On December 20th, 2022, all women and girls in Afghanistan were barred from attending high school and university.
Education saves lives and fosters a sense of agency for all people. It is imperative to raise awareness about the situation in Afghanistan and support legislation that will help those trying to flee.
Mina is a human rights activist and student at Arizona State University. She evacuated Afghanistan in August 2021. Since moving to the US, she has consistently advocated for her family and fellow Afghans by rallying her community in Arizona and others across the country.
In 2022, she participated in JRS/USA’s Advocacy Day, where she described her own experience fleeing Afghanistan in 2021 to members of the US Congress.
Mina is also a part of the Hazara community, an ethnic and religious minority in Central Afghanistan. She said that her family instilled in her the importance of going to school, pursuing her ambitions, and harnessing her human rights.
At their dinner table, there was always room for discussions and conversation. She and her sisters could voice their opinions and respectfully challenge their parents’ views, which helped her, and her sisters find their own voices and strengthen their advocacy skills.
Mina also spoke of the family dynamics in her household. Growing up, there were times that her mother was the only source of income while her father was unable to find work. This experience helped Mina expand her idea of gender roles. “It was visible to me that Mom could go to work and Dad could be there to help with everything at home.”
She said such a space for discussion helped equip her with the tools for her future and instilled her with confidence as she has encountered opportunities in higher education. “It made me more ambitious to pursue and reach my dreams,” Mina said.
Mina’s ultimate dream is for all women and girls have equal access to quality education.
In the months leading to the ban on all women and girl’s education, fear and violence escalated. Mina referenced a bombing that took place on September 30th, 2022. While nearly 500 students were taking a practice entrance exam in the Kaj education center in Kabul, Afghanistan, a bomb went off in the female student’s section. 53 people died and most of the victims were young women.
When women and girls were prohibited from attending secondary school, her sisters and cousins began gathering in secret to study together.
Since then, for fear of persecution, her family has fled the country.
Now, all women and girls are explicitly prohibited from pursuing an education, in some locations they cannot travel more than 60 km without a male chaperone, and have no representation in the government. Still, with resilience and hope, they are finding ways to educate each other in secret.
From Arizona State University, Mina is rallying her Hazara and Afghan community. They have hosted vigils, protests on campus, and have called upon the United Nations and U.S. Government to protect Afghans and support equal access to education for all people.
As violence continues and human rights violations worsen against Afghan women, the fight for protection is far from over.
“The US must do everything in its power to offer protection and security for as long as necessary to those requiring our assistance” said JRS/USA Executive Director in response to the crisis in Afghanistan.
One way that Americans can help Mina and other Afghan women in their advocacy efforts is by sending messages to their representatives to support the Afghan Adjustment Act. The legislation supports people fleeing violence and persecution in Afghanistan and provides them with proper legal status in the US. To learn more about how you can help JRS efforts to support Afghan refugees visit this page.