Shafiqa Afghan: Amidst Endless Setbacks
Shafiqa Afghan is taking ESL classes and is currently living in Rockville, Maryland.
Ms. Afghan was born in the central highland area of Afghanistan. She studied until grade nine when her school was closed by the insurgents. She always wanted to become a medical doctor, but with her school stopped, her dreams were shattered. As the war in her valley intensified, Afghan and her family were displaced and moved to Kabul.
Ms. Afghan’s family was less convinced of supporting her education. They lived in a semi-slum area in the capital, far from high schools. However, she continued to read and write. She would read poetry and write of her shattered dreams and aspirations. She wanted to rekindle her dreams and complete her education, but all the windows closed on her future. Writing poetry was the only way to silence her dreams.
Once engaged, with the support of her partner, she would rekindle her educational dreams. After graduating from grade 9th, she had to prepare for an entrance exam to high school with about six years of gap. She successfully got into high school once again. She recalls her first day in high school in Kabul, saying, “it was very difficult to find out how much I had lost in my learning and in my life.” Once in the class, she had to quickly catch up with her previous classes to complete her high school.
She says that her school principal and teachers were extremely helpful. In Kabul, education is mainly in the Dari language, something she was new to as a Pashto native speaker. But she is thankful to her classmates who helped her bridge the language gap in some subjects. She says that “despite being older among my classmates, we lean on each other as girls in learning.” She is incredibly thankful to her classmates. While midway through grade 10th, the COVID-19 pandemic would once again make it difficult for her to realize her educational dreams. Her school was closed for most of 2020, and she would only appear for exams.
With the events of August 2021 and the Taliban takeover of Kabul, her education dreams were shattered again. She said, “it felt like endless setbacks.” But the Taliban ban on girls from pursuing high school was painful to the core. She says that “I had to complete only grade 12th, yet having gone through endless roadblocks, the final one became impossible to pass.”
Ms. Afghan and her partner had a chance to come to the United States. They arrived in Maryland in November 2021 after a long journey from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Ms. Afghan is thankful for the incredible support of individual American families who supported their journey to the United States.
Ms. Afghan is currently taking ESL classes and is hoping to complete high school and then become a medical doctor, something she has always aspired to become. She says, “I feel like if I could work hard here, I can do it in the United States. I do not have to worry about my education ban anymore.” She is determined to work hard and pursue her educational aspirations in the United States. She says, “it is here that finally, I CAN.”
Ms. Afghan celebrates her new rights as a Muslim woman in the United States. She says, “it was the happiest day ever that changed my perception of the United States; I sensed freedom under the minarets.” she admires the religious freedom that the United States offers to Muslim women. She says, ” in Afghanistan, I was unable to attend prayers at a mosque, it is unusual there, but once I arrived in the United States, as a Muslim woman, it was the first time to attend prayers in a mosque.”