finally a book that speaks from the company · Global Voices in Italian

Kabul, Afghanistan, 2004. © Ivan Sigal, used with permission.

Khojasta Sameyee is a young Afghan writer who has just published a book called “Mountains have been witnesses: the story of a girl who dared more.” [en, come i link seguenti, salvo diversa indicazione]. The book, which Sameyee wrote in English with her brother, tells the story of an Afghan girl from a village who is more than determined to go to school and study. Over the years there have been numerous publications made by foreigners [it] on the lives of Afghan women, who have provided an external and often distorted point of view, this book finally offers an Afghan point of view on the subject. Global Voices interviewed Sameyee by email to ask about her experience and point of view.

Global Voices (GV): Can you describe what life is like for girls in rural Afghanistan?

Khojasta Sameyee (KS): Land Afghan women and girls witnessed improvements in their living conditions when the international community returned to Afghanistan after 2002, but these changes have not yet reached the entire country. In rural areas, girls and women have fewer opportunities to access education, mainly for security reasons, given that many schools have been destroyed, set on fire and closed by the Taliban and other terrorist groups. The general perception in rural communities is that women were created to stay at home, so there is no interest in getting an education or developing a personality of their own. Many families in the villages are ashamed to have daughters.

GV: What does a traditional family living in these areas of girls ’education think?

KS: Many families living in rural communities have negative thoughts about girls ’education. They allow girls to go to school and learn until the first or second year of high school, but not beyond, because according to their perception, the girl’s place is home. Very often, older women in the family, such as grandmothers, are the most opposed: they challenge their children to make sure young girls do not ruin the family’s reputation by staying away from home to receive an education. Unfortunately, this is a form of violence against women by other women.

GV: As an Afghan writer, what was your experience in getting an education, writing, and describing the lives of these young women in Afghanistan?

KS: As a child, I grew up in an educated family where my parents always encouraged me to do what I wanted. IS thanks for your encouragement because I am who I am today. But not everyone outside supported me: many relatives tried to tell my parents not to let me be so socially active. My two parents were educated abroad, they themselves suffered from these backward thoughts and fought for their rights. They are the real heroes for us, their children.

GV: What is the role of women in Afghan literature historically and more recently?

KS: Unfortunately, some of the still-existing customs and traditions have prevented Afghan women’s literature from fully developing, but there are traces of women in literature dating back to the 4th century. Rabbi Balkhi, who lived in the 10th century [it], is considered the first poetess and symbol of female literature. Some women have had to write under pseudonyms, such as Makhfi Badakhshi, born in the late 19th century. IS She was a very influential writer and poet, although she could not use her real name, Seyedeh Begum, to publish her works. Other great poets and writers of the same period include Mahjoubeh Heravi and Forough Farrokhzad. The most contemporary names include Ziba Al-Nisa, Goharshad Begum, Mahjoubeh Heravi, Leila Sarahat Roshani, Nadia Anjoman and Homeira Neghat Dastgirzadeh. In the 1970s, this promising generation completely disappeared as a result of the Soviet invasion and the arrival of the Taliban. Today, Humaira Qaderi is one of the most famous and rare poetesses who still manages to make her voice heard.

GV: Afghanistan has been at war for more than four decades. IS It is well known that women are often the first victims of armed conflict. What is your biggest concern for women right now when there is another political transition and there is violence?

KS: My biggest concern is that Afghan women will miss twenty years of hard-earned success. The living standards of Afghan women in urban centers have gradually changed. They now have their own voice, they can make their own decisions and have their own personality. But in rural contexts the place of women in society has not changed. Our country needed twenty more years of democracy for these changes to be institutionalized at the rural level and for our Afghan women in the districts and villages to benefit. After the last political transition, I am concerned that the milestones achieved by women are 20 years ago. He will no longer be allowed to go to school and college. The new government will not give them a role in the development of the country. In addition, economic independence is in jeopardy.

We now see women protesting against the Taliban in Herat and Kabul, want their rights, have equal opportunities and a share of government positions like men. This is for twenty years of struggles. According to the Taliban, schools should only be open to girls from first to second grade, while older girls should stay at home. For universities, they announced that all students should wear long black dresses and cover their faces. The Taliban are searching for and killing all civil society activists, women police officers, human rights activists and other women who played an active role in the previous government. The Taliban have no intention of giving any role to women in their government. They also discouraged state employees from returning to their offices until they were notified. Afghan women are about to go through another dark period and will once again be deprived of their rights.

GV: You wrote this book with your brother, and in English, which is not your native language. Tell us more about this unusual choice and what were the biggest challenges in writing a book in a foreign language? Why did you choose English?

KS: The main reason we have written in English is to facilitate the dissemination of the situation of Afghan citizens, especially women and girls, around the world. With the writing of this book in English, the language of the world, we wanted to remind people that they are grateful for the life they have, for the opportunities and the rights they have. Because in Afghanistan most people are deprived of their primary rights: to go to school, to have a voice, and ultimately to be themselves.

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