Girl Security Zine

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Introduction In 2022, Girl Security set out to provide a space for girls, women, and gender minorities globally to share their ideas and insights about some of our most pressing global security challenges. This special edition zine, Security Matters, features winning essays by high school and college-aged essayist, in addition to five essays by Afghan girls and young women who fled their homes amid the Afghan Evacuation. Girl Security’s mission is to drive the full participation of underrepresented populations in national security, starting with girls, women, and gender minorities. Though we concede that nearly all national security issues - even those that appear domestic in nature - have global implications. Full participation includes amplifying important intergenerational ideas on these issues, providing platforms for expression, and ensuring thought leaders across the private and public sectors are prioritizing these perspectives, in addition to supporting those seeking pathways in these sectors to advance. We invite you to read this important collection of essays and consider the perspectives of this diverse cohort of authors. As noted, this edition includes five essays by Afghan girls. While their essays depart from the tone and format of the winning essayists, as runners-up, they present a powerful, complementary narrative that demands attention. Girl Security adheres assiduously to the belief that no nation, certainly no democracy, can ever be fully secure, so long as the security of girls and women remains deprioritized, ignored, or compartmentalized. Congratulations to these essayists for putting their ideas out in the world. Lauren Buitta, Founder and CEO, Girl Security


Table of Contents Introduction ..........................................................................................................................1

Essay Contest Winners Transnationalism: A Viable Alternative to Canadian-Style Multiculturalism as a Vehicle for Cultural Integration? Fatima, from Ontario, Canada ..........................................................................................3 The Future of Security in Northern Ireland After Brexit Eden, from California, USA ................................................................................................8 Sexual Harassment Since the #MeToo Movement in Authoritarian Regimes: Security Policies and Strategies Vivi, from Texas, USA.......................................................................................................13 Identity in Global Affairs: Where We’ve Gone Wrong and the Road to Reform By Rachel, USA ..................................................................................................................17

Afghan Girls How has identity shaped and affected global policy and international security? How do you believe identity should inform global policy and international security moving forward? ..............................................................................................23 Devastated Dreamers .....................................................................................................29 Do Not Look Away...........................................................................................................31 Education Is the Key to a Better Life ..........................................................................33 The Rose That Grew From Concrete ...........................................................................35 2

Transnationalism: A Viable Alternative to Canadian-Style Multiculturalism as a Vehicle for Cultural Integration? By Fatima, Ontario, Canada Introduction Immigration has fundamentally changed the racial and ethnic composition of Canada. With 21.6% of the population identifying as immigrants, long gone are the days of a Canada comprised of primarily French and British settlers and subjugated Indigenous peoples (Statistics Canada, 2016). While diversity has effectively become synonymous with the country, immigration was not always a celebrated facet of Canadiana. In fact, at various points in Canadian history, diversity and immigration were explicitly rebuked. Federal, provincial, and municipal governments have all adopted assimilationist policies. 1923 marked a particularly shameful episode; the Chinese Immigration Act passed and prohibited the immigration of all peoples of Chinese descent. However, the stymieing of difference was not exclusive to immigration. Ethnic and racial groups already present in Canada were subject to suspicion and segregation. From the Japanese Canadians herded into internment camps during World War II to the centuries-long project to erase the Indigenous populations in Canada,


anti-diversity bigotry has manifested itself in Canada in violent and visceral ways. Given this context, the 1971 House of Commons speech by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau marked an inflection point in the country’s relationship with difference—particularly ethnic, racial, and religious diversity. The speech came on the heels of the “Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism [which] was a response to growing francophone nationalism in Quebec” (The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2020). 1971 also marked the creation of a uniquely Canadian style of multiculturalism. The nebulous term “Canadian-style multiculturalism” has come to define the general positive attitude Canadians hold towards immigrants. It is defined by its emphasis on integration and co-existence, not assimilation – hence the oft-used metaphor of Canada being a “mosaic”. “Canadian-style multiculturalism” is not just a sentiment but has also been codified in law through various immigration laws. Globally, Canada’s

immigration stance has earned bewilderment and praise. Within its border, response has also been mixed. “Canadian-style multiculturalism” professedly offers immigrants the ability to retain their ethnic and cultural identities while also allowing for equal participation in Canadian society, as compared to native-born Canadians. Critics have disparaged “Canadian-style multiculturalism” for encouraging the siloing of groups along ethnic and cultural lines, thus fostering a “psychology of separation”. Conversely, others decry “Canadian-style multiculturalism” policies for not considering the complex reality of immigrant life (multiple citizenship, remittances, connection to homeland through internet and social media, etc.) and for tacitly expecting immigrants to choose being Canadian over all other identities. As a result, a topic of immigration studies that has burgeoned in recent decades is transnationalism. Defined broadly by famed migration scholar Nina Glick Schiller as “the processes by which immigrants build social fields that link together their country of origin and their country of settlement”, transnationalism addresses the blurring of immigrant activities and identities (Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1992).



Given the reality of immigrant life in Canada, does “Canadian-style multiculturalism” adequately offer immigrants the opportunity to integrate and feel a part of their new home? Or is a new paradigm needed to ensure that immigrants are suitably integrated? This paper intends to determine mechanism transnationalism’s viability as a form of integration by contrasting it with the current cultural integration mechanism of Canada, “Canadian-style multiculturalism,” through the lens of immigrant identities and state agencies. The Limits of Canadian Multiculturalism While 1971 may have marked the beginning of “Canadian-style multiculturalism”, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act of 1988 explicitly grants “the freedom of all members of Canadian society to preserve, enhance and share their cultural heritage” (Government of Canada, n.d.). One can deduce from that statement, enshrined in law, that immigrants are granted the freedom to acknowledge their origins, instead of assimilating into their new homeland. However, the aforementioned statement has also been used as an example of the shallowness of “Canadian-style multiculturalism”. “Canadian-style multiculturalism” is often seen as superficial rather than fostering true multiplicity. The superficiality is derived from the emphasis on overt symbols of diversity like dress, cuisine, and customs. Difference in cultural practices and political opinions are not to be carried over. In essence, “Canadian-style multiculturalism” creates strict parameters in which an immigrant can express their heritage and deviations are admonished and punished. One episode that exposed the omnipresent rules that govern the immigrant experience in Canada was the condemnation of feminist scholar Sunera Thobani after her speech decrying Canada’s role in aiding and abetting American imperialism. Her speech came after the 9/11 attacks and the consequential decision made by then-president George W. Bush to invade Afghanistan. In her article, “The Disciplinary Boundaries of Canadian Identity After September 11: Civilizational Identity, Multiculturalism, And the Challenge of Anti-Imperialist Feminism”, academic Sedef Arat-Koc deftly breaks down the specific norms Thobani broke by criticizing the choice Canada made to embark on the War on Terror along with its American ally. Due to the hollowness of “Canadian-style multiculturalism”, identity can be quickly weaponized against dissenters, particularly immigrant dissenters. Deviating from the role of “a good Canadian immigrant”, Thobani’s transnational politics and advocacy for international communities created tensions

That simply could not and cannot be accommodated in a Canada that uses “Canadian-style multiculturalism” as a cultural integration method. There remains a pervasive narrative that a singular, mainstream Canadian society and ideal exist, and immigrants are not to fundamentally “mess it up”; instead, they should conform themselves and their ethnic and/or cultural identities into a palatable form. Thobani’s refusal to minimize a facet of herself to appease others garnered scrutiny and scorn. While this episode is memorable for the media coverage it garnered, it is a routine occurrence in the country. The rigidity of the borders of “belonging” or “being integrated” in Canada, due to “Canadian-style multiculturalism,” has made some ask if the entire project of multiculturalism in Canada is worth it. If an immigrant cannot fully inhabit their beliefs, politics, and values, are they truly free to “preserve, enhance, and share their cultural heritage”?

has had a long history of identity formation, during which it has strategically exploited ethnic labour by maintaining a moderate level of negation and sublation among minority groups” (Mackenzie Art, 2021). The immigration policies of Canada ensure a level of demurity among immigrants which, in turn, feeds into the passivity of “Canadian-style multiculturalism”. If one must prove they are worthy of immigrating to Canada, then they would not jeopardize their position by expressing “un-Canadian” opinions. Given the context and conditions immigrants immigrate under, a Canada that allows for immigrants to truly embody multiple identities simply cannot exist along with “Canadian-style multiculturalism”. Immigrants are confined not only by borders but also by the public imagination. Therefore, “Canadian-style multiculturalism” is an ideology that flattens diversity and discourages nuance.

"From the Japanese Canadians herded into internment camps during World War II to the centuries long project to erase the Indigenous populations in Canada, anti-diversity bigotry has manifested itself in Canada in violent and visceral ways." Critics of “Canadian-style multiculturalism” have also railed against the way in which it is not an actual diversity and inclusion policy, but a thinly veiled economic one considering how Canada accepts immigrants. Canadian immigration policies prioritize highly skilled and highly educated immigrants. Diversity has become seen as a way to earn a competitive advantage on the global stage, with immigration becoming an instrument to boost the economic output of the nation. The immigration process is an onerous one, which facilitates self-sorting. Potential immigrants must prove their worth in the eyes of an immigration officer and ensure that their migration to Canada will yield dividends for their new homeland. In their essay, “Human Capital and the Formation of Canadian Identity”, Tak Pham argues that “economic and immigration policies suggest that Canada

Transnationalism as a New Paradigm Given the limits of “Canadian-style multiculturalism” and its inability to accept or accommodate complexity, perhaps it is time for policymakers and Canadians alike to consider a new way to integrate immigrants into greater Canadian society. Transnationalism emerges as an alternative to “Canadian-style multiculturalism” as an apparatus that allows for multitudes. While some scholars consider transnationalism as a heightened extension of multiculturalism, this paper will consider it as a stand-alone theory. Transnationalism offers deeper connections to one’s place of origin while also allowing for the participation and settlement into a new country. The multifaceted nature of immigrant life is taken into account, and instead of forcing immigrants to choose or pledge fidelity, transnationalism allows for plurality. 4

Transnationalism is inextricably linked to globalization and the rise of telecommunications and international travel. Per the International Organization for Migration, “the accelerated development of communication, transport, trade and information networks through globalization has strengthened the connections of migrants to two or more places” (International Organization for Migration, 2010). An immigrant messaging a relative back home on WhatsApp is arguably a transnationalistic act, despite how innocuous it seems. A defining feature of transnationalism is “social remittances” where beneficial exchanges are made between an immigrant’s newly adopted homeland and their place of origin. In particular, “Migrants may be engaged in social or political activism to raise awareness about their country of origin in their host country, they may advocate for improved protection of human rights, or raise funds to support communities in home countries” (International Organization for Migration, 2010). A salient example of immigrants sharing the values and virtues of their new homeland with their place of origin was Egyptian immigrants in Canada using the internet to blog and support the democratic revolutions in the North African country. Termed the “Arab Spring”, rallies and demonstrations in support of a democratic government in Egypt were held in Canadian cities, organized by the diaspora, alongside demonstrations in Egypt (The Globe and Mail, 2013). Another major event that saw transnationalism championed was the response from the Haitian diaspora after devastating 2011 earthquake that effectively leveled the island nation. (Journal of Black Studies, 2011). Haitians abroad were able to successfully lobby governments for aid. While these may be anecdotal proofs, migration scholars have been able to quantify and measure the influence transnational immigrants have and whether they are truly able to integrate into greater Canadian society.

Academic Vic Satzewich refutes an oftrepeated criticism of transnationalism; that transnationalism faciltates harmful and antisocial behaviors “in the form of engagements in "motherland" issues, dual political loyalties, and the import of “old world" conflicts into Canada” (International Journal. 2007). In his 2007 article “Multiculturalism, Transnationalism, and the Hijacking of Canadian Foreign Policy: Pseudo-Problem?”, Satzewich argues that transnationalism is not a dangerous force in Canada that leads to the undermining of the government, but merely the manifestation of decades of evolving social, political and economic forces. Contextually, the article was published months after the 2006 Lebanon War where Lebanese Canadians were flown out of the country and repatriated to Canada. The mission was costly and became a lightning rod for transnationalism criticism; these were not real citizens whose only connection to Canada was a passport some argued. As such transnationalism has been accused of impeding one’s sense of belonging, and by extension, fidelity, to Canada. However, data has painted a different picture. Satzewich cites the “Ethnic Diversity Survey”, a Statistics Canada data product. The conclusions from this survey are “a strong sense of belonging to an ethnic or cultural group is not incompatible with a strong sense of belonging to Canada, belonging to an ethnic community and belonging to Canada are not zero-sum attachments [and] a strong sense of ethnic belonging is correlated with a strong sense of belonging to Canada” (International Journal. 2007). Furthermore, it can be argued that transnationalism is the de facto state many immigrants find themselves in. More and more immigrants are employed across borders, participate in politics across borders and even raise families across borders. Despite this, immigrants still feel a sense of belonging and feel adequately integrated into Canada. On the whole, transnationalism is expansionary and allows for immigrants to essentially “mixand-match” an identity, which is in stark contrast to “Canadian-style multiculturalism’s” presets. Satzewich’s research focuses primarily on sentiments of integration. In his article “Transnationalism, Active Citizenship, and Belonging in Canada”, scholar Lloyd Wong attempts to answer the perennial criticism of transnationalism, that it leads to lower civic participation, by using the most quantifiable aspect of transnationalism, multiple citizenships. If transnationalism yielded lower participation in greater Canadian society, than one could conclude definitively that it is not an effective method of integration.

Integration, in this context, is considered an immigrant’s level of participation in sports, community organizations and civic groups. Using the “Ethnic Diversity Survey”, Wong conclusively determines that holding multiple citizenship does not impact one’s ability to integrate into Canada and that the participation in the aforementioned activities are around the same level of native-born Canadians. Interestingly enough, transnational immigrants are less likely to participate politically in Canada, with a significant number not voting in any elections. However, the extent to which this occurs is minimal. Wong’s argument that transnationalism is, in fact, wholly compatible with active citizenship in Canada is grounded in robust statistical analysis. Wong’s assessment of transnationalism in Canada complements the conclusions made by Satzewich; transnationalism, in fact, allows for immigrants to integrate into their new home. While transnationalism receives negative coverage due to perceived “dual-loyalties”, transnationalism is by and large a successful integration method.

The Viability of Transnationalism This paper has, to this point, focused on the positive values of transnationalism but what is notably absent is any sort of analysis of concerted policy efforts to promote transnationalism. That may be due to the ubiquitous nature of transnationalism therefore, there is no need for codification in law. However, the lack of transnationalism legislation akin to the 1988 Canadian Multiculturalism Act is due to the potential consequences of promoting complex identities. Nation-states like Canada are defined by their sovereignty, which in turn ensures independence in political matters. Transnationalism directly confronts that through the process of “social remittances” where cultural exchanges are done both inside and outside the purview of the government. This paper has covered the positives of social remittance like advocating for democracy and securing aid for disaster-struck countries. However, transnationalism also allows for the diffusion of less savoury cultural practices. Thusly, the simplicity, or “superficiality”, “Canadian-style multiculturalism” offers can be a refuge for some. 5

Complexity is not always welcomed, particularly when considering the national security of nation-states. In recent years, tensions between immigrants from Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong have flared in Canada arguably due to their transnationalism status. These conflicts are most apparent in international students and new immigrants. Protests against Hong Kong and Taiwanese independence and counter-protests have taken place on campuses and public squares across Canada (The Conversation, 2020). These skirmishes have gone beyond just being inter-ethnic but have begun to affect greater Canadian society. Canadian officials have accused the Chinese Communist Party of interfering in the 2021 federal election in ridings with large Chinese populations through Chinese Canadian residents (Global News, 2021). Communication apps like WeChat were purposefully inundated with misinformation regarding Progressive Conservative Party candidates’ stances on China. Chinese Canadian candidates were the target of especially scornful posts. This instance illustrates the potential risks posed by transnationalism and the participation in binational politics, especially when the postures of the immigrants’ new home and place of origin are diametrically opposed. Furthermore, transnationalism’s lack of viability from a nation-state perspective is reinforced in the literature available on transnationalism. While scholars like Wong and Satzewich extoll the virtues of transnationalism as a cultural integration scheme, rarely are policy alternatives offered. Distinguished transnational scholar Robert Latham has written extensively on how multiculturalism is no longer relevant in Canada. In fact, in his article “What Are We? From a Multicultural to a Multiversal Canada”, Latham advocates for a complete rethinking of diversity in Canada.

Using a multiversal framework defined as a “conceptual place-holder for a complex, overlapping, inconsistent social formation”, Latham correctly identifies the limiting nature of Canadian-style multiculturalism (International Journal, 2007/2008). The multiversal theory he advances proposes more solutions, possibilities and choices for Canadian public policy. Multiversity is a manifestation of transnationalism, with overlapping spheres of influence dictating how trans-national immigrants operate and function in their new home country. However, Latham stops short of offering actual policy for how multiversity and transnationalism would look like in action, relying on hypotheticals. Latham’s words lend credibility to the argument that transnationalism has already cemented a place in Canadian society as an integration mechanism but remains unable to be defined in legislative terms and codes for it to be an official policy stance. To further understand the motivations of people who identify as transnationalist and its viability, an interview was conducted with Ayan Ismail, a social entrepreneur living in Ottawa, Ontario. Born in Somalia, Ayan immigrated in the 1990s after a civil war broke out in her homeland. Initially, the physical distance between her and her country of birth allowed her to emmesh herself further into her new homeland, to a point where she primarily identified as Canadian. However, her relationship with her place of origin changed once she became employed and was tasked with financially supporting her family back home. The financial connection she had created with her homeland gave way for a new relationship with her identity. After realizing that her relatives were paying far too much for potable water, she was able to successfully organize to have a well built near their homes.

“The national security implications of transnationalism make it at odds with the tenets that govern nationstates.”

This course of action was only available to her due the vested financial stake she had. Ismail then went on to start a non-profit organization that raises money to build wells in Somalia while also educating Canadians and Somalis alike of the importance of water conservation. Remittances have become a defining aspect of transnationalism and the fiscal power immigrants wield has allowed them to have outsized influence on the going on’s of their place of origin. Conversely, Sara Shaik, an octogenarian who immigrated from India in the 1960s, has a remarkedly different perspective on her identity as a multi-hyphenate Canadian. An economic migrant, Shaik has made concerted efforts to participate into her new homeland and fundamentally rejects the transnational framework of cultural integration. As the head of various civic groups in Ottawa, Shaik sees multiculturalism as the ability to eschew regressive cultural practices and discordant politics. She is able to share what she wants, rather than be defined by or be expected to respond to happenings thousands of kilometers away. Fault lines along age and immigration circumstances are clearly seen in the aforementioned examples. Transnationalism assumes that immigrants intend to keep relations and ties to their place of origin. It would pe presumptuous to assume that immigrants have an equal amount of affection for their new home and place of origin. Indifference and apathy towards a place of origin and a newly adopted home could be possible. Another rising tension is the emergence of third-culture individuals which does not lend itself well the binary transnationalism frequently imposes. The complexity that transnationalism champions, ironically, is what makes it so difficult for it to become state-mandated policy. 6

Conclusion Transnationalism’s emergence as a subject of interest among migration scholars as an alternative to “Canadian-style multiculturalism” is inextricably linked to the increased globalization and interconnectedness of the world. A limiting theory, “Canadian-style multiculturalism” dictates the terms upon which an immigrant can express their cultural heritage. Transnationalism’s varied manifestations makes it more sensitive to nuance and intricacy. With the likes of WhatsApp and the OMNI Channel, immigrants are creating and melding hybrid identities with no fix set of rules. This complexity, however, does not always bode well for countries like Canada. The national security implications of transnationalism make it at odds with the tenets that govern nationstates. As such, the political risks of adopting transnational policies are far too great for it to become an official cultural integration method. Nonetheless, as the literature review indicates, the reality is immigrants already live transnational lives, regardless of official recognition from the federal government. Most immigrant identities are trans-national ones, regardless of the cultural integration policies of their new home countries. This is seen in how most businesses created by immigrants (shipping and air cargo companies, import-export firms, labor contractors, and money transfer houses) include a transnational component (Anthropological Quarterly, 1995). And for as long as globalization remains a force in the world, transnationalism will remain a major component of the immigrant experience.

REFERENCES Arat-Koc, S. (2005). The Disciplinary Boundaries of Canadian Identity After September 11: Civilizational Identity, Multiculturalism, And the Challenge of AntiImperialist Feminism. Canadian Woman Studies, 24(4), 32-49. Retrieved December 17, 2021. Berry, D. (2020, March 25). Canadian Multiculturalism Act. Retrieved December 17, 2021, from article/canadian-multiculturalism-act# Boutilier, A. (2021, December 16). Conservatives believe 13 ridings were targeted by foreign interference in 2021 election. Retrieved December 17, 2021, from vatives-foreign-interference-canada-election2021/ Cheek, T., & Jeffery, C. (2021, March 18). Can we talk? Bridging campus divides over Hong Kong. Retrieved December 17, 2021, from Geertz, C. (2004). What Is a State If It Is Not a Sovereign? Current Anthropology, 45(5), 577593. doi:10.1086/423972

Government of Canada. (2021, October 27). 2016 Census Profile. Retrieved December 17, 2021, from Lang=E&Geo1=PR&Code1=01&Geo2=PR&Co de2=01&SearchText=Canada&SearchType=B egins&SearchPR=01&B1=Immigration and citizenship&TABID=1&type=1 Government of Canada. (2021, December 09). Consolidated federal laws of Canada, Canadian Multiculturalism Act. Retrieved December 17, 2021, from International Organization for Migration. (2010, March 9). World Migration Report 2010 [PDF]. International Organization for Migration. Latham, R. (2008). What Are We? From a Multicultural to a Multiversal Canada. Canadian Review of Sociology, 45(1), 23-42. doi:10.1177/002070200806300103 Lundy, G. (2011). Transnationalism in the Aftermath of the Haiti Earthquake: Reinforcing Ties and Second-Generation Identity. Canadian Review of Sociology, 48(2), 203-224. doi:10.1177/0021934710394444

Nasrallah, E. M. (2013, February 22). How the Arab Spring sparked a Canadian awakening. Retrieved December 17, 2021, from ow-the-arab-spring-sparked-a-canadianawakening/article8964458/ Pham, T. (2021, January 15). Human Capital and the Formation of Canadian Identity. Retrieved December 17, 2021, from Satzewich, V. (2008). Multiculturalism, Transnationalism, and the Hijacking of Canadian Foreign Policy. Canadian Review of Sociology, 45(1), 43-62. doi:10.1177/002070200806300104 Schiller, N. G., Basch, L., & Blanc-Szanton, C. (1992). Transnationalism: A New Analytic Framework for Understanding Migration. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 645(1), 1-24. doi:10.1111/j.17496632.1992.tb33484.x Schiller, N. G., Basch, L., & Szanton-Blanc, C. (1995). From Immigrant to Transmigrant: Theorizing Transnational Migration. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 18(1), 48. doi:10.2307/3317464 Wong, L. L. (2008). Transnationalism, Active Citizenship, and Belonging in Canada. Canadian Review of Sociology, 45(1), 79-100. doi:10.1177/002070200806300106 7

The Future of Security in Northern Ireland After Brexit By Eden, from California, USA Northern Ireland has always been a place riven by identity. Catholics vs. Protestants, nationalists vs. unionists, Irish vs. English—the region has rarely known peace between its factions. At least not until the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). That landmark peace accord, signed by all parties in 1998, brought about an end to the “Troubles” and ushered in a new era of relative harmony. The GFA has done more to secure peace in Northern Ireland’s fractured history than any other event or piece of legislation. The GFA was a miraculous achievement for the people of Northern Ireland. But the gains of the GFA, and the peace it has brought, are now in jeopardy. The culprit, at least tangentially, is “Brexit”, the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union that began in 2020. Brexit, and the political forces which spawned it, have led to a cascading series of decisions which threaten to undo the GFA and eviscerate its positive impact on the region. This essay will first provide the historical background for the centuries-old identity war that has shaped Northern Ireland. It will then consider the effects of Brexit on the region and explain why there is no expedient political solution to the problem.

High School

1. History of the Tensions in Northern Ireland The recent resurgence of tensions in Northern Ireland can be traced back to the sectarian conflict of the Troubles. Britain controlled areas of the island of Ireland since the twelfth century. The divide between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland first began in the seventeenth century when Britain sent English citizens to settle in Ireland with the intent to make Ireland a British colony and create what was known as the “Plantation.” This process produced a large population of British and majority Protestant immigrants on the island (Doherty). Thus began a divide between Protestants who arrived from Britain and the Catholics who were already living in Ireland. In 1801, the British succeeded in uniting Great Britain and Ireland under a central government, the United Kingdom. Those citizens who were not aligned with Britain chafed at rule by the United Kingdom. After years of tumult, the southern and majority Catholic portion of the island of Ireland gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1921. The area was officially recognized as independent from the United Kingdom by the Republic of Ireland Act in 1949.

The northern region of the island, with a mainly Protestant population, chose to remain part of the United Kingdom. This is the region where most British immigrants settled during the Plantation. Officially called Northern Ireland, this region covers a 5,400-square-mile area in the northeast of the island populated today by about two million people (Gladstone). Northern Ireland is bordered by the Republic of Ireland on the south and west and is separated from the rest of the United Kingdom by the Irish Sea on the east. Despite geographic separation, identity had been predominantly associated with the United Kingdom. 2. Cultural, Religious and Familial Identities Fueled Political Allegiances The two cultural groups in Northern Ireland are often defined by religious ideation; however, the divide between Catholics and Protestants is not rooted in religion. The opposing groups are marked by their stance on whether Northern Ireland should be part of the Republic of Ireland or remain in the United Kingdom. Unionists want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom. Nationalists desire Northern Ireland to form a united Ireland with the Republic of Ireland ("Northern Ireland: Peace Accords").



Religion can still be used as an indicator of political allegiance because for the majority of Northern Irelanders, religion corresponded to their political affiliation and familial ties. In general, unionists are Protestant with ties to the United Kingdom, and nationalists are Catholic with a closer allegiance to the Republic of Ireland. 3. The Troubles After centuries of simmering tensions, the hostilities in Northern Ireland between the Protestants and Catholics came to a head in the late 1960s. The conflict began as each group held demonstrations met with violence from the other. In 1968, nationalist activists planned a march to protest the discrimination they felt from unionist government officials. Officials banned the march, but the protestors defied the order and were attacked by the English-backed police. Nationalists held another protest several months later when they were attacked by a unionist mob. During the city of Derry’s annual Protestant Apprentice Boys parade in August of 1969, the procession was stoned by local Catholic teens. A three-day riot then ensued when thousands of Catholic/Irish nationalist residents of the Bogside district in Derry clashed with the police who were closely followed by a crowd of Protestants (Bew 495). This event, referred to as the “Battle of the Bogside,” prompted the next thirty years of sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland. The violence committed by both nationalist and unionist paramilitary groups killed more than 3,500 people (Landow). After years of efforts to achieve peace in the region, the conflict largely ended in 1998 by the negotiation and signing of the Good Friday Agreement, known as the Belfast Agreement, between the Irish and British governments and the Northern Ireland political parties. The GFA set forth a plan for the governance of Northern Ireland. The agreement established a government in Northern Ireland focused on balancing power between the unionists and the nationalists by majority rule.

“While the current heightened tensions may not seem like an imminent crisis, given the historical context and current political instability caused by Brexit, the rise in tensions are ominous and must not be overlooked.” The GFA “has contributed to a sharp reduction in violence, and the annual conflict-related death toll, which peaked at 480 in 1972, has dropped to the single digits in recent years” (Landow). The relative peace achieved was not without complications when the United Kingdom reimposed direct rule twice in the early 2000’s. Nevertheless, by about halfway into the 2010s, the government established by the GFA operated well and kept the peace. 4. Withdrawal from the European Union At the time of the GFA, the United Kingdom had been a part of the European Union for twenty-five years. As the European Union grew in its demands of member countries to align on economic, social welfare and other legislation, the United Kingdom continued to opt out of more and more requirements while enjoying the benefits of loosened trade and travel restrictions among European Union members. While part of the European Union, Northern Ireland benefitted from open borders with the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the European Union, even though, as a constituent of the United Kingdom, it maintained the pound as its currency, rather than embracing the euro used in the Republic of Ireland and elsewhere in the European Union. With the ease of trade and border crossing restrictions between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the “us” versus “them” mentality that characterized the Troubles lessened. Particularly in those areas that bordered the Republic of Ireland, the benefits of a closer association with the Republic of Ireland and the expansion of free trade and travel between the countries caused the allegiance with the United Kingdom to wane.

In 2016, with the rise of a conservative, inward-looking political movement in Britain, the citizens of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union by a narrow vote of 51.9% to 48.1% (Uberoi). After years of trade and travel freedoms with the Republic of Ireland and the European Union, most Northern Ireland voters felt differently. By a vote of 55.8% to 44.2%, a majority of the people of Northern Ireland opposed leaving the European Union (Uberoi). Withdrawing from the European Union jeopardized the stability of the region by leaving open the possibility of re-introducing a schism between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and flaming the history of tensions in the region. On December 31, 2020, the United Kingdom officially left the European Union in what was known as “Brexit.” As a result of Brexit, “the UK has lost the rights and benefits it had as an EU Member State and it is no longer a part of the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union or covered by the EU’s international agreements” (“The Impact of Brexit on Ireland”). The withdrawal complicated the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as the United Kingdom looked to reclaim Northern Ireland and dismantle its inclusion in the European Union. 5. The Northern Ireland Protocol As part of the overall Withdrawal Agreement that the European Union negotiated with the United Kingdom, the Northern Ireland Protocol came into force on January 1, 2021 to define the new relationship between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. Before Brexit, when both regions were part of the European Union, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland was relaxed. 9

In contrast, Sinn Féin, the nationalist party, believes that there is no better alternative to the protocol (Newson).

People and goods moved more freely across the border. The protocol guarantees that this practice remains. While goods moving between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland do not have restrictions, goods traveling to Northern Ireland from other regions of the United Kingdom, however, now require additional checks and paperwork (“The Impact of Brexit on Ireland”). To unionists, this separation with their mother country, and the associated economic and travel restrictions, are unacceptable. Unionists feel betrayed by Britain which agreed to this newly imposed separation between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. A growing number of Protestants believe that the Northern Ireland Protocol does not represent their interests (Landow). They even trace the source of their dissatisfaction by challenging the GFA (Landow). Their views are worrisome because the GFA has been instrumental in maintaining peace in Northern Ireland for the past two decades. If one of the sides loses faith in the agreement, the entire peace process will be undermined. Instability from Brexit has already sparked low-level violence. In April 2021, only a couple months after Brexit was finalized, destructive riots erupted in Northern Ireland to protest the new Irish Sea trade boarder (Gladstone). The riots lasted six nights during which ten arrests were made and fifty-five police officers were injured (Castle). The heightened tensions from Brexit are likely to produce more violent incidents. If unionist anger over the Brexit customs border is not calmed, it is probable that similar clashes will arise again.

The current instability has the potential to produce another lengthy sectarian conflict, much like the Troubles. Jonathan Caine, a member of the Conservative Party of the House of Lords and former adviser to six Northern Ireland secretaries, believes that the violence in April 2021 reflected dangerous tensions. He said, “By historic standards it is not out of control, but it could be and the reason is not just the reaction to Brexit” (Castle). Brexit has reignited the same cultural tensions that started the thirty-year conflict of the Troubles.

Compounding the situation are the political forces in the United Kingdom that seek to reconsider and undo the Northern Ireland Protocol (Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, “Northern Ireland Protocol”). Looking for support of its Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government at the time, Great Britain justified its unilateral initiative as one of “necessity” to violate international law and ensure “just and equal treatment for the identity, ethos and aspirations of both communities in Northern Ireland” (Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, “Northern Ireland Protocol Bill”); however, its main goal was a self-interested one to shore up its constituents’ interest in Great Britain in treating goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland as if they were moving within the same country. The House of Commons Bill justified the United Kingdom to act on its own in determining how to implement the Northern Ireland Protocol (Northern Ireland Protocol Bill 2022-2023), undoing the negotiated resolution.

The societal divisions enabling the cultural tensions have remained prominent in Northern Ireland since the Troubles. For example, only seven percent of school children attend religiously integrated schools today (Venter). Social interactions across communities are limited. Many peace walls, leftover from the Troubles, are still used to separate Protestant and Catholics neighborhoods (Landow). The COVID-19 pandemic also exacerbated the cultural tensions. In June 2020, while public gatherings were banned, crowds gathered to attend the funeral of Irish Republican Army leader Bobby Storey. Included in the crowds were several politicians representing Sinn Féin, the nationalist political party. The decision of the Public Prosecution Service of Northern Ireland not to prosecute those who attended the funeral during COVID attributed to the violence in April 2021. The decision also fueled the belief among unionists that the police are biased against them (Cowell-Meyers). Consistent with their fealties, the Unionist Party leaders called for the protocol to be rejected in September 2021.


6. Recommendation to Follow the Principles of the Good Friday Agreement Despite the challenges posed by the Northern Ireland Protocols, and the actions taken by the United Kingdom, it is necessary for all leaders to affirm their dedication to the GFA. Many leaders are already making this distinction between the GFA and the Northern Ireland Protocol and view the GFA as ultimately the most important resolution to defend and protect. During a meeting with party leaders, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland “acknowledged that the Northern Ireland Protocol remains a clear barrier to political stability and re-confirmed that the Government will do whatever it takes to protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement” (Northern Ireland Office). Government leaders must not allow the issues of the Northern Ireland Protocol to detract from the importance of the GFA. Messages of support from leaders like the Secretary of State help to mitigate the anger that unionists feel--anger that endangers the hard-won peace and security obtained by the GFA.

The lesson of the Good Friday Agreement is that a resolution fully negotiated by all relevant parties—with democratic processes expressly laid out in its terms—is essential to securing an ordered and peaceful society. The United Kingdom’s unilateral and politically motivated undoing of the Northern Ireland Protocol is a flawed approach. Similarly, the move by the unionists to separate from the North/South ministerial arrangements is equally dangerous and ill-advised (McDonald). Instead, the best approach to address the interests of Northern Ireland itself in an orderly, law-abiding, peaceful, democratic process is already laid out in the GFA. Eight different political parties are now represented in the Northern Ireland Assembly after the 2022 election, and for the first time, Sinn Fein emerges as the largest party (“NI Election Results 2022”). Its rise should not be interpreted as a warning flare to unionists to launch a revolutionary war to prevent the unification of Ireland.

WORKS CITED Bew, Paul. Ireland: The Politics of Enmity 1789-2006. Oxford University Press, 2007. Castle, Stephen. "Northern Ireland Sees Spasm of Violence as Old Tensions Resurface." The New York Times, The New York Times, 8 Apr. 2021, e/northern-ireland-violence-brexit-covid.html. Accessed 11 May 2022. Cowell-Meyers, Kimberly, and Carolyn Gallaher. "Ulster Loyalists Are Burning Buses and Cars in Belfast, Thanks to Brexit." The Washington Post, WP Company, 15 Apr. 2021, 15/ulster-loyalists-are-burning-buses-carsbelfast-thanks-brexit/. Accessed 20 May 2022. Doherty, Paul. "The Northern Ireland Peace Process: A Solution to the Problems of an Ethnically Divided Society?" The Brown Journal of World Affairs, vol. 7, no. 1, 2000, pp. 49–62. JSTOR, Accessed 26 May 2022.

Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. "Northern Ireland Protocol Bill: UK government legal position." GOV.UK, GOV.UK, 13 June 2022, rn-ireland-protocol-bill-uk-government-legalposition/northern-ireland-protocol-bill-ukgovernment-legal-position. Accessed 13 July 2022. Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. "Northern Ireland Protocol: the UK's solution." GOV.UK, GOV.UK, 14 June 2022, rn-ireland-protocol-the-ukssolution/northern-ireland-protocol-the-ukssolution. Accessed 13 July 2022. Gladstone, Rick, and Peter Robins. "The Ghosts of Northern Ireland's Troubles Are Back. What's Going on?" The New York Times, The New York Times, 12 Apr. 2021, e/Northern-Ireland-Brexit-CovidTroubles.html. Accessed 9 May 2022.

Rather, the participation of Sinn Fein and the winning over of the people of Northern Ireland should be heralded as an organic approach to head off any crisis and resumption of violence—one expressly envisaged in the original GFA. It bears repeating that the GFA foresaw a time when the demographic composition of Northern Ireland might change, and the people there might want to change their national identity as a result, and it flexibly allowed for such a change down the road. Perhaps that time is upon Northern Ireland now, and the GFA is the safest guidepost by which that change can and should be managed. While the current heightened tensions may not seem like an imminent crisis, given the historical context and current political instability caused by Brexit, the rise in tensions are ominous and must not be overlooked. It would be far too easy for Northern Ireland to slide back into the violence that defined the region for the second half of the twentieth century. To prevent a regression to violence, political leaders should reaffirm their commitment to the GFA and the organic democratic processes set out in that landmark accord. Working within the rules of the Northern Ireland Protocol but maintaining the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement is the only way forward.

Landow, Charles, and James McBride. "Moving Past the Troubles: The Future of Northern Ireland Peace." Council on Foreign Relations, Council on Foreign Relations, 23 Apr. 2021, Accessed 9 May 2022. McDonald, Mary Lou. "A Conversation with Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald." Council on Foreign Relations, Council on Foreign Relations, 14 Mar. 2022, Accessed 17 July 2022. Newson, Nicola. "Impact of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland on Recent Political..." House of Lords Library, UK Parliament, 28 Feb. 2022, Accessed 26 May 2022.


"NI Election Results 2022: Sinn Féin Wins Most Seats in Historic Election." BBC News, BBC, 8 May 2022, Accessed 17 July 2022. Northern Ireland Office. "Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis - Statement Following Meetings with Party Leaders." GOV.UK, GOV.UK, 9 May 2022, Accessed 20 May 2022. Northern Ireland Protocol Bill 2022-2023: Clause 1. The House of Commons, 13 June 2022. "Northern Ireland: Peace Accords." Gale Global Issues Online Collection, Gale, 2022. Gale In Context: Global Issues, u=conc49179&sid=bookmarkGIC&xid=81baaf10. Accessed 12 May 2022.

WORKS CITED (CONTINUED "The Impact of Brexit on Ireland." Representation in Ireland, European Commission, Accessed 10 May 2022. Uberoi, Elise. "Analysis of the EU Referendum Results 2016." House of Commons Library, UK Parliament, 29 June 2016, Accessed 14 July 2022.

Venter, Sahm. "Rise in Northern Irish Violence Spurs Call for Integrated Catholic-Protestant Schools." National Catholic Reporter, 12 May 2021, Accessed 19 May 2022.


Sexual Harassment Since the #MeToo Movement in Authoritarian Regimes: Security Policies and Strategies By Vivi, from Texas, USA

Introduction Women have put away Weinstein, Epstein, and R. Kelly. Since the viral spread of the #MeToo movement on social media in October 2017, much progress has been made throughout the world to combat the sexual harassment and violation of women.¹ However, progress has not been even; Western, more democratic nations have outpaced the rest of the world. Less democratic societies now face the brunt of the heavy lifting. For example, while countries like the US, UK, and Ireland are already considering changes and bans to nondisclosure agreements, less developed and more restrictive nations like Uganda, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are still grappling with basic women’s rights as they fight for fairness in their tyrannical political and legal systems. One has to wonder if the #MeToo movement has significantly changed their course in history. If so, how can one strengthen her personal identity as a woman to affect security policies in these authoritarian societies? Given the disproportionate number of oppressed women in these autocratic-like nations, it would be instructive to examine the recent progress, current barriers, and workable women’s rights strategies within these oppressive societal structures. Uganda On paper, Uganda possesses a democratic parliamentary system, not an autocratic governing one. Yet, the Freedom in the World 2020 report rated Uganda as “Not Free,” noting its low civil and political liberties.² Just ask Ugandan lawyer Samantha Mwesigye.

College Student



A year after #MeToo, she gathered enough courage to file a sexual harassment complaint with the Ministry of Justice. She wanted to hold her boss accountable for his sexual advances. Sadly, her boss Christopher Gashirabake used his influential position and a male-friendly legal system to clear himself of any wrongdoing. He was promoted twice thereafter while Mwesigye was let go. Mwesigye tried to sue him again in 2019, this time including the attorney general in the suit for unlawful termination. She lost again. She had to stop trying because if she decided to appeal, her case would have then been heard by none other than her perpetrator Gashirabake, who had become an appeal court judge.³ Mwesigye is not alone. One in five Ugandan women aged 15 to 49 have endured sexual harassment and violence.⁴ The #MeToo movement provided the impetus for a woman to step up and challenge the norm. Unfortunately, in Mwesigye’s case, she had to fight the systemic bias and desensitized attitudes of her nation. As Ugandan feminist Patience Akumu laments, the global movement only works if a given society has a “public conscience.”⁵ She believes that her justice system is filled with men who grew up learning about the male dominance of her country. However, for Mwesigye, she continues to fight by planning to set up an anonymous reporting platform whereby women can report transgressions and identify repeat offenders.⁶ Since the formal channel of filing complaints does not work, presenting this sexual harassment issue to the general public may put pressure on men to change their ways. Leveraging this social public pressure may thus be a very potent method to circumvent a failing legal system. Moving this fight to an open social media platform utilizes the very core of the #MeToo success. Let the public be the jurors. Yet, how does one get heard without a streamlined communications infrastructure?

Uganda's internet penetration rate today stands at about 29 percent of the total population, which means that 71 percent of the population remains offline.⁷ Connectivity should therefore be a priority because internet and social media sites will translate into connectivity and solidarity on a personal level for women’s rights advocates. So how does Uganda accomplish this? Ugandan feminists can align their activism with foreign policy agendas of Western nations like the US. Per the US Department of State, the US provides Uganda with more than $950 million per year for development and health assistance. One goal of this aid policy goes toward “supporting democratic governance through inclusive, accountable institutions.”⁸ Thus, women activists and US policymakers can link this support package with conditions that require a specific portion of online infrastructure be dedicated to women’s rights and their safety. Enhancing Ugandan women’s ability to communicate can consequently elevate their personal security through online social support systems like Mwesigye’s “shaming” platform. Committing to this bilateral socioeconomic goal should also improve transcontinental relations, which will then contribute to international security within our geopolitical system.

In fact, those who reported or discussed this incident on social media became victims of harassment filled with threats, and most of them had to shut down their accounts. In this case, an anti-women’s rights campaign came from the Saudi Entertainment Authority because they wanted to protect the image of their business and promote the Saudi capital Riyadh as an entertainment district.¹⁰

Saudi Arabia Surprisingly, this public shaming strategy has already begun in Saudi Arabia when for the first time, January 2022, a court ordered that the name of a man convicted of sexual harassment be made public.⁹ Publishing his name was a big deal considering that the law allowing this was amended about a year ago. The original version of this harassment law began in 2018, soon after the start of the #MeToo phenomenon. Nonetheless, this publicized case may be the exception rather than the rule. During this same period, Saudi authorities squashed a story about girls who had gone missing and who were sexually victimized from a concert venue.

Supporters of MBS, however, do point out a few true gains in women’s rights. Under MBS’ watch, Saudi women gained the right to drive in 2018 and by 2019, those over 21 could obtain a passport and travel abroad without a male guardian’s permission.¹² These hardearned freedoms seem to have stemmed from MBS’ desire to enhance his country’s economic prowess. In 2020, women made up one third of the workforce, with an increase in women-owned businesses.¹³ Hence, one women’s rights approach would be to focus on these economic gains and emphasize the value and productivity of women in his kingdom. Women should remind MBS that it is difficult to be productive when one’s individual security is so uncertain. Since MBS’ privileged authority will not be diminished anytime soon, women can appeal to his business side. While Saudi women continue to push MBS from inside their country, outside powers can help by reevaluating their policies. Nations with more freedom like the US and UK can build on this “personal safety equals economic growth” strategy and bring it to the geopolitical stage. Instead of just putting pressure on his ego, Western strategists can try tying in economic incentives to human rights and women’s rights advancements. And with more economic stability, MBS and other world leaders will appreciate the national and international security that comes with it. 14

"Any individual woman hoping to overturn his philosophy and viewpoint faces a David versus Goliath kind of fight. Only in this case, David will not prevail."

This region has consistently led the kingdom in persecuting Saudi women and their human rights supporters. In fact, over 120 European Parliament members have called out the regime of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) for its human rights violations. Since the prince’s rise to power in 2017, he has arrested more than 100 women’s rights activists, with 60 still in jail today.¹¹ Flying in the face of the #MeToo agenda, MBS has allowed gender inequality to continue in a pervasively patriarchal fashion. The consolidation of power into this one man means that he alone controls the security of every woman in his kingdom. He represents Saudi’s deeply rooted cultural and political traditions. Any individual woman hoping to overturn his philosophy and viewpoint faces a David versus Goliath kind of fight. Only in this case, David will not prevail.

Supreme Arbitration Council of the HoC, plus three trusted figures in Iranian cinema to be elected by the general assembly of the HoC, a representative of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and a lawyer.”¹⁶ This committee will hear complaints, incorporate confidentiality, and provide legal advice if one wishes to pursue a day in court. While this new committee may seem like a step forward, its design still represents an authoritative, topdown approach that follows the Islamic order. Instead of democratically elected committee members, this HoC proposal only reinforces the “hand-picked” nature of the faithful patriarch. Advocates against sexual harassment realize this and thus demand that freely elected women hold a majority in the committee.¹⁷

Iran Perhaps even MBS’ nemesis Ali Khamenei could learn to compromise. While Iranians vote to elect their president, their government body, the Assembly of Experts holds the power to handpick the supreme leader. Khamenei is this sole man who “exerts ideological and political control” over his people.¹⁴ As a hybrid democratic-theocratic nation, Iran seems to be making incremental progress when it comes to women’s rights and their struggle against sexual harassment. Their entertainment industry leads the way. As of June 2022, over 800 Iranian filmmakers have signed an open declaration to fight sexual harassment. The cinema world has released many names of perpetrators since the start of #MeToo. They have embraced the “name and shame” movement and are now calling for an independent commission to investigate any harassment cases. Their fame and prominence as social reformers have come through the TV screens of everyday Iranians. With inflation and COVID keeping people home, these trailblazers of the cinema industry can reach and influence millions of people.¹⁵ Their collective voices have forced the Iranian House of Cinema (HoC) to publicly condemn sexual violence and promise to set up such a committee to deal with sexual harassment complaints. Under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, the HoC has proposed a committee with “the chairman of the board and the chairman of the

While the outside world and its leaders from the West may not have much say in these statehood committee structures, they can surely assist with the underlying messaging war. Iran’s #MeToo movement can reach 86 million citizens, but for every cyber pro-rights posting, there seems to be a counter antirights one. Organizations like Front Line Defenders, United for Iran, and Access Now, have discovered that a whole coordinated army of “bots and trolls” on Instagram seek to intimidate and silence women’s rights defenders.¹⁸ This harmful social media trend can be traced to fake followers or accounts from Islamic Republic of Iran traditionalists who support its theocracy. Since May 2022, many accounts have originated from Pakistani companies who were paid for their attacks. Iranian rights groups have urged Instagram’s parent company, Meta, to look into and take down these fake accounts.¹⁹ Given Meta’s prior and current tensions with the US Congress, policy legislators can use this window of opportunity to actually work with Meta to do some common good by protecting these women’s rights groups. Ridding this kind of nefarious activity would protect online users beyond Iran’s borders since cybersecurity equals international security. The opportunity for this social media influencer to exert its muscle in affecting positive change on the world stage could help to repair its own image. Conclusion Women’s rights today continue to face geopolitical challenges throughout the world. Whether countries declare themselves as democracies, theocracies, or autocracies, their leaders set the tone of their governance by their actions. When government officials favor ruling by privilege and authority, they set up barriers based on deeply rooted cultural and religious beliefs.

Pervasive powerful forces come with prevailing themes of traditional masculinity, of one identity versus another, man versus woman. Imagine the identity crisis and personal experience of one harassed woman; intimidation and silence take over as she considers going up against the machinery of a male-dominated political and legal system. Luckily, with movements like #MeToo and the advent of the internet and social media, that singular woman can be heard. Given how global connectivity reinforces solidarity, Western powers and women’s rights champions should help less developed countries like Uganda with this kind of infrastructure. For a monarch like Saudi Arabia, aligning MBS’ business desires with the benefits of economic contribution by women will expedite the broadening of women’s rights. And for Iran, when concerted attacks plague social media sites like Meta’s Instagram, these media giants should partner with policymakers to ban such fake accounts for trolling women activists. Global leaders must therefore continue to support and amplify the voices of women’s rights defenders and put pressure on authoritarian states to join them. Women should remind these oppressive regimes that personal security can lead to national and international security and that their polices and laws will become lip service without weight or consequence.


ENDNOTE 1. Nadia Khomami, "#MeToo: how a hashtag became a rallying cry against sexual harassment," The Guardian, October 20, 2017, 2. Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2020 (PDF), 2020, 3. Caroline Kimeu, "'Sexual abuse is normalised': Uganda struggles with #MeToo," The Guardian, July 11, 2022, 4. Kimeu, "'Sexual abuse is normalised': Uganda struggles with #MeToo." 5. Kimeu, "'Sexual abuse is normalised': Uganda struggles with #MeToo." 6. Kimeu, "'Sexual abuse is normalised': Uganda struggles with #MeToo." 7. Simon Kemp, "Digital 2022: Uganda," Datareportal, February 15, 2022,'s%20internet%20penetration%20rate%20stood,percent)%20between%202021%20and%202022. 8. U.S. Department of State, "U.S. Relations With Uganda," March 18, 2022, 9. BBC News, "Saudi court orders first naming of man guilty of sexual harassment," January 11, 2022, 10. PressTV, "Saudi Arabia threatens victims of sexual harassment after concert with jail," Updated January 21, 2022, 11. PressTV, "Saudi Arabia threatens victims of sexual harassment after concert with jail." 12. Lydia Begag and Nader Habibi, "Saudi Women are Experiencing Marginal Reforms," International Policy Digest, September 15, 2021, 13. Begag and Habibi, "Saudi Women are Experiencing Marginal Reforms." 14. PBS, "The Structure of Power in Iran," Accessed July 17, 2022, 15. Nasrin Bassiri, "#MeToo revelations rock Iranian film industry,", June 5, 2022, 16. Bassiri, "#MeToo revelations rock Iranian film industry." 17. Bassiri, "#MeToo revelations rock Iranian film industry." 18. Front Line Defenders, "Statement - Iran: Meta Must Protect the Iranian #MeToo Movement," June 29, 2022, 19. Front Line Defenders, "Statement - Iran: Meta Must Protect the Iranian #MeToo Movement."

Bassiri, Nasrin. "#MeToo revelations rock Iranian film industry." June 5, 2022. Begag, Lydia and Nader Habibi. "Saudi Women are Experiencing Marginal Reforms." International Policy Digest. September 15, 2021. Freedom in the World 2020 (PDF), Freedom House. 2020. 202002/FIW_2020_REPORT_BOOKLET_Final.pdf Kemp, Simon. "Digital 2022: Uganda." Datareportal. February 15, 2022.'s%20internet%20pen etration%20rate%20stood,percent)%20betwe en%202021%20and%202022.

Khomami, Nadia. "#MeToo: how a hashtag became a rallying cry against sexual harassment." The Guardian. October 20, 2017. ct/20/women-worldwide-use-hashtag-metooagainst-sexual-harassment. Kimeu, Caroline. "'Sexual abuse is normalised': Uganda struggles with #MeToo." The Guardian. July 11, 2022. "Saudi Arabia threatens victims of sexual harassment after concert with jail." PressTV. Updated January 21, 2022. 75212/Saudis-warned-of-jail-time-aftersexual-harassment-claims-posted-on-socialmedia

BIBLIOGRAPHY "Saudi court orders first naming of man guilty of sexual harassment." BBC News. January 11, 2022. "Statement - Iran: Meta Must Protect the Iranian #MeToo Movement." Front Line Defenders. June 29, 2022. ment-report/statement-iran-meta-mustprotect-iranian-metoo-movement "The Structure of Power in Iran." PBS. Accessed July 17, 2022. hows/tehran/inside/govt.html "U.S. Relations With Uganda." U.S. Department of State. March 18, 2022.


Identity in Global Affairs: Where We’ve Gone Wrong and the Road to Reform

Identity has played a central role in nearly every global crisis that has occurred, yet the concept has very rarely been considered when forming global policy. Time and time again, nations have failed to reach the hearts and minds of their intended audiences purely because they refused to consider the identities of said listeners. Because identity is such a broad concept, it is important to distinguish between personal and national identity in the context of international security.

Personal identity is unique to individuals and groups; it can be defined in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, education, familial ties, involvement in one’s community, and more. Everyone possesses an identity that makes them unique, though some parts of a personal identity are shared by larger groups from which they are derived. Conversely, national identity refers to the sense of unity that exists between people who share a nationality. National identity is generally derived from the personal identities that compose a nation. However, in the case of many countries, such as the United States, the personal identities of all citizens are often disregarded in favor of that of the national majority. When deciding upon the central aspects of their own global policy, countries rely heavily on the morals dictated by their national identities. However, they frequently fail to consider the national and personal identities within the nations they are attempting to relate to, something that creates problems when an issue arises between two nations. The issue of ignoring identity only compounds when more countries are involved

By Rachel, USA It would be incorrect to say that identity has not had a role in shaping and affecting global policy and international security; it absolutely has. However, that role has been largely destructive because of the misimplementation of identity in the formation and execution of these goals. Rather than considering the identity of all nations and groups involved in an issue, individual (or groups of) countries often focus only on their own interests. This leads to global policy that does not appeal to many of the people upon whom it is placed. At best, this means that no global progress is made.

At worst, it creates international conflict that takes decades to resolve. Examples of this are numerous, but the failure to properly consider identity within the contexts of global policy and international security is best exemplified by France’s struggling relationship with Muslim-majority nations, China’s Belt and Road Intiative, and the United Nations’ handling of the Rwandan Genocide.

Whether working it be a nuclear disarmament deal, an economic treaty, or a peace negotiation, the agreement of two or more nations is required. With that in mind, one would think that the national and personal identities of every nation state involved would be taken into consideration; however, they almost never are. Time and time again, nations have failed to consider the identities within their partner countries and have consequently failed miserably in their global policy aspirations.

High School



Looking first at the example of issues between France and Muslim majority nations such as but not limited to Turkey, Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan, and Qatar, many issues can be traced back to the individual national and personal identities within all of the aforementioned nations. France, like many others, is a historically secular nation. What sets France apart though is its unique definition of secularism which extends beyond the general idea of separation between church and state. France’s laïcité “has come to express a uniquely French insistence that religion, along with religious symbols and dress, should be absent from the public sphere... Laïcité is not the same thing as freedom of religion (the free exercise of religion is guaranteed by the French constitution). What it sometimes means is freedom from religion” (Donadio). This part of the French identity has broad support across political lines in the nation (Charlton). Meanwhile, Iran, Pakistan, Qatar, Turkey, and Bangladesh are all strong Muslim majority nations in which faith plays a large role in daily life. With France being one of the least religious nations in the world, a large and impactful distinction in national identity becomes apparent (Charlton). Further, France is in the middle of a national identity shift: as of today, there are approximately three to five million practitioners of Islam in France, many of whom would appreciate the opportunity to express their religion through their choice of clothing (Muslim Immigrants in France). However, the teachings of Islam which calls for modest clothes (often interpreted as the wearing of a hijab for women) directly conflicts with France’s previous secular identity and refusal to acknowledge religious symbols in public settings.

When I had the opportunity to visit a mosque in the United States, the women there who chose to wear the hijab spoke to its impact on their identity. I was told that they were proud to wear the hijab because it showed the world that they were proud of their religious identity. While each individual practitioner will have their own relationship with Islam, in my experience, those who choose to wear the hijab often find it to be a large part of their religious identity. But this showing of religious identity directly conflicts with laïcité, something that has led to a great deal of tension within France. When facing criticism from nations like Turkey or Bangladesh for its internal treatment of French Muslims, France has taken a hard line, resulting in comments like Emmanual Macron’s that Islam was “a religion that is in crisis all over the world” (VOA News). Obviously this comment did not sit well with Muslims within France or with Muslim majority nations. Just two weeks later on October 16, 2020, high-school teacher Samuel Paty was murdered after showing a depiction of the prophet Muhammad in class, leading to a French crackdown on “Islamism” and the projection of said depictions onto French government buildings; this was followed by mass protests in the Muslim world along with the boycotting of French many products (Akyol).

Protestors burning a poster of French President Emmanuel Macron in Lahore, Pakistan (Nov 1, 2020); image courtesy of Foreign Policy Magazine.

In this scenario, France’s internal conflict of identity led to a great deal of conflict in French global policy and international security. This is, unfortunately, a perfect example of how most nations approach global policy. France, like many countries, is made up of a diverse group of individuals with diverse personal identities. In this case, there was a conflict of religious identity. However, Muslims only make up approximately 8.8% of France’s population (Pew Research Center). As a minority identity, Islam is not often fully considered when France forms its internal and external policy regarding religion. Consequently, conflict (whether it be internal or external) arises frequently over France’s relationship with Islam. In a similar fashion, China has run into a number of issues surrounding its current global policy: the Belt and Road Initiative. Launched in 2013, this is “one of the most ambitious infrastructure plans ever launched”, stretching from East Asia to Europe and significantly expanding China’s global influence (Chatzsky and McBride). As a counter, the United States and the G7 began their Build Back Better World Initiative (B3W).


“Doing a significantly better job in this arena would not only help to create a more peaceful and secure world, but it would also allow nations to advance their own individual foreign policy more successfully.” The B3W, launched in June 2021, is seen as a direct alternative to China’s BRI (Tian). Both plans seek to advance the interests of their sponsoring nation abroad. The G7 plan has not been around for long enough to discuss its perception in the global community, but China’s BRI certainly has. As I write this, I am studying abroad in Kyrgyzstan, a nation which has received approximately 2.1 billion USD in loans from the Belt and Road Initiative (Mogilevskii). While this may allow China to gain economic dominance over the nation, it certainly has not done much in terms of winning hearts and minds. One of the things I was most surprised by upon arriving in the country was the love for American culture (not necessarily American politics or policy) that exists in Kyrgyzstan. I assumed that the same warmth would exist for Chinese culture considering that the two nations share a border. However, in a discussion with my resident director, I learned that anti-Chinese sentiment is not only strong in the nation, but that it is so because of the Belt and Road Initiative. Kyrgyzstan is not alone in its social revolt against China’s BRI; Myanmar has also seen a rise in anti-Chinese sentiment as Belt and Road projects take hold of the nation (Myanmar: Anti-China Sentiment). There are two main reasons that the BRI has not succeeded socially: its goals of entrapment are blatantly obvious and China, like France, has failed to consider the personal and national identities of those to whom it hopes to relate. Addressing the first issue, those living in nations where BRI money is taking hold are acutely aware of the fact that China provided loans, not donations. Further, in speaking with some of the locals in Kyrgyzstan, I’ve come to understand that many are not satisfied with how the work is done: Chinese workers are often brought in to complete BRI projects. Locals view this as taking money away from them, and they’re not wrong.

Had any project not funded with a Belt and Road Initiative loan been completed with a different funding source, the designers and executioners of the project likely would have been members of the local community. The BRI is predatory in that it provides nations loans which they will be required to pay back in full so that Chinese workers can complete projects in those nations, something they receive payment for. Nations that receive BRI funding are well-aware of this and tend to be upset by it. Perhaps China did consider the identities of those within the nations upset by the use of Chinese workers in BRI project and decided that the economic cost was worth the social upheaval. Likely though, the full extent of the role that identity has played in the response to BRI funding was not anticipated or properly accounted for. Taking Kyrgyzstan as an example, a few portions of personal and national identities within the nation would have been important to consider as China formatted its global policy approach for the nation. Firstly, Kyrgyzstan is a post-Soviet state. Having once lived under the rule of the USSR, opinion here is somewhat divided on the experience. In recent years though, there has been a large push toward the reclamation of Kyrgyz language and culture. While Russian is still widely spoken here, Kyrgyz is as well. Outside of Bishkek, the capital city, it is generally more common to hear Kyrgyz. This movement toward reclamation has taken years and years. The history behind it is a large part of the Kyrgyz national identity and not something that people here are hoping to give up anytime soon. Had China taken this into consideration, they would have realized that such an aggressive policy here would create resentment: the Belt and Road Initiative feels like yet another attempt to control a nation which has already experienced such a phenomenon and is not hoping to go through it again.

To reiterate, it is highly possible that China thought through this and decided that the economic benefits were worth strained relations and negative public perception. More likely though, a lighter touch would have been employed with similar economic benefits if this had been considered. Further, the use of Chinese workers in these construction projects was a negative for the personal identities of many here. The average salary in Kyrgyzstan is approximately $2,500 USD per year (Salaries in Kyrgyzstan). While prices are obviously adjusted to this, the nation would absolutely benefit from an influx of foreign money, something that cannot happen if foreign contractors are hired to complete construction jobs in-country. People in Kyrgyzstan identify as hard-workers and are part of a strong family culture in which being able to support those you love is extremely important. Hence, taking the opportunity to provide for one’s family away, or being perceived to do so, has in part led to the AntiChinese sentiment that permeates the nation today. For an additional example of the importance of identity in global policy, it is possible to look to the United Nation’s response to the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. When the Genocide broke out, a strong understanding of Rwanda’s colonial history would have made a large difference in the handling of the situation. In 1923, Belgium was given the right to govern Rwanda by the League of Nations and it did so through the use of Tutsi kings, viewing the Tutsi as the superior ethnic group in Rwanda. The Tutsi people were given more power and opportunities because of this. Ethnic tensions grew, mainly between the majority groups the Hutu and the Tutsis. By 1957, Hutu political parties had formed and in 1961, when Rwanda became a republic, the Hutu majority took control of the country. The following year, a large amount of the Tutsi population left Rwanda as violence and discrimination between the Tutsi took hold (Rwanda Profile-Timeline, BBC). Not knowing this, or nearly anything about the situation, the international community had absolutely no plan prepared. For the first three weeks of the genocide, many American politicians made the genocide out to look like a civil war, portraying the casualties as the deaths of enemy combatants or civilians caught in the crossfire. Lieutenant General Wesley Clark was the director of strategic plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. 19

He remembers staff officers asking "Is it Hutu and Tutsi or Tutu and Hutsi?" upon learning of the plane crash (Bystanders to Genocide). Almost no one in the international community had a solid understanding of the ethnic and historical identities of the Hutu and Tutsi groups, leading the world to stand by while as many as 10,000 people were killed per day (Reuters Factbox). This was a blatant failure in terms of global policy and preparedness and international security, and it cost far too many lives.

Whether it be France’s relationship with its own or other nation’s Muslim populations, China’s Belt and Road Intiative, or the International Community’s failure to do anything about the Rwandan Genocide, it is clear that refusing to acknowledge the identities of all parties involved in an issue leads to increased conflict and hardship for everyone involved. Further, it is plain to see that we as a global community do an abysmal job accounting for the identities of those we hope to interact with.

“Strides toward increasing opportunities for those with unique identities to participate in government and policy making would be a great step.”

Doing a significantly better job in this arena would not only help to create a more peaceful and secure world, but it would also allow nations to advance their own individual foreign policy more successfully. So how then do we increase the level of concern paid to identity within the policy community? 1. Increase policy research at a national level 2. Consult all of the voices represented within a nation in order to form representative global and domestic policy 3. Increase the diversity of global policy and international security professionals In addressing the first area for improvement, the creation of additional policy institutes, at least within the United States, would not be required; plenty already exist. Instead, the correct route would be to increase the breadth of those already working in the sector. While these institutes do an amazing job, they often have significantly less information available concerning developing nations, especially if those nations have not been a security threat in the past. Logically, this makes sense. These nations typically present minimal urgent issues to the global community, meaning that they are almost never a policy priority. 20

However, this logic is flawed for a number of reasons. For nations who have the resources and desire to transfer their own ideological beliefs onto other countries (I’m not commenting on the ethicality of this practice, merely the fact that it absolutely is a foreign policy goal for nations like the U.S. and China), these ignored nations will be the next battleground for hearts and minds. A solid understanding of both the national and personal identities of the people within these nations will be quintessential to improving relations enough to fully execute long-term global policy objectives. Nations that do not take the time to invest in understanding new identities will be far behind their peers who do. Further, when and if conflict does break out in a lesser-known nation, having this research ready will allow global policymakers to make the most informed decisions possible to ensure that the world never again stands by as 10,000 people are murdered in a day. Addressing the second point, global policy works much more smoothly when it is backed by a unified front. Conversely, when a nation is arguing internally over its stance toward a given issue, it is far more difficult for them to be perceived as a leader on said issue. Looking at France’s policies toward Islam, it is clear to see that internal debate over identity creates external difficulties. In 2020, when France was faced severe pressure from many Muslim nations that created foreign policy challenges which wouldn’t have plagued the nation had there been more internal agreement. And as I write this, I know that it is much easier said than done. Conflicts in identity such as the one presented in France are not going to be solved overnight, but the process does need to start somewhere.

Rather than continuing to argue and attack one another, it is high time that France, and many other nations, launched an internal dialogue that actually intended to make a positive difference. I can’t speak to France in this context, but in the United States, everyone is too scared or too angry to really make any progress toward coming together as a nation. The polarization here has skyrocketed in the last decade, and it doesn’t appear to be getting much better. To really make progress, citizens must have a dedicated interest to learning about one another and the unique identities that we all hold. That starts with community dialogues and honest conversations. It starts when we listen for substance rather than listening for the sake of arguing back. It starts when our representatives can set that example for us rather than riling up a crowd in hopes of reelection. But, until nations like France and the United States take the time to really talk through their internal conflicts, they will always be undermined in their global policy and international security objectives. Finally, to address the third goal, it is high time that nations start properly using the intelligence of their own citizens. In today’s globalized world, all nations, and the United States specifically, are absolutely amazing places where people from all walks of life with completely unique identities exist. Yet, we still do not do a proper job employing the knowledge of our diverse population. When China hopes to bring its BRI initiative to Kyrgyzstan or when the U.S. aims to set its policy for Afghanistan, both nations would be wise to consult with those who hold a Kyrgyz or Afghani identity.

And while this has improved drastically in the last two decades, there is still a long, long way to go as evidenced by China’s outcome in Kyrgyzstan and the U.S. outcome in Afghanistan. Strides toward increasing opportunities for those with unique identities to participate in government and policy making would be a great step. And again, the past two decades have shown immense progress in this arena, but there’s still a very long way to go. Improvements to career pathways programs, internship opportunities, and mentorship would all be highly impactful in helping nations to make the best use of the unique personal identities of their populations. Up until this point in time, identity has had a fairly negative impact on global policy and international security because nations do not take the time to properly research or discuss the topic, and this is a shame because identity has the potential to allow for so many successes in these arenas, but policymakers have to start taking it seriously. Moving forward, officials need to focus on improving the quality and breadth of their knowledge of those who they hope to work with, working together to address internal issues at a national level, and creating more equitable hiring practices so that diverse identities and perspectives are accounted for whilst forming global policy and implementing international security strategies.


WORKS CITED (UK), Author:Reuters. “Myanmar: Anti-China Sentiment Raises Questions over Belt and Road Projects.” Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, 11 Mar. 2021, Akyol, Mustafa. “Yes, Islam Is Facing a Crisis. No, France Isn't Helping Solve It.” Foreign Policy, Foreign Policy Magazine, 20 Nov. 2020, Anwer, Ruqayya. “China-US Rivalry over the Belt and Road Initiative Peaks: Opinion.” Daily Sabah, Daily Sabah, 10 Feb. 2022, Bhalla, Nita. “Factbox: Rwanda Remembers the 800,000 Killed on 25th Anniversary of Genocide.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 6 Apr. 2019,

Gramlich, John. “How Countries around the World View Democracy, Military Rule and Other Political Systems.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 23 July 2020, “Kyrgyzstan - United States Department of State.” U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State, 12 May 2021, Mogilevskii, Roman. “Kyrgyzstan and the Belt and Road Initiative.”, University of Central Asia, u/uca-ippa-wp50-eng.pdf. “Muslim Immigrants in France - Migration News: Migration Dialogue.” Muslim Immigrants in France - Migration News | Migration Dialogue, UC Davis, id=617.

News, VOA. “Islam in 'Crisis All over the World' France's Macron Says.” VOA, Islam in 'Crisis All Over the World' France's Macron Says, 2 Oct. 2020, Power, Samantha. “Bystanders to Genocide.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 8 Sept. 2019, e/2001/09/bystanders-to-genocide/304571/. “Rwanda: How the Genocide Happened.” BBC News, BBC, 17 May 2011, “Salaries in Kyrgyzstan.” Salaries in Kyrgyzstan, Average Salaries in 2022 and 2021 | BDEX, Tian, Yew Lun. “China Willing to Work with U.S. on Build Back Better World Initiative.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 28 Feb. 2022,

Charlton, Angela. “AP Explains: Why France Sparks Such Anger in Muslim World.” AP NEWS, Associated Press, 31 Oct. 2020, “China's Massive Belt and Road Initiative.” Council on Foreign Relations, Council on Foreign Relations, 28 Jan. 2020, Donadio, Rachel. “Why Is France so Afraid of God?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 24 Nov. 2021, ve/2021/12/france-god-religionsecularism/620528/. 22

How has identity shaped and affected global policy and international security? How do you believe identity should inform global policy and international security moving forward? ANONYMOUS Afghanistan

If I was Ashraf Ghani, the president of Afghanistan, I wouldn't give up my beautiful country to the Taliban and leave my talented people behind. Because I’m not as selfish as Ashraf Ghani. I’m kind, I’m loyal and patriotic to my country. Because I care about my country and its future. I wouldn’t ruin thousands of lives, I wouldn’t take thousands of families’ happiness and make them separate in the different parts of the world by letting the Taliban enter my country. I wouldn’t sell my country’s amazing educators, amazing policies, and talented youth, who are the bright future of my country. I wouldn't ruin their missions and their hopes. I wouldn’t give up my country so easily and kill many many people.

One of Five Essays from

If I were a police officer, I wouldn’t obey the rules that the president gave to me. I wouldn’t listen to anyone except my heart. If I was them, I wouldn’t leave my gun and escape. Instead, I would stay and fight the Taliban. Fight for me, for my family, and more importantly, I would fight for my people, for small kids who are working very hard to get an education to become the strong leaders to build Afghanistan. I would fight for my innocent Afghan sisters. The girls who have been always struggling and fighting to get an education. Who always had someone to stop them from getting an education and wanting to help their country. If I were a police officer, I would stay and fight.

If I was the leader of the people, I wouldn’t encourage them to stay silent or scare them from the Taliban and ask them to leave. I would ask them to fight and be strong. I would tell them that the Taliban are not as strong as they were when they took over our country for the first time. I would ask them to be united and work together. Men were in charge of the security decisions in Afghanistan. Men had all the power in politics and even in the family. But what would happen if women were in charge? Women would make completely different but better decisions. Life would be very different for women in Afghanistan. Not only for women but also for men as well. Women would lead the country much better than men. History has proven that women can lead better than men.

Afghan Girls


None of the presidents of Afghanistan fought for women's education and rights as much as some women leaders did, such as ___________ –––––––––– ____________ and many more. Sima created many schools in Bamiyan province to educate girls. –––––––––– ___________ opened the first boarding school for girls in Afghanistan to educate women and help them to become strong leaders and achieve their missions and goals to help their country someday in the future. On the day that our male president fled Afghanistan and let the Taliban come over and ruin our lives, –––––––––– ____ didn’t escape; instead, she stayed with ____ her students and chose to sacrifice her life to save Afghanistan’s future leaders if needed. She decided to struggle as much as we had to. I was one of those girls who was in the airport and trying to save my life by leaving my own country. I chose to leave my country to make my life better by continuing my education. Here is my story: 2021 had been one of the scariest and saddest times for the Afghan people. Covid19 had spread all over Afghanistan. People were suffering from economic problems; schools and universities were closed for almost a year leaving most students unable to study or have access to teachers. While the rest of the world was still focusing on Covid19, Afghanistan was forced to shift its focus on the fast-approaching Taliban from distant southern provinces. The news of the Taliban taking over control of all provinces of Afghanistan had frightened everyone and had become everyone’s anxiety and worry. Security was deteriorating fast, the network connections got weaker, electricity became highly unreliable and the sounds of war were getting closer and closer. Security concerns had existed in Afghanistan even before my time, but this time it felt very different, even more scary. I remember the conversation that I had with my dad about whether the Taliban were going to take over our country. He assured me that would not happen because of our strong leaders like Dostum Abdul Rashid and Ahmad Shah Masoud, leaders who ended up abandoning us. Everybody completely underestimated the speed and ability to advance from the southern provinces to Kabul. The hostile take-over caused great personal losses in my own family and the families around me.

"Men were in charge of the security decisions in Afghanistan. Men had all the power in politics and even in the family. But what would happen if women were in charge? Women would make completely different but better decisions. Life would be very different for women in Afghanistan. Not only for women but also for men as well. Women would lead the country much better than men. History has proven that women can lead better than men." Each day, we heard the news of the Taliban taking over province after province, like Mazar, Ghazni, Kandahar, etc. It was incredibly difficult to hear the sad news, fearing the consequences and at the same time focusing on our studies. On August 10th, 2021, our head of school came and told us: “You will be going to a country in Africa for a special program to prepare you for college and next year's school academics. It will last 7 months and after 7 months we will be back.” Initially, we were excited and happy about this new opportunity but the happiness lasted only a fleeting moment. As soon as she left, my dorm parent brought me the school cell phone and when I looked at the display I recognized my dad’s phone number. What he explained to me next, turned excitement into fear and happiness into deep sadness. I heard my father saying that my school informed him that they were moving all the faculty members, students, and teachers to a foreign country for 7 months for our safety and security. Upon asking for his advice, all I heard was deafening silence and that’s when it hit me. What if I never get back home? What if this was forever or an indefinite time? Neither of us was prepared to make a decision that would have such far-reaching and unknown consequences. Numbed by fear, I simply agreed with my dad that I would trust and follow his decision as I trusted his judgment and love for me. When the call ended, I was completely lost within my inner feelings. Should I be happy, sad, scared, crying, hopeful, or hopeless? I tried my best not to cry, not to show my feelings to others, and I thought taking a shower could help. I didn’t realize, I was in the shower for hours. When I finally returned to my room I realized that my classmates were in the same boat; they had the same feelings I had. Some of them were happy and said: “If I go, I will just enjoy my life and try everything” and I heard some of them saying “ I am sad about leaving my country, I don’t know when I will return, will I ever come back?“; I saw the same worry, the same fear, the same sadness in their eyes.

I saw them losing hope. None of us were able to go to sleep for a long time after hearing about these unexpected (and unplanned) travel plans. They felt like escape plans even though nobody introduced them using those terms. During the day, we kept busy studying but at night our conversations circled for hours around the upcoming trip. How long would it take? How long would we stay? When, if ever, would we return? When we finally went to sleep, the loud blasts of bombs going off at night would wake us up. Days went on. I thought of talking to my friends before I left the country. When I was allowed to use my phone for an hour, I called my family, my friends, and relatives telling them that I couldn’t be on the phone for long but to talk to me so I could hear their voices in my last days. Of course, they asked why I said such things and what I was alluding to. Was I leaving the country? They begged me to tell them what was going on but I was not allowed to share - for everyone’s security: mine, the school’s, even my friends and relatives. I remained silent and told lies to keep things safe for all of us. Those were the days when only Kabul and Panjshir weren’t under the control of the Taliban. 24

Everyone was hopeless and scared. The Taliban kept getting stronger, advancing with lightning speed to assume control over Afghanistan. Everyone was so tired of studying ___________________________________ and it had been two months since I had last seen my family. _____________________________ ____________________________________________ _ Everyone called home and for some ________ students, homes were distant _______________ ____________________________________________ places ______________________________________ I called my father to bring some clothes that I would need. He provided me with a big bag full of my cultural Afghan and Turkman clothes and also he brought my phone. I was so excited and relieved to see him but because of Covid-19 protocol, we couldn't hug or even hold hands with each other. Our school told us that was our last meeting which made it the hardest time ever. How do you cope with knowing that you will not see your dad again for an unknown length of time or forever? I transferred some family photos to my other phone that I was going to carry with me and took the bag. We were only able to talk for 40 minutes, imagine that, only 40 minutes left with your dad. Can you imagine that? It was cold as well, but we didn’t feel it at all. All we thought about was the long journey ahead of me and my school. And all we could worry about was if and when we would see each other again. Our principal called an emergency meeting one afternoon telling us about the security concerns, outside of the school and reminded us to be smart. She also advised us to each take 3 books from the school library in case we would get bored on the plane. Every student grabbed three books. The next instructions demonstrated the dangers we would be facing. She cautioned us that we might have to leave our big bags behind and to be prepared to leave only with our backpacks. _________________________________ ____________________________________________ We all were told to be ready to go whenever they asked us to.

Our principal gathered us for another emergency meeting early in the morning on August 14, 2021. Her new instructions were that we might have to leave Afghanistan with only one dress, a purse, passport, and phone and that our suitcases were not an option. It felt as if more and more of our history, ourselves, and our lives were stripped away and it was very sad and scary too. She also instructed us to wait at home, with a friend or relative until they called us to come to the airport. We had to keep our phones on at all times to stay in constant contact. The next morning, I took my bag, left my passport and national ID card ___________ so I wouldn't lose it, and started going to my house. At first, I felt confident and brave as always. I called my dad to ask if I could come home alone. He said, “I am so far away. If you can wait I will come and take you home. The security is really bad, my son, it's not safe outside”. I told him ”No dad, thank you. I will come by myself. Inshallah, nothing will happen. And by the way, the Taliban can't take over Kabul.” I convinced him with my courage. He said “Ok my son, if you need anything, call me”; I started walking home with excitement and happiness. That feeling was one of my best feelings ever. I went to the station to take a taxi, but there was no taxi to take me, not now, not in hours. I saw the drivers and people more scared, and harsh. I saw cars crashing into each other, cars beeping at each other, and the screeching sound of their speed and tires. I got hopeless and called my dad.

I couldn’t find any taxi, what should I do?“ He said ”Go to your uncle’s house, to Abdullah's house.'' He is my father’s best friend and I call him uncle. His house was 5 streets from my school, just 20 or 30 minutes to walk. I walked as fast as I could with all the bags I had to carry; at the same time, I saw the scariest looks on the faces of people that I haven’t seen before. I heard some of them warning me: “My aunt's daughter, don't try at all, you can’t get out of Afghanistan, no one can anymore, we all know that.“ And I heard some of them asking me ”Hey, where are you going? Why are you walking alone? Do you know need help?'' Those words really scared me and shook my feet, my hands, my heart, and even my whole body. That was the time that I began believing that the Taliban were already in Kabul. I was lucky that I was used to wearing a Hijab for my protection even before the Taliban. Somehow I made it to my uncle’s house. At the gate, I saw a woman with a boy I never met and they stared at me. When I went to his house, I saw 4 girls and other members of her family. I learned that her husband had worked in the Afghan government and they all had to leave their house, come to Kabul for protection and hopefully flee to another country. ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ________________ I waited all night. In the morning they called me to come to the airport but within 10 minutes they called back to cancel. They asked us to wait one more day. When we turned on the TV and saw the news about how people were desperately trying to escape from the country with no passports or ID cards; we watched in horror as three boys fell from the airplane wing to their death. I was trying to go home to see my mom at least one last time, but it wasn’t safe to do so. How badly I wanted to see her, how badly I missed her. Then on August 16, 2021, asked us to come to the back door of the airport since the front door was closed. I took two dresses, one notebook, one pen, and my phone.


Early in the morning my uncle, my dad, and I sat in a taxi and went to the airport and I saw the Taliban for the first time. Those frightening faces. They even tried to disguise themselves as Afghan soldiers but their beards and behavior gave their identity away. It was extremely hard and scary to see at that moment. While I was walking and getting closer to the airport and my school team, I felt I was getting further and further away from my family and country. While I was holding my father’s wrinkled but strong hands, I felt them shaking. I looked at his eyes, tears were streaming out like rain. He was trying to hold back and hide them just to make me strong, to not make me sad. And most importantly, to not show it to the Taliban. He knew that the smallest sign of weakness would raise their suspicion and turn him into a target. While we were getting closer to the back door of Kabul airport, I looked around me. I saw the mountains, the sky, and the poor people who were collecting charity from others; I saw small boys carrying water and snacks to the airport to sell to people. I felt the warming sun and my father’s warm and strong hand showing that I am not alone, showing that he is with me, showing his love. I also saw his tears coming down and how hard he was controlling them not to fall. Then I felt my heart beating. I felt a pain inside. It hurt me so bad. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would ever feel these hands again and if I will ever see our beautiful country again. Would I ever come back and help these poor people? Would I ever see young boys studying instead of working on the street? What if this is my last memory of my country? What if I never come back? What If I come back and don't find my family? These thoughts were weighing incredibly heavy on me. I was embarking on a journey not knowing where it would take me or where it would end. My throat was hurting, my heart was beating, and my eyes were wet, full of tears. Oh how badly I wanted to cry, shout and scream at the Taliban. How angry I was at them for doing all these things to me and my family. Not just to me, but to all the Afghan people.

We finally reached the _____ team. They were sitting on the ground with heavily armed Taliban soldiers surrounding them, controlling them._______________________________________ ____________________________________________ ______. I was in utter disbelief that an accomplished person such as –––––––––– _________, a leader like her, was sitting on the ground; he kept crying. It was my first time seeing my father cry. Seeing a man cry. It was most painful. Every time I write about this moment, it makes me cry and I am crying as I am reliving this moment. It is the saddest moment in my life that is permanently etched into my memory. The husband o ___________, one of ______s cooks, was sitting next to us and he said to my dad “Why are you crying? Don’t cry, Allah is kind and he will be with her in every place. Don't worry everything will pass.” My father told him crying, ”But she is the only kid I have”; this brought tears to the husband too and he asked ”Oh, you don’t have any more children? She is an only child?” My father could barely confirm because speaking was getting so hard for him. I hugged him and kissed his hands. At that time he called my mom to say goodbye. Before she answered he told me “Don’t cry just be brave and act like you are happy because if you cry, she will cry and worry more.” My throat closed up; how can you talk happily when tears choke you out? It was the last and hardest call I had to make. The Taliban called out the names of those allowed to enter the airport. We had to move forward. I asked my dad to get home, for his health and his safety. I didn’t want to have to worry about him too.

“I am safe physically but not safe mentally because all I think and worry about is what if one day the Taliban learns about me, about me continuing to study in a foreign country all alone.”

I promised to keep him informed about our progress and give as many updates as possible. Understandably he was reluctant to leave me and I hugged him many times, kissed his hands, and ran back to hug him again. I was torn between making sure he would get to safety and holding him close. He kept telling me “Be strong as stone, never give up my son, and inshallah one day everyone will appreciate you and will be proud of you.” We waited from 8:30 AM to 2 PM. –––––– ____________ and some of the ______ team (students and teachers could get in) but most of us were at the first gate. Initially, the Taliban felt like they had everything under control, but as time progressed, they started yelling and beating on people and shooting into the air to regain control. I was very thirsty and I started getting hungry. But there was no place to buy anything. In the afternoon we get to the second gate. As the crowd increased so did the pushing. While we were in the crowd, my father called me 40 or 50 times. But I couldn't answer because I could hardly hold myself on my feet. It was evening when some groups got to the 3rd gate. But they stopped letting people into the airport. We waited until 10 PM, but no one opened. And the crowd kept increasing. –––––– asked us to go back to our home and rest until the next day. I was so sad and so tired but didn’t fall asleep until 3:30 am. I stayed at one of my teacher’s houses along with two other students. We left early the next morning, at 6:30 AM, and again waited at the airport like the previous day. But it was even harder. The Taliban were beating men and even women. I saw children fainting from dehydration. I saw girls and women fainting and crying. I saw men and boys crawling through walls to get into the airport. And I even saw the Taliban shooting at them. Shockingly I saw my Islamic teacher fainting while holding her child while people were stepping over her. Meanwhile, the Taliban took her husband to the other side of the crowd. I heard her yelling “My husband! Don’t take him! He is my husband” and the Taliban let him stay. I also fainted three times. Around afternoon, I entered the airport. And we waited there one day and one night on the cold floor, for another part of the ______ team to arrive. The whole day and the whole night the sounds of bullets could be heard and we had already got used to it. 26

The sound that scared us in the past, the sound that made us hopeless, the sound that we were never used to, became the new normal. The whole night I couldn't sleep, because people were constantly moving around us. Even when I was inside the airport, I didn’t feel comfortable sleeping around soldiers carrying guns and dressed in combat uniforms. Instead, I was helping my little ______ sisters to fall asleep. On Afghan Independence Day, 8/19/2021, the Afghan flags were lowered, and the Afghan people like our school were trying to flee our beloved country. Our day of independence, previously a reason for big celebrations and joy, became the day of national mourning and loss. I was in the last group of _________ boarding an American military plane, leaving from Kabul to Qatar. Even while we were walking on the plane, people wanted to join our group and come with us. The American soldiers were escorting us to the plane while shielding us with their arms from any intruders. While I was walking, I was the first person who stood in front of the line and felt like a very important person that even American soldiers were here to protect us. That was the time that I felt my Allah. That He is always there to protect me and He always cares for me. That was the time that I realized how much my father and my mother love me. It is all because of their prayers that Allah is helping us so much and protecting us. That was the time that I thank my Allah for doing all this to me and for giving me, such strong-hearted parents. That was the time I felt I was the luckiest and the most famous and important hero girl in the world. That was the time that I found hope again. And I believed in myself, in my Allah, and –––––––––– _____ that everything will get fine and anything next to Allah is possible. So we started moving to the plane by afternoon, and we were on the plane by 7:30 PM. I was expecting to find a seat to sit in it, and have water and food service, but that was not what happened. We didn't have any seats to sit on, we didn’t have water to drink, nor food to eat. So we were hungry for 4 days. The plane that could take 100 people, carried more than 600 people. We were tight. We couldn’t even raise our feet to rest for a little bit. The flight was supposed to last 3 hours and 40 minutes, but we were inside the plane for 12 hours. On August 20, 2021, at 6:30 AM we arrived at Qatar airport. Because our bus hadn't arrived, they couldn’t open the gate. Everyone was tired of sitting in such a cramped space, everyone needed to take fresh air, everyone had to go to the restroom, and most importantly the children needed it.

At first, the soldier said, “I can’t take this risk, if not they will fire me from my job” but when men and some women started begging him and shouting even getting angrier, they opened the door. And when we got out, the nature and the weather were completely different. The sun was about to rise, there were no more beautiful mountains that I saw every day in Kabul, and there was no fresh and cold windy weather like in my homeland. It was all hot and we sweated. I felt fresher and colder inside the plane. After an hour, no one wanted to stay outside. At that time I took some photos of that moment and the sunrise. I called my dad that I arrived in Qatar safely, and not to worry about me. I was lucky that my Afghan SIM was still working. And then my phone died. All _____ students sat together and we got to drink some water, went to the restroom, and played with the children until the bus arrived at 1:30 PM and took us to the airport. Inside the airport, they brought us some food and drinks. From there, they took us to the hotel where our other ______ students were staying. We all were so tired. The second that they showed us our room, my roommates fell asleep, but even though I was tired, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about my parents and I felt a deep sadness come over me. That night they collected our phones too, because of security issues. I felt like the loneliest girl in the world. All I had was my friend's notebook and pen, so I wrote down everything that was on my heart and mind. And cried a lot. In the morning my dorm parent, who was my roommate, took a shower and was complaining about how hot the water was and how hard it is to take a shower with warm water. I went to take a shower too, she was right! The water was really warm. It was all because Qatar's weather is very very hot. The next day they gave us some clothes, bathroom utilities, and a suitcase. We were quarantined there for five days and boarded the flight to Rwanda on August 26, 2021. The start of my new life. And here I am now. Writing essays about my country in a safe place. Without worrying about being killed, staying a prisoner at home, or anyone stopping me from getting an education. I have lots of different opportunities to take advantage of, I have lots of freedom. The freedom to live, the freedom to study, the freedom to speak, the freedom to choose, and the freedom to wish anything I want. But my family is in danger. My family is in Afghanistan between those dangerous strangers. 27

I am safe physically but not safe mentally because all I think and worry about is what if one day the Taliban learns about me, about me continuing to study in a foreign country all alone. What if they kill my parents because I am studying? The worry of losing my parents has been the hardest challenge I have had in my life. Another thing that makes me sad is about the girls back in my country that I left behind. The girls, who used to be allowed to go outside, but not anymore. Who used to be allowed to go to school, to university, or work, but not anymore. The girls who lost all of their freedom. The freedom of speaking for themselves, deciding for themselves, and even the freedom to get an education.

Those talented brains are asked to be silent now. And men are forcing them to marry whomever they want. They don't even have the right to decide who they want to spend their life with. They are forced to accept whomever their father or brothers want to. If women were in charge of Afghanistan this current disaster would not be happening. No one would be an immigrant living in an alien country. –––––––––– saved many many lives, the lives that will save many other lives in the future. Just a single woman had this much power. If one woman could be that strong, could solve many big problems, and could do impossible things like fighting with the Taliban that a man couldn’t do.

Imagine every single woman in the world being in power. Imagine all of the women getting an education and fighting not only for their rights, but for human rights, and also for the lives of other genders. What a big difference and improvements they could make in our big world. How many problems could be solved with women in power, our earth would be completely different. And every single child, girls, and boys, would have the freedom to do whatever they want to: the freedom to study, the freedom to wish, and the freedom to be anyone they want, the freedom to live in peace.

"Imagine all of the women getting an education and fighting not only for their rights, but for human rights, and also for the lives of other genders.” 28

Devastated Dreamers ANONYMOUS Afghanistan

It was not too long ago when a vapid feather fell from the bird’s nest that was built on the highest branch of the tree. As the feather made its way toward the tree’s roots, it traveled through a lot more than only going vertically down toward the ground. Initially tracing its collapse, beginning with the highest branch of the tree, it was clear. The feather had no color to stand out between the branches of the tree. In fact, it let through the colors of anything it passed by: the green leaves, the rough and dark brown branches, the clear sky, sometimes the clouds, a drop of rain, and even the sun rays. That was the beautiful truth of colorlessness– to let other colors be seen through, just like a ghost that never blocks the way for the living to be noticed and yet dimmers the lively shades. The lifeless feather did the same. It passed by following the direction of the wind which blew and pushed it in all different directions. The feather had no idea what the wind had in mind for it. It looked beautiful, exciting, and adventurous at the beginning. But after passing the first leaf, three inches away from the nest, the soft breeze was replaced by a harsh wind. It blew so hard that the feather was hit against the main stem which tore apart many vanes and almost broke the hollow shaft.

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It rose again though. Gladly gliding away from the stem and smoothly going its way again. Curious about what was coming next, the feather recklessly rode the waves of the wind and embraced the unstable movements driven by the wind that limited its autonomy. Still falling, the feather was not even as far as half the length of one branch when it was cruelly hit by another furious blow of the wind. Not sure where that came from, it still kept moving. The clearness turned weaker and dimmer until it faded and gave its place to dark colors as a remembrance of all the injuries. Now, the injured feather still kept falling, hoping to land on the ground and be picked up by a kinder pair of hands. The long wait was never enough, because the world always had something in mind for her. The journey of this feather is the story of any Afghan girl that I know. Some are more similar and some are quite different, but they all are on the same track. Within any other hardships, being a girl has always intensified the vulnerability of Afghan girls as human beings.

It starts with the day a girl is born in Afghanistan and goes on till the day she loses her identity among the waves of decisions that are made about her life. In almost all provinces of Afghanistan, the majority of girls are not given the opportunity of making decisions about their own lives which includes education–the biggest risk in girls’ security in my country. I have always thought about whether it is the freedom of choice that is limited for Afghan girls that causes in them not being able to attend school, or is it the fact that they were never given the mindset of being educated from the beginning, therefore they have no idea how to use their rights in making their own decisions of going to school or not? Given the life experience and the stories shared, I have found that this matter takes place a lot deeper in our society than just the freedom of choice. It is about how safe the environment is for a girl to go out of home and study at school. I was born in 2004. The regime of Taliban, the terrorists who closed all doors of hope for Afghans especially women and girls, had fallen three years prior to my existence. My peers and I had to only read about the Taliban in our history classes, but instead we grew up with the fear of their existence and the triggering stories of their behaviors against women and girls.

Afghan Girls


We witnessed their brutality, we carried the horros stories about them, we watched them burn hundreds of girls’schools, we heard them pour acid in the faces of the young women whose beauties were too much for them to take, we published the heartbreaking news of our peers getting kidnapped, raped, forced into marriege, and killed as the result of being resilient. We buried the most talented students who were known to be unworldly and excellent at Math and Science. As teenagers, we witnessed a lot more than even the male adults in other parts of the world believe they can bear. We went through all these together, and we still risked our lives and went to school no matter how many times our schools received threat letters from unknown people about being bombed. A lot of families were afraid of sending their daughters away after they knew about those letters, some other families were discouraged after hearing the news of girls going missing and never returning home from their schools. One way or the other, girls’ security has always been at risk when they were given the opportunity of being educated. This would usually happen in the provinces where at least families agreed with girls’ education and their safety was sometimes a matter of concern. But far in the rural areas, girls were never respected as human beings by the residents and their own families. That is where the harsh and dominant role of fathers and brothers and uncles come to play with a girl’s life story. It is a very basic familial rule for girls to always respect their brothers and never raise their voice against them even when they are being mistreated. The marriages would always be arranged within the male relatives of a girl according to a man’s choice where a girl’s opinion is never even asked. And girls would always agree to the decisions being taken about them, because they fear the consequences. If they were to disobey, they would easily get killed in the hands of their own brothers and father and the other residents would still honor the manly pride of the murderers. That is where fighting back for their own rights as human beings and having the freedom of making their decisions would never dare to occur in girls' minds because of the dear life. They choose to at least be alive and live, even with many harsh waves of the wind they see ahead of themselves coming to hit them in their sweet teenage years.

We experienced all those days when there was a government, when the Taliban did not have full authority over the country. We still accomplished a lot. Until one year ago, we had female politicians, doctors, teachers, engineers, pilots, researchers, we have had many fighters who had come to stabilize their path and invested in their lives the same as any other man in the country did. We have artists who sang, danced, wrote the words that rhymed, and brought laughter in everyone’s faces. We have had female painters who bravely painted their own portraits and proudly singed their own names at the bottom of each masterpiece they created, we had adventurer who conquered the coldest and boldest peakes of our mountains, we had young girls who made robots with their delicate hands and powerful brains, and most important of all, we had female high school students who dared to dream big and were eager to make them come true. Yes, we had young, female dreamers. But not anymore. Not in our homeland. Once again the birds flew away and the feathers scattered around, once again the great minds escaped for dear life, once again the doors for girls were shut, once again, humanity was humiliated. Ever Since August 2021, the doors of schools for girls of higher than 6th grade have been shut, just like twenty years ago. Girls and women are not safe anymore, just like they never were. They can still attempt to learn a little, only in a secret way, only by risking their lives, their families’ and relatives’ lives. Not all teachers would be willing to cooperate though.

When it comes to security and being safe, girls have always been the main target for the Taliban. So I want the world to take this into consideration, I want the powerful ladies of this planet to help people of their own sex to be like them. I want the United Nations to prevent another dark era of history from being repeated. It is impossible to educate Afghan girls in their homeland without securing their lives first. I ask from every single human being who values education and loves gaining knowledge to do their part in spreading the word and helping Afghan girls live their lives as any other girl on this planet does. I want the Human Rights Organization to secure the rights of women and girls in my country. I want them to support humanity so that girls in Afghanistan can breathe again. I want the entire world to never sit silent and never accept this dark destiny that is being written about my peers in my homeland, I want people of all regions and groups to embrace diversity and help those who are not of their race, I want them to hear the words and the screams of a young Afghan girl who desperately wants to paint but is not even allowed to go out to her school friends. I wish that my country and whatever was taken away from me, is given back so that I feel safe even when I am here in the United States. I want my safety back.


Do Not Look Away ANONYMOUS Age ##, Name of Country

I am an educated Afghan girl. That is how I identify myself. Growing up I was taught that the word “educated” makes me different from most girls in my country. Today, more than any day, I understand what it means to be “an educated Afghan girl.” It does make me different from the majority of girls in my country. I am not married, nor do I have children. I don’t obey a man, and beyond everything, I still go to school. Girls’ security is defined as a “state of being secure” and free from danger (“Security”). Hence, Afghan girls are not secure. Child marriage, abuse, early pregnancy, and so forth are the insecurities they face. According to Voice of America (VOA), for every 100,000 live births in 2018, 640 mothers died. Notably, this statistic marked an improvement from 2001, when 1,600 mothers out of 100,000 died (Dawi). Most of these mothers are underage girls who get married instead of going to school. If there is one thing that could make the lives of Afghan girls more secure, it is education. Getting an education might be a choice in any other place in the world, but for Afghan girls, it decides our fate and it determines our security. I have seen the impact of getting an education in my own family and how it makes our lives more secure. Throughout this essay, first, I will tell the story of my mother. Then, I will tell the story of my father’s second wife. Finally, I will tell you my story. In each of our stories, I will convey how education has made our lives more secure and continues to impact our futures. THE STORY OF A FIGHTER Fatima grew up in a small village in Bamyan, a central province in Afghanistan. She learned reading and writing from homeschooling since there were no official schools for girls.

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When she was ten, the Taliban took over Afghanistan for the first time. Fatima and her family migrated to Iran. In Iran, she was able to attend school and began to have dreams of her own. After five years when the US overthrew the Taliban government, Fatima and her family returned to Afghanistan. She was able to continue her education for a year, but then it was time for her to get married as her older sisters did. At the age of sixteen, she got married to a man who she had never seen before her wedding day. The man who was her husband by then was fourteen years older than her. She was taught to respect and obey him. That meant no complaining when she was beaten or yelled at. With all these challenges, Fatima considers herself very lucky, because her husband allowed her to finish high school. She was recognized for her intelligence in school, and when she graduated, an organization called “Shuhada organization”, offered a scholarship for her and her husband. They both studied nursing and started working in clinics all over Bamyan province. They have six children and lived together for almost twenty years. Yet like most Afghan families, her husband considered himself the boss of the family. After all, he was a “man” and that was his response every time Fatima caught him cheating with another woman. Being a man was also the reason he decided not to let Fatima go to work anymore because he thought he would lose control. However, Fatima was not a little sixteen-year-old girl anymore. She had worked hard for her dreams and she could not let go.

As much as it was a hard decision, she decided to get a divorce. Divorce is not a simple decision in Afghanistan. Divorced women challenge cultural expectations and they lose their respect in society. Fatima risked it all and filed her divorce application. But soon, her mother and brothers came to her and convinced her to give him a second chance. “Don’t ruin our reputation,” is what they told her. She did as she was told, but after a week her husband disappeared. No one could reach him for months until finally his brother called Fatima and informed her that her husband was married to another woman. So there she was, a single mom with the responsibility of six children. She goes to work and supports her family and takes care of them with all her might, by herself. It is a huge responsibility that not every woman can meet. But she can, because she is an Afghan woman. If Fatima was born as a boy and not a girl, if she was not an Afghan girl, how would her life be different? These are the questions to think about when it comes to how identity shapes girls' security. Fatima fought for getting an education and that gave her the power to independently be a hero for her children. She also made sure all six of her children went to school and had the future that was withheld from her. There are hundreds of Fatimas in Afghanistan. They fight the unfairness of their lives every day, but still manage to have a smile on their faces. They live an insecure life but fight for their daughter's safety.

Afghan Girls


THE STORY OF A VICTIM Besides Fatima, there are also girls like Basira, who are victims of patriarchy and do not know how to fight. Basira grew up in Daikundi province and never attended school. She is eighteen years old and is married to a man twice her age. She has a daughter too. Basira did not learn to dream. She never knew she could be the hero of her own life. It might be because she was always busy doing house chores, or it was something she was told only her brothers could do. She did not want to live in her village for the rest of her life. And the only way out that came to her mind was getting married to a man from a better place. That is how she met the doctor in their local clinic and got married to him, regardless of his age or his marital status. Living with him does not offer her any better future. She has to obey him, do all the house chores, and never leave the house without his permission. Moreover, she can see her family only once a year. Her life is so much different from that of an educated eighteen-year-old girl. Education could turn the tables on her life. If Basira could get at least an elementary education, her life would be markedly different. If she could sit in a classroom for at least a year, she would have a different mindset. If she knew how to read, she would have more confidence in her abilities. If she was able to write she could have a voice and could speak up whenever her basic human rights were being trampled. She would be a different Basira if she ever saw the light of education in her innocent mind. She could attend college, instead of doing her husband’s laundry, and she would know that her husband is her life partner, not her owner. Unfortunately, most of the girls in remote areas of Afghanistan have the same life as Basira. Their fathers, brothers, and husbands make decisions for them and know them as the “second gender.” They decide on their marriages, education, and on everything a human is meant to decide for themselves. These girls are often victims of child marriage experiencing early pregnancy and poor mental health. Most of them marry old men, who may or may not have other wives, too. In addition, culturally using violence toward women is very common in their villages. In fact, they are not safe their whole lives. The only solution is to empower them by allowing them to educate themselves. THE STORY OF A HOPE My story is different from both Fatima's and Basira’s. I am the daughter of a single mother. Fatima is my mom. And Basira is my father’s second wife. I was born and raised in _______, Afghanistan.

“I invite the world, especially powerful women, to join forces and change the education policy for girls in my country.” I finished elementary school in my province, and in sixth grade, I was fortunate to join ______ boarding school, _____________________ ______________. ______ shaped me as a person and my dreams for the future. Growing up in an educational environment with girls of the same age and big dreams taught me the meaning of being a girl. For us ______ girls, being an Afghan girl always means being independent, having dreams, and chasing them. The journey to achieve those dreams is through education. Unlike my mom and Basira, I have access to education and it makes me different. I was taught to dream and to be independent rather than getting married and serving men. My mom made sure I had every opportunity she did not have or could not use. She taught me that giving up is never a reasonable option. She told me in our last phone call before I evacuated from Afghanistan, “Remember whose daughter you are, and have the heart of a lion.” I and my schoolmates evacuated last year after the Taliban took over Afghanistan once again. As much as it is a horrible memory, and life is hard being away from our families, we got through it because our hearts are like the hearts of lions. Most of us go to different boarding schools in the US, where we are the only girls of Afghan nationality who attend these high schools. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, it has been a year that no Afghan girl beyond sixth grade has attended school. With the collapse of the former government, the doors of girls’ schools have been shut and the dreams of millions of girls have been demolished. I shared the story of my mom, my stepmom, and myself to let the world know how getting an education impacts the security of an Afghan girl. These stories prove how Basira is vulnerable, my mom is strong, and I work for my dreams; above all, these stories show how education impacts an Afghan girl. It is especially important to know this at this moment because an action is still possible for girls' education.

As an Afghan girl and as a representative of thousands of girls who are as equally talented and hardworking as I am, I ask the world, the United Nations, and all the others who have a say in international policy for girls’ security, to not let history repeat itself. History has witnessed what women went through twenty years ago. Closing the schools for girls will send us back in history and erase us from society once again. This is what my head of school, _________ ______________, and all the _______ community are trying to tell the world: “Do not look away.” We can make a difference in Basira’s daughter’s life and secure the lives of next-generation girls by educating them. If the girls of my generation go to school, thirty years later it is unlikely for maternal deaths to be so high in Afghanistan. First and foremost, the Taliban should not gain international legitimacy, unless they allow girls to return to schools. I invite the world, especially powerful women, to join forces and change the education policy for girls in my country.

WORKS CITED Dawi, Akmal. “Afghanistan Faces Return to Highest Maternal Mortality Rates Share Afghanistan Faces Return to Highest Maternal Mortality Rates.” :ZZ9RD&RP, voa, 7 Mar. 2022, -/6474248.html. “Security.” 0HUULDP:HEVWHU¶V, Eleventh edition, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc, 2012, p. 1123.


Education is the key to a better life ANONYMOUS Age ##, Name of Country

"Lying Is An Elementary Form of Self Defense." Susan Sontag Hello, my name is ______! I am from _________, Afghanistan. You may have heard of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, but _________ is nothing like it! We call Kabul small America because of the fashion and freedom women have there. But other areas of Afghanistan have mountains, greenery, agriculture, and rivers. _________ province is a completely different world, like something you would see in your dreams. It’s the largest province of Afghanistan and the center of the Taliban. If you were to search for _________ province on Google, all you would find is desert, wreckage, helicopters, war, and armies fighting with the Taliban. Education in this province is very difficult, especially for girls. A lot of people are against girls’ education and by their beliefs, girls have no power in society and all they have to do is the house chores. Women are supposed to be at home serving the men of their house. They mostly get married at the age of 15, 16, and even 13. Being a girl in _________ means you are no one. Men are the ones who control every aspect of your life, where you go, who you can talk to, what you wear, how you wear it, etc. Growing up in a society where there were no rights for girls, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as rights. But fortunately, I was born into a fighter family. A family which will do anything for girls to get an education. My parents let me go to a boarding school in Kabul and complete my education so that I could come back to _________ and bring change to my community.

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None of my relatives knew where I was studying. I spent years lying to everybody, telling them that I was staying at my uncle’s house. I felt really bad for lying to everyone but it was the only way for me to get an education. As Susan Sontag, an American writer, said, “Lying is an elementary form of self-defense.” When you’re in a dangerous situation, and there is no way to solve the problem besides lying to everybody, you sometimes must lie. During the vacations, I was very excited to go home but in the meantime, I was worried about getting home safe. The journey from Kabul to _________ is very dangerous. Taliban on one side and the army soldiers on the other side of the road. Always in a fight. Always gunshots. There was a day when I was going to _________ from Kabul with my five small nephews. Suddenly a group of Taliban stopped the bus. I knew they would come inside the bus and start asking "Where is your man?” There was no one with us. A woman cannot travel without a man, people are very strict about it. I asked a man sitting in front of me very anxiously, “Can you please tell them that you are responsible for my nephews and me?” He agreed. Then the Taliban came into the bus. They asked, "who are you going to _________ with?" Again, I had to lie in order to survive.

I pointed at the man sitting in front of us and they believed me when I told them he was my brother. The bus was full of people. The Taliban came to each person and asked to see their identification. They also checked people's phones to find out more information about them. I was looking at my nephews, asking them to avoid looking at the Taliban. The Taliban looked scary with their long dirty hair, beards, and weapons around their necks. “Why did you cut your hair and where are you going?” They asked the men on the bus and soon started calling out their names, asking them to get out of the bus. God knows what happened to them. A few hours later, they started fighting with the Afghan army, and they continued fighting for two days and nights. They had also blocked the way to Kabul. We spent two days inside the bus without food or water. The weather was so cold, and I couldn’t contact my parents to tell them how we were doing because my phone ran out of battery. During those days I saw the way the Taliban killed army men, with my own eyes. At one point a bullet came whizzing in front of my face. It was terrifying, thoughts of my brother flooded into my mind, and I wondered if this was also how he was killed. My brother had also been in the army and was killed by the Taliban. When I saw them killing these soldiers, that was all I could think about.

Afghan Girls


“Through my experience I have learned how essential the decision and resilience of me and my family was in my education. Without that, I would surely not be where I am today.”

In Afghanistan, the vacation time is different because of the weather. Kabul has a big break for school in winter but Helmand has a big vacation in summer. So I was finishing my school year in Kabul and then going to Helmand for vacations. Then I started teaching a few girls in school because that school doesn't have enough teachers. I was really happy to help them. I did teach them and I learned a lot from them and they learned a lot from me so that was a nice experience for me and for them as well. When my vacation time was ending, the students were really sad and told me please do not go. For me, goodbye is always really hard, especially harder than other times, so I was supposed to leave them alone and go to my own school to study for myself. The principal of the school was really pleased with my job because I was younger than those students. He made a certificate and gave it to me to keep forever.

August 15th, 2022; was the worst day of my life. It was the day the Taliban took full control over Afghanistan. In a matter of minutes, everything changed and I felt as if I lost everything. I felt broken, scared, stressed, hopeless, and disappointed. In the dorm, every girl was buried in their sorrows, trying to find out where the Taliban had reached. Hundreds of people left the country on the same day in fear of living under the Taliban. The airport looked like a beehive. People left everything behind in order to find a better and safer place. It is embarrassing and sad at the same time to talk about the two boys who fell off the plane wings and died. All they wanted was to go to a place where they can find peace and live a happier life, but what they encountered was miserable. My school, _______ managed to help us get out of the country. Leaving the country in a situation where the crowds were begging the soldiers to take their children with them for a better future, broke my heart. You could see the worry and sorrow on every face. I had almost lost hope but the dream of getting an education and saving Afghanistan from those horrible monsters, kept me going.

When I first moved, everything was very new for me. I was really sad and felt disappointed in my country. When I experienced the new culture and school it all was different and difficult for me. I realized my country has a big history but it is too old and couldn't improve; it is failing its citizens. This country doesn't have a big history. It improved a lot in a shorter period of time. It looks appealing. At first, it was really difficult for me to go to class and sit with boys in the same class. It was my first time having class with boys. I was ashamed to study with them and I couldn't raise my hands for anything even if I knew the answer. I was also so joyful because of my studies. This school has great teachers and good techniques which were beneficial for me. I realized that I have a lot of people who are taking care of me all the time when I need their help, especially when I was in a difficult situation where I lost my mom. That was such a hard time for me. I was worried about everything like what will happen to me. When I saw my classmate they were trying to make me feel better and be more cheerful. That makes me feel better and they support me a lot. That was really nice of them. I admired their kindness towards me. I am really thankful for my host family, they are such amazing people in my life. They did hard work for me and for my partner as well. I realized that the family was a lovely family with us even though they had their own kids. They did a lot for us. They always suggest where we want to go or what we want to do. So we were making plans with them. They gave me the opportunity to cook because I love to cook and fortunately I got to teach my host mom how to cook Afghan foods. Then one day she cooked really delicious Afghan food. She was really happy with us and her kids were also happy and friendly with us. That was a nice experience with them. I learned about her country, experience, and tradition and she learned about mine. Although we were from different places we had similar experiences.

At first, it was really difficult for me and I was ashamed, but now I feel better than I did at first. It will get better and better in time and now it’s not that difficult for me. It was such a big challenge in my life. Everything is going much better now. Being able to get an education required a lot and I had to have the patience to deal with many problems. I was willing to risk my life in order to study because I knew it would allow me to bring change to my community by supporting girls who have not had the chance to get an education. I will use the opportunities that God has given me and will try my best to see the positive aspect of everything. I am very proud of myself and the way I dealt with the challenges that came my way. I have learned a lot and am now prepared for more challenges. Through my experience I have learned how essential the decision and resilience of me and my family was in my education. Without that, I would surely not be where I am today. Diversity of identity within global politics encourages international security to consider all groups of society, including those that are currently vulnerable and have limited power.


The Rose That Grew From Concrete ANONYMOUS Age ##, Name of Country Here are the things I hear from my classmates, friends, and people around me about Afghanistan: "I wish I could go back," my friends have said at least once a day. “I wish I was able to see my mom’s face and hug her for the last time before they put her under the soil forever,” my friend told me. “I wish there were no Taliban so there was no pain and suffering,” another friend says. “If there were not any Taliban, I could be back home, in my own country, studying in a class with my old classmates. But now I might not even be able to see most of them again. Some of them might be forced to marry one of the Taliban, if they don't want to be shot by them. Some might leave everything behind and be a refugee to another country, like I am. Some might commit suicide and some may even die in an explosion or a protest demonstration. Why do Afghans have to suffer all the time and wherever they go?” my friend tells me in a message. “They say you can't fix anything by wishing for it, but we didn't only wish for a better Afghanistan, we worked hard for peace for 20 years. During those 20 years. They terrorized our people, killed large numbers of students at universities and high schools multiple times. Finally what they did to us in August of 2021 was different. It was all about blood and war. They didn't only kill one, two or thousands of us, they killed Afghanistan this time. They destroyed our home and killed all of us, while all the world was silently watching us on the news.” Now no one but especially no female wants to live in that country. Every woman in that country knows that the biggest problem Taliban have is with women.

One of Five Essays from

They would do anything to keep women inside the houses and make the outside so unsafe for them that they can only dream of one day walking outside. But I personally dont wish to go back but the situation in Afghanistan has hurt my identity as a daughter, as a young woman, and as a student. It was last year, May of 2021, that my dad became jobless after working with ___________ for over 20 years. We were a middle class family. He was the only one working in our family of seven. There was a lot of pressure on him: my sister's expenses, who was a sophomore in a college in another province, my school fees and transports, and my 18 year old brother who needed to go to college but couldn't because of our financial situation. He sold a small house we had on the mountains to keep everything balanced and good for the family. I was not home a lot; I was away from my family since I was 11. I was going to ________________________, a boarding school for girls which was in Kabul far away from ________ my hometown. But it was July and we were counting the days to finally get off and go to summer vacation. We were five girls from ________, always traveling from school to home together. During these six years we always had fear of traveling and security problems on our way. Sometimes the Taliban were checking our cars. Sometimes they were asking questions like ”where are you going? What is your relationship with the driver?” We would lie and say that he was our dad or older brother so we didn't have to get in trouble.

Afghan Girls


Sometimes they were shooting behind the cars and sometimes they were killing or even cutting soldiers' heads with knives in front of people's eyes with no sympathy. I remember my friend, Zahra, the youngest in the group, was always crying by hearing gunshots or even when she was seeing one of the Taliban from a close distance. We would always take a deep breath and feel safe the second we were arriving, But everything was different this time when we arrived at _______. Streets were quieter, fewer cars and more shops were closed. I was starting to get worried by seeing people’s fearful, worried and distressed faces around me. That day, I overheard my mom’s friends telling her “ we should get all the food we have available and lots of water,I don't think we can find water on mountains”. I couldn't understand anything. Why would they want to go to the mountains? but I remembered my mom's past life story, that they were supposed to escape to the mountains from Taliban. I was shocked and terrified. Will we have to repeat history? Is war going to begin again? After reconnecting with my friends, I got more terrified. One of them had already moved to a village for away from the city and when I asked the reason “Taliban are gonna attack and its possible that they should even terror and kill all of like the past, because we are Hazara’s” she told me. My other friend who was from Badakhshan told me that “ Taliban has forced five girls of our town to marry them if no they are gonna kill their families and then them”. Things couldn't get more scary and abrupt than this.

My dad never had yelled at me before but that day he went so serious with me and told me to wear a long dress which is proper for the Taliban. I got so upset but I could totally understand my dad, I couldn't put myself in his shoes. I changed in a hurry, sat inside the car and told my little brother to come inside, but my dad disagreed: “We can't fit in everybody in that car, we are taking out girls first,” he said. ''But where?” I said with a loud and angry voice. “ anywhere but cities, somewhere that the Taliban can't figure out,” he answered me. He was right; it was really more dangerous for girls and women than men. On the way we all came out of the car multiple times to push the car to move. It is all mountains and raw roads. We didn't eat anything all day and we finally arrived at 8:30 pm to _________, a very old and outlying district of _________. I still couldn't believe we fled and escaped from the Taliban; it was easy to say but who could have imagined this would happen one day. When it was time to go back to school, my dad talked with a driver and just like always I was supposed to wake up at 4 am to get ready and go. The one thing that I always hated was crying and getting ready.

The concerning part was that I was alone this time on the way; I was not with my friends. They all had already left with their dads or older brothers because of a rule that Taliban always emphasized: “Women should not appear in the streets without a blood relative or without wearing a burqa.” I was the only girl in the car and I didnt have a blood relative. So if Taliban have had seen me inside that car they would probably kill me like all the girls they had killed before or they would for sure punish or torture all the men inside that car. It was a 6 hours drive and I was counting each second of those hours to finally get to Kabul. It was always hard but I was trying to comfort myself by remembering the time when I was 11 and traveling alone _________________. I finally got to _______ and I felt safer. I was there for about a week having a normal student life, until on the night of August 10th. While we all were in our room, one of our dorm parents came in and told us about traveling to Rwanda. We all were extremely happy, we thought it was maybe an educational trip but things started getting more serious. They told us that we might not see our families for a long period of time so tell them all goodbye as long as you have time now.

It was 11:00 pm that night. I was awake thinking about the Taliban when I suddenly heard loud and rough knocks on our door. The only thing that came to mind was the Taliban behind our door trying to get in. Fortunately or maybe unfortunately, it was one of our neighbors. He told my dad that the Taliban took over Baghak and are getting closer to our town”. It was 1:00 am when another loud knock woke me up promptly. it was one of my dad’s friends this time ” we are leaving, it is me, my family and some other families. You need to hurry. The town is almost empty by now” he told my dad and he left in a hurry. My dad called my uncles, discussed with them for a long period of time and then told all of us to start packing immediately. Among the three brothers, my father was the youngest and the only one who had a car but there were over 20 people in the whole three families. 10 of us were women and girls. It was already morning and time to go away from __________.


I was no longer feeling good about this trip. On 15 of august unexpectedly they told us to leave the school campus immediately. I was shocked; ______ was a school with two security gates, guards with guns and it was impossible to let students leave the campus without sheets with a dorm parent signature on it. How could they let us go like that? What was going on? But they were serious. We girls from provinces didn't have anywhere to go, so what about us? Some went to their friend's houses, some went to their relatives and most of them had no choice but to go to faculties and staff houses. 7 of us decided to go with ________ one of the staff houses that we were closer with and trusted on. The moment we stepped out of the door everyone on the streets started staring at us. I was not surprised; it was strange not to stare at seven young girls and a woman, who are basically running on the streets, carrying their suitcases. “What's going on? Why are you girls running? Where are you all going?” people were asking us, but we wouldn't answer any of them. After another 30 minutes, we finally got to __________ house. That night, Zahra showed me a video about Kabul's airport. It was like a war seen in movies, even more horrible. But I laughed and told her '' that video must be an edit or probably from 20 or 30 years ago.” But I was actually feeling scared and was hoping that the video shouldn't have been real, until my dad called me. After multiple times asking me if I am doing okay and where I am, he told me that my older brother is gone. He and his nine other friends wanted to flee to Iran so they could be safe. “safe from what” I asked him and the answer that I heard was the end of my hopes for me. “THE TALIBAN HAS TAKEN OVER AFGHANISTAN, _______''. What will happen after this?Are we all gonna die?I have already lost my first sister, my uncle and my grandfather because of them. Will my parents escape to the mountains one more time? How about all the women, Will they wear burqas just like 30 years ago? Can they even go to school? I couldn't sleep that night. It was around 12 pm that our school called us and told us to “Be in the airport by 10:00 am tomorrow. We are going to leave the country. You are not allowed to bring anything with yourself but your passport and phone”. I was an artist. “How can I leave all my paintings here?” I told my friends. "You have to choose you or your arts, ______!” they told me.

I was an artist. “How can I leave all my paintings here?” I told my friends. You have to choose you or your arts, (name)!” they told me.

During all these years I was taking my arts everywhere with me; even the time that we escaped to ______, but it was time to leave them there. The day after when we walked outside, on the streets, I was shocked by what I was seeing. I couldn't believe my eyes. There were no cars but thousands of people going all around on the streets: Some people were running, some were shouting and some were telling us not to go to the airport. At the end of the day we couldn't make it to the airport. We went back to ________ house. We tried going to the airport the next day but we failed again. We couldn't go back to ________ house this time. We had walked so far away from there, so one of our friends took all of us to her sister’s house. On 18 of August, we again went to airport, It was as if that was the end of the world. I could only see blood, people screaming and running everywhere and gunshots. The Taliban were lashing and whipping men and women around me, in front of my eyes. It was my first time seeing such a horror in 15 years of my life.

I wish it was a movie but It wasn't like the horror movies at all. This time people were dying in real life. The blood on the streets were real and the bad guys of the movie were real. It was my first time seeing Taliban from that close and such a seen in real life. I found myself trembling and crying. My dad was calling me in a row but I did not answer any of his calls. '' What if I answer and I die? I don't want my dad’s last memory of me to be a gunshots sound and screamings. He knows nothing about what I am experiencing right now, so I don't wanna make him worry,” I told myself. We all finally got through the first gate, it was there that we all got separated. I lost them all. Now it was me, thousands of people and a question. “How would I pass 3 other gates and get to the last gate to find my friends __________________________?” Children were crying, people were pushing each other, the Taliban were just yelling at people and hitting them with the handle of the big guns they had. I fell under the crowd's feet and got crushed many times. But I found some of my friends back by the time some of them already had injuries on their faces.


I don't know how to explain it by words but we all finally, got to the last gate and met ________ people again. I asked one of the faculties about the plan “ we need to get out of here alive first, then we might go to Qatar and then Rwanda.” I had my phone with me so I started writing.

“Right this second, 18 of august, 2:59 pm, that I am sitting here on this hot street, waiting to get out of or die. escaping from my home because some people already has chngest it to hell. All I can see is blood, parents protecting their children not to get hitted by Talibans. It is my first time wishing for such a thing, but Thank god I dont have my family with me right now. Now that I am suffering here, what is a girl my age in one another country is doing?! Maybe just going to her usual school which is probably boring for her. Maybe having a movie night with their family. Maybe they are having a family dinner. Maybe they are making blanket forts with their siblings just like I used to do when I was younger but will I even see my siblings anymore?. It is so unfair that other kids my cousin’s age goes to sleep with their parents singing them songs and books; but she has to watch the news and pray for her older brother to come back home alive. how about those girls, is their biggest vulnerability and concern is also their gender?, being a woman. Have they also been sextally assaulted many many times? Have they also been attacked by a man when they were walking home? Did they ever wish that they were born a man instead, like I was wishing it every day? Do people also call them by a not proper name like “sia sar” which means “a dark and black mind”. Did they ever get to fights with men because they were being unrespectful to women? Did they ever wish to be somebody else? Now I am here in the US, studying in a school that I deserve. But every night when other girls are choosing their outfit for tomorrow, I stay awake until 2 am thinking about whether my family is alive or not? What about my sister, what about her future, can she go back to college one day? Now I can only talk with my family once every two weeks bye phone for 20 minutes; but I don't compare myself to girls who are going home every weekend. I don't wish to be somebody else because I know there are millions of girls back in Afghanistan including all my friends and sisters that says “ Now that I am a prisoner at this house forever, what is _______ doing this minute? I wish I was her.” 38

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