In Afghanistan, the Taliban’s oppressive and restrictive rule has stripped women and girls of their basic rights. Yet, in the face of adversity, women have become more determined than ever to succeed across diverse fields. Some have decided to fight against the group’s misogynistic laws, while others have resolved to prove that they will not be deterred and can not be stopped from pursuing an education.
Various countries and organizations have recognized the achievements of individuals from Afghanistan in various fields, particularly women’s rights, and advocacy, amidst the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.
Among these individuals is Razia Muradi, a 27-year-old girl who was awarded a Gold Medal from Gujarat University in India for her outstanding academic performance in her Master’s degree in Public Administration.
Two years ago, Moradi received a scholarship to pursue her studies at Gujarat University in India. She recently completed her studies with distinction, earning the highest grade of 8.60 at the university level. In recognition of her academic excellence, Moradi was awarded the esteemed gold medal, presented to her by the Governor of Gujarat state in a ceremony held at the university.
As reported by the BBC, Razia Moradi felt conflicting emotions as she accepted her academic award on stage. Despite her joy at receiving the honor, Moradi couldn’t help but feel a sense of sadness, knowing that in her home country of Afghanistan, many girls are denied the opportunity to pursue an education.
In the midst of Afghanistan’s pervasive insecurity, fear, and educational barriers for girls, Moradi has managed to earn a remarkable honor.
Razia’s path to achieving the highest score in her university and completing her Master’s degree was challenging, particularly in light of the Taliban’s ongoing oppression of women and citizens in Afghanistan. Speaking to the media, Razia recounted her difficulties in preparing for her university exams amidst a climate of violence and insecurity. “Living in a conflict zone means everyone is at risk,” she remarked. “I constantly heard the news of explosions and attacks, and did my best to check on the safety of my family, but the poor internet connection in Afghanistan made it a real challenge.”
“I couldn’t help but think about all the other girls and women in Afghanistan who are stripped of the right to education and work,” she added.
Razia Moradi has recently commenced her doctoral studies in public administration at the same university. Despite her impressive academic achievements, she remains uncertain about her future in Afghanistan. “Currently, there is no clear path forward for me back in Afghanistan,” she hopelessly acknowledged.
With a strong interest in administration and policy-making, Razia has opted to pursue her studies in public administration. Her goal is to effect meaningful change in the government system and promote the greater public good. However, the ongoing presence of the Taliban in Afghanistan has posed significant barriers to realizing her ambitions.
Reflecting on her journey and the support of her family and community, Razia spoke of the sacrifices they have made for her education and the debt she owes them. “Whenever I felt fear and despair, I thought about my family and the people of my country,” she stated in her recent speech. “My family and community have made tremendous sacrifices for me. The least I can do to repay them is to pursue an excellent education. They have always supported my dreams and made it possible for me to be an active woman in society. I owe all my achievements to them.”
“As an Afghan woman with aspirations, it is my duty to speak the truth and shed light on the current regime’s impact on society” she declared. “Staying silent is not an option, for it will only perpetuate the Taliban’s desire for people to remain voiceless. Therefore, I believe it is my responsibility to speak out and bring attention to the need for change.”
As of now, with one year and seven months of Taliban rule over Afghanistan, women are prohibited from pursuing studies at the middle school, high school, and university levels, and are also barred from participating in political and social activities.
Courage Award Recipient
Dr. Zakera Hekmat was among the distinguished women who were honored with the “Courage” award by the US Department of State on March 8th, on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
Zakira Hekmat, a native of Afghanistan and the founder of a refugee support association in Turkey, was one of the 11 women from different countries to receive the US State Department’s Courage Award on International Women’s Day.
According to the State Department’s website, Hekmat was born in Ghazni province and secretly attended middle school during the Taliban’s first period of rule. While studying medicine in Turkey, she worked with organizations providing to immigrants.
The State Department’s statement noted that Hekmat has been a tireless advocate for immigrant and women’s rights, establishing the Afghan Refugee Solidarity Association in 2014. Thanks to her efforts, many Afghans, especially women, girls, and minorities, have access to help.
The awards ceremony, which took place at the White House, was attended by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and First Lady Jill Biden.
“I present this award to the Afghan women who have defied the restrictions imposed by the Taliban and boldly voiced their opposition,” she said in an interview with Voice of America (VOA).
Ten other women from various countries including Argentina, Central African Republic, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Poland, Ukraine, and Iranian protesting women and girls were among the recipients of the Courage Award in 2023.
Since 2007, the US State Department has recognized outstanding women from around the world with this award, with over 180 women from 80 countries, including Afghanistan, having received it thus far.
Previous recipients of the award from Afghanistan include Aziza Sediqi, Mari Akrami, Sorayya Pakzad, Vajhma Forough, Shukriya Aseel, Shafiqa Quraishi, Maria Bashir, Maryam Durrani, Malali Bahaduri, Nasreen Oryakhil, Nilofar Rahmani, Roya Sadat, and Zarifa Ghaffari.
The Inspirational Girl
Aalia Farzan, a BBC Dari reporter, was among the 19 women introduced as the inspiring women in BBC World News on International Women’s Day, 2023.
Farzan faced numerous challenges throughout her life, including losing her father in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan when she was only ten years old. Despite this tragedy, her mother worked hard to raise Farzan and her siblings. To fund her education, Farzan also worked during her studies.
After completing her studies, she aspired to get employed in the local media but faced opposition from her family. Farzan waited until she found a job that her family approved of and joined the BBC in late 2018. Since the BBC is a global media outlet, her family supported her work.
Prior to the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, Farzan reported on the situation of Afghan women for the BBC from Kabul. Her valuable work for women during this time led to her nomination as an inspirational woman on BBC World News. The BBC recognized Farzan as one of the 19 women who informed the world about the situation of women globally.