Women With Torches

The dozens of recent bombings and attacks in Afghanistan reflect no more than the jockeying for position of the various interest groups involved in the peace talks in…

The dozens of recent bombings and attacks in Afghanistan reflect no more than the jockeying for position of the various interest groups involved in the peace talks in Doha. The more shattered bodies the parties clock up, the higher the price they can extract for forging a peace. There aren’t really any heroes in this. Fighting continues in more than a dozen provinces right now. Government forces are on the offensive, trying to take from the Taliban as many local centres as they can while the talks continue. The Talib, meanwhile, are kicking against the pricks. The other significant purveyor of ultraviolence is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (don’t these idiots just love their important-sounding names: the only thing they bring to the table is random slayings and weird retrogressive bullshit). IS have claimed responsibility for some of the most horrendous attacks in recent months, in a desperate bid, no doubt, to get to the Doha table.

IS say they committed the atrocity in early November last year, when gunmen emptied their magazines into students and faculty going about their progressive business on campus. 32 died, 50 more were injured.

Before that, in October, an IS suicide bombing vaporised an education centre in their favourite target community, the Hazara. The shockwave from the massive suicide boming outside the Kawsar-e Danish educational centre in west Kabul was amplified by the narrowness of the street in which it was detonated, killing 30 and injuring more than 70. The casualties were mostly children and young adults.

We wanted to hear about some of the positivity coming out of Afghan institutions of higher education, so chief correspondent Ahmad Soheil Ahmadi spoke to Ms. Fatemeh Khavari, an award-winning author and child welfare volunteer.

Kabul University: Taliban. Kowsar College, where an education centre was ripped apart by a huge suicide bomb that killed 20 and injured a further 70 people, mostly teenaged students.

ASA: In what ways have you explored the theme of Afghan women’s rights in your writing?

We live in a society where women’s rights are not respected, as a result of which women cannot reach the positions they deserve. In one of my stories, ‘Why Should I Go Back’, I talked about the lives of women who have been marginalized, their rights violated. In this story, I dealt with the darkness of the atmosphere of the lives of these women who live in patriarchal families.

ASA: Are stories that have a feminist and feminine atmosphere appealing to Afghan and cultured audiences?

Storytelling and storytelling have been marginalized in Afghanistan, and cultural activists should not be supported as they should be, and as a result, will not be available to citizens. Sometimes the authors themselves do not have the ability to explain their work. But when such stories are read by the audience, they encourage the writers. I myself have often encountered girls who enjoyed reading such stories and asked how we could express and write our problems through the story.

ASA: Why is it important to address the issues of Afghan women in literature?

Since the Taliban rule, women’s issues have been and still are vitally important in this society. The situation of women in the provincial capitals and major cities may not be bad, but there is no question that if we go to remote villages and districts, women do not have equal rights with men, and they are also deprived of basic human rights. Most of Afghan society is traditional and lives in villages. It is very rare for women in this kind of society to be able to exercise their rights.

ASA: When you compare the academics and writers who were educated before the civil wars with those coming through the educational system now, what are the differences and can today’s writers read the heights achieved by such figures as Rahnaward Zaryab [editor’s note: Zaryab died of Covid-19 on December 11 last year]?

The two periods in our history had distinctly different atmospheres. They faced crises of differing sorts. Since the civil war, we have faced crises such as deprivation and migration. Today’s writers have different stories. Young writers write well and reflect the pain of society. For example, Wahidi’s novel The Kilim Maker beautifully expresses the deprivation endured by a young girl during the Taliban era.

It is certainly not an easy task for a young writer to reach the heights of his or her calling. It takes time and requires experience. However, I can say that the current crop of writers, who also happen to have written beautiful stories, certainly have the capabilities to reach the position of masters like Rahnaward Zaryab if they try. We just need to give them time to write. Writing is not an easy task. It takes both experience and an open critical environment to make advances in literature. We unfortunately live in an environment where minds are busy and there is less time for young writers to write. In such a situation, if someone can develop an oeuvre, she or he should be praised.

ASA: What motivated you to start working and helping children?

Sometimes one is simply confronted with a path to take in life. In my opinion, destiny provided me with this path to help bring relief to economically and spiritually deprived children. A friend of mine asked me to volunteer as a social worker. I decided to help these children find their own paths in life. It gives me great joy to do this in my life.

ASA: Have Afghan volunteers really served the deprived as they should?

My opinion is that the volunteers and helpers have a humanitarian and benevolent intention. They try to support children who are suffering. Unfortunately, sometimes we are not able to help as much as we should. Children often have problems that cannot be solved by a mere volunteer. I know many caregivers who tried their hardest to find treatment for a sick child but simply could not find a charity or civic organization to support that child’s survival.

The urge to volunteer has deep cultural significance. I am convinced that in Afghanistan, people of love, passion, and faith will help to spread the humanitarian principle.

ASA: As a political science student, what are your hopes for the future of women’s political activity?

When we celebrate March 8 as Women’s Day, it is essentially a reminder of the efforts that women in the West have made to assert their rights. Today, in Afghanistan, we are the West yesterday. Today, our women are deprived of their rights. Western women struggled, meanwhile, and in less than a hundred years gained basic rights such as the right to vote. I am confident that if Afghan women strive for their basic rights, then they will achieve their basic rights. Once we have achieved this, we’ll ensure that no one rips away these fundamental rights.

If we just sit around and hold hands, freedom and rights will never be given to anyone. Women must fight for their rights, and if they do, there will definitely be a bright future for them.

This interview first appeared on Maqshosh.

This post was originally published on Radio Free.


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