“We can’t go to school, university, work, nor can we play our favourite sports. We had no choice but to leave our country”. Interview with a climber, a Hazara, from Afghanistan.
I am Asma Nazari from Afghanistan, I live with my older sister in Krakow, Poland, right now. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the climbing. Despite all the horror that is happening in Afghanistan right now I know I was very lucky from the very beginning. I owe most of this to the International Climbers’ Organisation, Ascend, which I joined while I was still a student. It is a nongovernmental organization that is created for women by women and aims to empower girls in Afghanistan to become leaders through sports.
Sisterhood in climbing
As part of the programme we had sports but also psychological activities. They helped me to achieve self-confidence. We traveled to the most beautiful corners of Afghanistan to train. I went on those trips three times. It was an amazing opportunity and adventure. I made so many female friends in the organization, I really felt empowered. Good things happened that year.
And then the Taliban came and took over Kabul. They are a bunch of uneducated people who want to govern our country and implement their own rules on us which are unacceptable, especially for women and girls. We can not go to school, university, and work, nor we can not play our favourite sports.
We had no choice but to leave our country and I’m very grateful for the support of the Ascend which helped us to do so before any harm was done me, but I am also worried about my family. My younger sister cannot go to school. She should go to 11th grade this year, but she won’t, and also she doesn’t leave the house to participate in the extracurricular activities she used to attend. My mother is too afraid that something might happen to her. She has been a very good student and her great passion is theatre. She loves acting and also used to write plays. I wish my family were here with us.
Infinite peace in the mosque
I was brought up in a Muslim family and my parents tried their best to teach me about my religion. They taught me how to pray and recite Quran Kareem. When I enter a mosque, I feel infinite peace, only good thoughts come to me. This feeling helps me to understand that we are all equal and to try my best to be good to myself and others. I am very thankful for everything that God has given to me thus far.
A freedom to wear a hijab and a pride of being Hazara
The Taliban do not understand Islam. They claim to be Muslim, but they don’t allow women to study, work, to leave the house. I don’t know this kind of Islam. Islam places great importance on self-development and education, good deeds, and being loyal. This is the religion I have learned from my parents.
Here in Poland, I feel safe but I also want to feel comfortable when I wear my scarf. I remember the day I was going for a walk with my sister. We look very similar, but I was the only one who attracted attention. At one point I realised that I had thrown my headscarf over my head out of habit. When I took it off, people stopped staring at me.
I am an Afghan Hazara. The Hazara people are one of the minorities in Afghanistan. For more than a century, the Hazara community has suffered discrimination and persecution because of their ethnicity. In the 1890s, 60% of the Hazara population was killed as a result of ethnic cleansing. Hazaras were victims of various forms of oppression during Pashtun rule. There were acts of slavery, systematic displacement from their ancestral homes and lands, and massacres. It’s too difficult for me when I see and read bad news about my homeland. But recently there has been a protest in Warsaw against the genocide of the Hazaras. As I listened to the cries of the women demonstrating, I couldn’t hold back the tears. Attacks on Hazara education centers happen all the time. The genocide continues and the world does not hear it.
I wish for real peace for my country and my people from the bottom of my heart and I hope that I will be able to go to Afghanistan one day.
As Salam Lab, we are part of a unique grant and educational project EMPATHY (Let’s Empower, Participate and Teach Each Other to Hype Empathy. Challenging discourse about Islam and Muslims in Poland), which takes a comprehensive and intersectional approach to counter Islamophobia in Poland. You can read more about it on our website here.
The project has received funding from the European Union. However, the views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Commission. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.