Mariam Nasrri: Taking on the Taliban

Mariam Nasrri is an artist currently living in Vancouver.

In the 1980’s, I opened my eyes in a communist-conquered country, Afghanistan.  In 1992, the fires of the civil war devoured our home in Kabul.  My family and I fled to the north to escape the horrors of ethnic cleansing.  In 1998, the Taliban slaughtered almost 3,000 innocent people.  My family and I fled from the country of my birth through the desert between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

After a year of living the life of a refugee where our basic necessities were scarcely met, I left my family behind and moved to India. One of the reasons that I escaped from Pakistan was to avoid a forced marriage. He was a Taliban sympathizer, who already had a couple of wives, wanted to marry me “to save my soul” because I worked outside of the house at a travel agency.  

Mariam Nassri’s visual art

On September 11, 2001, not only did the world around me change, but my life was never to be the same again. I had an interview with the Canadian embassy in India, and they agreed to sponsor me as a landed immigrant.  Thus most of my life, I have lived in exile.

After the Taliban regime was toppled a couple of years later, my family moved back to Kabul. Because my siblings work for projects supported by the international community, they continue to face life-threatening situations unfortunately.

I went to visit my family in Afghanistan in 2012 and again in 2013. I wanted to research and film the struggles of women in the region. I was pursued by the Taliban in 2012, so I had to flee the country. However, my mission to research and film was not complete. I returned in 2013 to finish my project.  

The Taliban have issued death-threat letters, fatwas, against my family. My family members were also warned verbally to stop working “for the infidels” – i.e., international organizations that help develop Afghanistan’s social and economic progress. Because my family was warned and then attacked repeatedly, they needed to escape from the country again.

One of my brothers was given a second chance. The United States of government sponsored him, his wife, and two young daughters.  The rest of my siblings were not so lucky.  My other two brothers and my sister with her family ran away from Afghanistan to Germany. On the way to Europe, they endured many hardships. My brothers witnessed some of his friends lose their lives and others lose their limbs to frostbite. My sister and her family witnessed other refugees that lost their lives on the way.  She, her husband, and her two children almost died in a shipwreck.

More than half of family lives in exile, but the ones who live in Kabul are hiding because of the Taliban. My family stands for what the Taliban cannot tolerate: progress, freedom, and democracy. But we are the lucky ones, because we live to tell our tales….

Currently, I am a university student and I am devoted to making a difference in my local community. Still I work toward my goals and dreams with the hope to make a difference someday in the lives of the people I left behind in the country of my birth.

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