for many Afghan women being held prisoner to these unfair cultural norms, both by addressing one of its most feared taboos, rape, the violation of a woman’s honor, and showing some of the woman’s body that was abused.

Q6. What does it mean to be an Afghan woman? What are your dreams for the country?

A. I think each Afghan woman can define what that means for her. For me, being an Afghan woman means to stand up for my honor myself, as well as demand that I have a voice in defining what my honor means. The notion of honor for an Afghan woman is dictated by unfair and illogical notions in this day and age in Afghanistan, where women are jailed & forever stigmatized and outcast for being raped or running away from domestic violence. This is an attack on feminine human rights, not honor. My dreams for the country are that women will be able to show their honor by more than just the limited definition being set forth currently in culture, to show it by their hard work, achievements, education, powerful choices and success.

Q7. Despite numerous challenges and odds, the women in Afghanistan have managed to arrive on the big stage. What will be your message to young Afghan women?
A.
 Every problem has a solution, you just have to believe it and start to search for it and never give up. Know that you have a human right to think for yourself. Despite a family identity which demands to dictate your beliefs for this life, you also have your own mind and no one knows what’s best for you like you do. Understand that right, deep within your own mind, and within that place let your goals for your happiness begin. Nature gave women their own minds like it did for men, so don’t be afraid to own it. You will be amazed what you can do in this life if you put your ‘mind’ to it. It is something my Afghan mother told me when I was a child, and had made all the difference in my life.

(http://www.afghanzariza.com/2014/04/30/i-have-pulled-back-some-of-the-taboos-around-rape-that-hurt-the-hearts-of-afghan-women)