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On this Nowruz, Remember Afghanistan

Posted on March 21, 2022

Written by AUW

“The bloody massacre in Bangladesh quickly covered over the memory of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, the assassination of Allende drowned out the groans of Bangladesh, the war in the Sinai Desert made people forget Allende, the Cambodian massacre made people forget Sinai, and so on and so forth until ultimately everyone lets everything be forgotten.”

Milan Kundera in The Book of Laughter & Forgetting

Yesterday, on the eve of Nowruz, I met with two of our Afghan alumnae –  Khatima and Najia, in the outskirts of Islamabad.  I had first met Najia years ago when she was in eighth or ninth grade.  I had become curious about the source of an extraordinary group of Afghan students at AUW.  They all came from a school called Marefat located some hour and half outside of Kabul city in deep Hazara country.  I had gone to see its headmaster, Aziz Royesh, to learn about him (a Mujahadeen fighter who was a Fellow at Yale) and see some its students first hand in their own setting. Once in Marefat, I found myself addressing hundreds of students in an elaborate program. That’s how Najia and I had first met.  Now, Najia who on graduation from AUW worked with a UN agency in Kabul has left everything behind in Kabul and found refuge in Pakistan. Here she waits for a bridge to another country where she and her ailing mother would pursue yet another chapter in their lives.

But those bridges have become shorter in supply.  As Najia and her mother wait in their own Casablanca, the world’s attention has already shifted. A colleague in Switzerland whom I had earlier implored to help mobilize resources to help AUW arrange the education of 500 Afghan women (171 of whom are already in Chittagong) wrote two days ago:  “Fundraising to support the educational opportunities of Afghan women is difficult at the moment in Switzerland and Europe, as the focus of donors is currently on alleviating the plight of Ukrainian refugees”.

On this occasion of Nowruz, I wanted to write and reaffirm AUW’s commitment to all the Khatimas and Najias in Afghanistan:  We stand by you, just as we did yesterday and the day before; no shadows will blind your sight from us; AUW will continue its recruitment of new students from Afghanistan uninterrupted; next year, inshallah, we will celebrate Nowruz in Chittagong with all our 500 Afghan students at AUW with every one of the seven symbols of Nowruz – wisdom, beauty, rebirth, power, health, satisfaction and tolerance – still intact.

With that hope and prayer,

Kamal Ahmad
Asian University for Women


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