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Nadia Ramyar Life History Interview

Afghanistan is a country located in central Asia. The history of Afghanistan has been war and
terror and conflict still to present days. The Arabs introduced Islam in the 7th century and the
Turks briefly made Afghanistan the center of Islamic power and civilization at the beginning of
the 11th century. The primary religion in Afghanistan is Islam which 99% of the population
follows. Afghan people are very family oriented and religious. In their culture marriage among
cousins is highly popular and encouraged and also polygamy used to be very common but no
longer so widely practiced.

Unfortunately, just like any other culture in the Middle East, Afghan women are second class
citizens and are responsible for most of the domestic work of the house, cooking, cleaning,
entertaining and socializing children. Afghan women wear a different kind of hijab that is only
common in their own country and it is called the burqa. Women should be covered from head to
toe. In an Afghan family a woman does not belong to herself, her primary owner is her father and
then later on when married by tradition, she belongs to her husband. The Afghan culture is very
strict and a woman does not make any decisions in her life. Most Afghan girls are forced to do
arranged marriage and often times their male partners are about 4o years of age when they are
only 9 years old. Child marriages are currently a big issue in this part of the world and have
caught the attention of so many people around the world and the United Nation is looking into
solving this problem.


Nadia Ramyar Life History Interview

For this life history interview I decided to talk to this amazing lady from Afghanistan, whom I
used to work with. Her name is Hamida and she agreed to do this interview. During this
interview Hamida told me a lot about missing her land and also a lot about how being a woman
is difficult in her culture. Hamida said to me that the Afghan people still have problems living in
America because most of them cannot adapt well to the freedom and environment here. Most
Afghan couple and families face several problems when they enter a western country because the
men cannot handle the equality that their, wives or daughters gain here. Hamida thinks that a
miracle came her way when her family moved to United States of America through United
Nations located in Ankara, Turkey. Hamida and her family faced poverty when they were
refugees, but now everything is going well. She feels very thrilled because she said that if she
was still living in Afghanistan, she would have probably been married to a man with 10 kids and
5 wives since her father was dead and her mom and brothers did not feel safe having her at
home, because raping young girls is very common in their culture and in order to overcome this
problem most families force the young girls to marry older men with some property, whether or
not they are single.
Hamida does not follow the Islamic culture and the strict Afghan traditions anymore because she
feels it is so outdated and unrealistic in todays society and surprisingly her family did not try to
stop her from going to school and educating herself here in America. She thinks that the reason
her family does not try to take her freedom away is because they know how women in American
society are protected and treated and so they do not want to waste their effort and have moved
on. She is currently a math student, looking into getting her Bachelors degree from the
University of Utah and I have to say I am very proud of her. When I look at my own life and I
Nadia Ramyar Life History Interview
see that I never had such worries at such young age about being forced to marry a man with kids,
it makes me really sad and tears fill up my eyes that these Afghan girls have to go through such
emotional experiences. When I was a kid my only fear was losing my doll and changing my
school and to compare myself to Hamida and what she had on her mind as a kid is just insane.
Hamida talked to me about being a Muslim/ Afghan lady in America and the issues that come
with it. She is sometimes looked down upon by white people and she says that is the reason she
took her scarf off and decided not to wear it anymore and thats how she stopped following Islam
and its practices. Although her religious believes would have a special place in her heart, she is
mainly focused on adapting to the free world. Hamida said people are often afraid and sometimes
even want to ignore a person who is from Afghanistan and this is because their only perspective
is from what they see on TV and that is why they look at us as barbaric and terrorists. Her goal
is to become a math teacher someday and promote education among Afghan women and also to
work with United Nations to stop the arranged marriages in Afghanistan.
From this interview I have learned a lot that I did not know about an Afghan woman. It is
amazing how a religion can change a whole entire nation and put women at the very bottom of
the list, where they have to fight for their childhood to last longer. In Afghan culture where
gender defies a persons freedom, a woman could never have a peaceful life. The Afghan women
are the victims of no crime. In societies similar to Afghans gender plays a big role in an
individuals life. It is almost like a game; you win or lose; although for women it is never a win.
From doing this interview I have also learned to appreciate what I have always had as a girl and
thank my parents more often. When I see people like Hamida who just happened to get lucky, I
start thinking about those other thousands and thousands of other Afghan girls whose lives are in
dangers of war, rape, and arranged marriages. I hope that with the migration of most of the
Nadia Ramyar Life History Interview
Afghan population to Western countries, their culture will gradually start seeing a change ,
especially in the ways they treat children and women and let them have the right to educate
themselves and freely choose to wear the hijab or refuse it. I have strong believes that more and
more Afghan women will gravitate towards education and freedom and start rebuilding their
lives and a better future for their kids as well, they just need some time and space.
From this interview I also learned that I have had a much easier life in America than my Afghan
friend. In my opinion The things that Hamida had to deal with and the rules that she had to
follow while living in a first world country is just heart breaking compare to my own smooth
experience of living here. This interview impacted me so much because I never knew this much
about the life of an Afghan woman. I also grew up in a Muslim country myself and I have to say
that Iran seems to be a better place for women than Afghanistan. At first I was so shocked by all
the things she had to say about being women in Afghanistan and how they are always the ones
who have to carry the guilt and shame in any situation. This world just does not seem like a fair
place. In one hand we see the role of women in western world and how far they have become and
in the other hand we see cultures like Afghans.
At last I have to admit that I never assumed any culture in the world would be this judgmental
and cruel to women until I did this interview. This was an eye opening moment for me to
appreciate what I always had. This talk made me realize that I may have not had the best life but
my life has definitely been better compare to an Afghan woman who has to be protected and
watched by a male partner or father all the time.


Nadia Ramyar Life History Interview