International

Guest Post: Open Letter to Hillary Clinton from Three Young Afghan Students – Sakina, Farangis, and Arezo

Dear Mrs. Clinton,

We hope you would be healthy, this letter is written by three Afghan girls (Sakina, Farangis, and Arezo). You may wonder about receiving this letter from Afghan girls. You may be happy receiving it, you may not. You might have the time to read or you might not, but we suggest you to it read once. We thought a lot about to whom to write this letter, like: Mr. Donald. J. Trump; the last president of US, Mr. Obama; the ex-President of the US’s wife, Mrs. Michelle Obama; and you Mrs. Hillary Clinton. Finally, you were the one we chose to write this letter for. As a woman you can understand us girls better.

 

Arezo, Farangis, and Sakina

 

Mrs. Clinton,

We three have lots of dreams to be heard, we have a lot in our hearts about our futures and goals to be shared with someone — someone who can understand us, get what we say and listen to our hearts talk. We need someone experienced, someone who has lived life longer than us, and knows how life is going on and why are humans living. We want to have someone who guides us and supports us in the path of having our dreams and reaching our goals. Here, in our country, it is too difficult to talk about our goals, and share them with others. Whenever we want to talk about our dreams, we get negative ideas. One says: ”your dreams will remain just dreams.” Another says: “your dreams are much bigger than what you are.” The next one says: “I do not think you are the one to achieve these goals.” The other person says: “the bomb explosions and suicide attacks will not give you the chance to have your dreams come true, you will probably die in suicide attacks somewhere on the street, in the educational societies, in the mosques or even at the schools like the youth who died.” The only positive thing that we hear is this,” you are still alive, this should be everything for you.”

The people around us have no hope for living a long time. When there is no hope in life, how can we talk about our dreams and future plans? We live in a country in which the people are killed in bomb explosions in every nook and cranny. This is life for us! Suicide attacks and burying the dead bodies of hundreds and hundreds of the people, and having the next hundreds injured, including men, women, the elders, the youth and the children. When we leave home for school in the morning, we are not sure of coming back safe. We are not safe even at the school where is the place of learning and getting knowledge. When we leave for anywhere until we are back at home, losing us in a bomb blast is the main and the biggest worry of our parent. They have the deep fear of losing us and not seeing us again. When our parents leave for somewhere, we are uneasy about a suicide attack happening somewhere in our country and losing our parents. Then it will be so hard living without a father and mother. When life is all worries about losing our beloveds, how can we think of our goals and planning to achieve them?

The harmful effects of bomb explosions and suicide attacks on the street, roads, or even in the classes at school and in the educational societies leave the students despondent the about the way life is going.  The recent bomb explosion has decreased the numbers of students entering education, most of them leave the school. The students are killed sitting on the school chairs with their pens in their hands and notebooks and books opened on their desks. The teachers are killed with the markers in their hands while solving the mathematical equations, explaining a biology lesson or chemical interactions. This is our life here. The insecurity and unsafety in our country have changed most family’s thoughts and decisions about sending their children to school for studying. The recent bomb explosions and suicide attacks have forced the families to prevent their children from going to school and taking classes in the educational centres.  They think it is best not to send their children school, otherwise, they will lose their children in suicide attacks. When families do not let their children to go to school because of the insecurity, the boys have no way, but to go to other countries, where they live many years of their life in refugee camps feeling lonely and insecure away from their families in very difficult situations of life.   And if they do not go to other countries, they have to work and save up for living.

Since the economy is weak in Afghanistan and the percentage of unemployment is high, they are forced to do illegal activities. The girls who are not let to go to school and study because of the bomb explosions and suicide attack, get married in a young age, even though they are not in their marrying ages. Then they stay uneducated the rest of their life.  After they get married, they start a common life with their husbands where they must obey their husbands. Most of the husbands here treat their wives like slaves.  The husband means to “to order” and the wife means “to obey.” If they are not obedient to their husbands, they are beaten to death by their husbands.  If the girls get married they will have to fight with marital problems then they can never go on with their studies, and cannot get a good education, because they will be mothers and they will be force to look after their children, and do the chores. We have friends who have gotten engaged in a very young ages and we see how life is hard for them and cruel to them. But we want to save our futures, we do not want to suffer the same fate.

 

Mrs. Clinton,

This is a dream for us to go to the US, and this is our goal to study college there. But when we talk about our dreams with others, they make fun of us ‘’you are girls and it’s not possible for you to go to other countries like the US. studying in a foreign country does not look good for girls  —  you might batter forget about studying in the US, if you girls go to the another country the people will talk behind you   —  you do not have the capacity to study there even — if you were boys there would be no problem studying in a foreign country, but you are girls and it is impossible for you.” Because we are girls, we cannot even think of studying in the US. We are girls that is why we are not capable of studying the college in one of the US universities, and we cannot dream what we desire from the deep of our hearts. Because we are girls, we even cannot have our own style and way of living. It’s impossible for us to live to our own style in our dream world even. As girls when we leave home for somewhere our families determine what time to come back but our brothers stay out for long times.

 

Mrs. Clinton,

We have had the dream of the studying in the Us, when we were young girls, and still we do dream from the bottom of our hearts. It has been one of our greatest and biggest dreams, and we are sure of having these dreams of our come true one day. But if you help us, it will come true sooner. If we study in the US, we can save our future, fates and live our dreams. You have never been us, and you have never lived the life’s we have. You have never been in a country like us. You have never been despised because of being a girl, you have never been made fun of while talking about your dreams, you have never seen and buried hundreds and hundreds of dead bodied together. That is why it may be a little hard to understand us. Despite of this, as a woman you can understand how another woman is feeling better than a man, that is why we chose you to write this letter for

We see our future in danger, we suffer from a great sense of insecurity. We do not want to die in a bomb explosion because we are too young to be killed. We have dreams, we love our selves. Please help us with our goals and dreams.

 

Sakina, Farangis, and Arezo

 

 

Sakina email: Sakinarezvani25@gmail.com

Arezo email: nazariarezo09@gmail.com

A Young Afghan Girl’s Reflections Upon Selena Gomez

What a young Afghan wants to know from Selena Gomez and what she would like Selena Gomez to know about her

I’m Muska Ehsan. I am a 14-year-old Afghan girl with big dreams. I live in a society where girls survive for their dreams, in a world surrounded by rich and big people (physically) with really small minds. But I don’t want to waste my time waiting for them to allow me to become broad minded.   I want to start this now, for myself.

I must admit, I am fully addicted to music. It empowers me, encourages me to focus on my goals, and it brings up a fire in my heart to not stop. I am a very big fan of Selena Gomez, she is the first person who affected my life this much. She gave me a hope to be what I am and to never lose hope during hard times, which are often in my country. She completely changed my life with her speeches, lyrics and life journey.

 

Selena 

I still remember the first time when I listened to her song, “Who Says.”  It touched my heart. I started crying.  I didn’t know why I cried, but the song had totally touched my heart. For some reason, I just started to search about her and slowly learned about her life journey and how she got to this stage of life. Watching her videos and speeches had totally changed my mind.

I had a new chapter to start with a new hope. So, I started to work with an Afghan kids’ television show. It was a new experience for me and I found many lovely and loyal fans. Actually, I had a kind of celebrity life in the small town of Kandahar. I was powerful and had the fire to do more, and give my best shows on television and encourage Afghan young girls to fight against the awareness of life which people have splashed in our minds. I wanted to give them the message that there is so much to do to help this country, and in several ways to change people’s minds.

After a year of television life, my father told me about a dormitory school which was the best school in Afghanistan for girls. I, hopefully, applied and got accepted. I was very happy, and couldn’t wait to encourage my friends, classmates and roommates to listen to music.  But, unfortunately, I didn’t know about dorms rules.   What I had thought about dorms wasn’t the same as I came to know about them. When I went there, the administration took my phone.  They started me on a busy study timetable.

Even so, I told everyone about Selena Gomez.  I could not hold my mouth to talk about her…

Quietly, it was getting harder for me because not having music was making my life complicated. Not receiving any news about Selena was like hell. I spent my nights crying but slowly it was getting normal and my focus on the future was increasing. My lovely advisor always kept encouraging me and told me “do not give up”. And the big dream of working in Disney channel as an actress was always burning. I know I will face many difficulties, but I will keep going because that is what my queen (Selena) is doing.

So, I imagined that I was asked to interview Selena on television and this is what I wish to ask Selena:

 QUESTIONS to my idol who may never see this…

  1. Whose biggest fan were you in childhood?
  2. What do you think about Afghan life? Or do you even think about Afghanistan?
  3. What is the most important thing which never stopped you from reaching your goals?
  4. What is your biggest fear in life which you fought for, to get to this level?
  5. Which kind of books do you like to read?
  6. Is there a quote which you have always followed the most?
  7. Which kind of people you like the most to talk to?
  8. If you could help Afghan girls, how would you want to help them?
  9. In what do you place no value in life?
  10. Did you ever imagine the life you are living now?
  11. Is there any hope that you have, that till now didn’t come true? If yes, is it impossible?

 

My dream is that someday I will have the chance to meet Selena and ask these questions of her in person.

 Muska

Muska Ehsan

Reflections from Vienna via Florence on IBA-VIAC CDRC Competition 2018: “The Value of Active Listening in the Heat of the Moment. (When bringing a “taser” to a mediation can be a good idea.)

“How can I interject this question without interrupting?”

“This answer doesn’t satisfy me. How can I ask again without stalling the conversation?”

“I need to discuss privately with my client, but it is not appropriate to stop this joint session now.”

“Perhaps I would need something to… tase my client, so that he could remember to consider my opinion as well!”

female taser

During mediation a lot of questions come to your mind, but it is usually not easy to get an answer quickly and keep track of the conversation. When you attend negotiation courses or you study the theory of mediation at home, it is fairly common to overlook the practical implications of such questions, but trust us, they are very relevant.

However, let’s start with some brief introductions first: we, the two writers of this hopefully interesting article, are Elisa Menichini and Emanuele De Napoli, two law students from the University of Florence, Italy. Together with two other students (Francesco Lichen Wang and Marzia Montinari), we were part of the only italian negotiator team at the 4th IBA-VIAC CDRC Mediation and Negotiation Competition in Vienna this July. We were coached by the experienced Professor Paola Lucarelli.
Florence Team
The CDRC Competition was a very formative experience, a melting pot of creative law students from all over the world ready to compete and learn under the guidance of legal experts and professionals willing to share their expertise and ideas. Mediation is a rather recent Dispute Resolution method in Italy (2010) and we, as future legal practitioners, felt that this competition was the right opportunity to grow both personally and professionally.

During the many rounds, carefully and masterfully directed by Claudia Winkler and the CDRC Staff, 33 teams of negotiators and mediators proved their skills in mock disputes based on the 2018 Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot Problem.

There would be so much to describe and write about the competition itself, the wonderful staff and the friendships that were born this year in Vienna, but we will concentrate on a specific event that we truly believe captures one of the key aspects of mediation and conflict in general. Something that we all need to remember.

During one of the rounds we were facing the Istanbul ŞEHİR University, while the mediator was coming from Maharastra National Law University in Mumbay. The negotiation process was lively and dynamic since the beginning. Our team was divided as such: Elisa = Legal Counsel; Emanuele = Client. Bargaining techniques were followed by quick responses, numbers were soon flying across the table and the two opposing clients were dragged into the heat of the negotiation. The trusty legal counsel (Elisa) tried more than once to calm and reassure her competitive client (Emanuele), but he was too focused on his business goal to be “stopped” by his lawyer.

The agitated legal counsel even tried touching her client, but he would just uncounsciously move away. Even trying to hit his legs wouldn’t work, since he was conveniently keeping them under the other side of the table. The now fuming lawyer wrote down on her papers in capital letters “NO”, as a concise but effective way to express her disapproval of a certain proposal. Not even this last resort seemed to restabilish the connection between the two. The businessmen were at work and they didn’t want to be bothered!
Im-not-Listening
Eventually a break was called and we were able to breath, relax and get back into our two combative characters after having shared briefly our ideas and views. The rest of the session went smoothly.

Once the round was finished and the feedbacks by the expert assessors had already been given, we had the opportunity to receive further insights from the judges. When we told this “comic” situation to Thomas P. Valenti, one of the experts who offered us precious suggestions and tips, he recommended (as an obvious but very clever joke) an innovative technique to force active listening and to calm down for a while an overachieving client: using a taser. When caresses, stares and kicks in the legs fail, go harder and use a taser.

Even if it was only meant as a joke, it truly made us think of the value of mediation, active listening and teamwork. During this competition as well as during similar events that we took part in, we noticed how conflict can be like a tornado, drawing the parties into the fight and making them lose sight of their true interests, even if they’re well-prepared. The legal counsels might feel that they need to manage their clients and sometimes thwart their emotions. But the role of the legal expert is changing and a lawyer should be able to understand and compensate for his clients’s whim as well.

That’s exactly why you need mediation, why you need a third party that can redirect you to the right path. The legal counsel should be the “trusty companion” that can grant a proper reality check when necessary and the needed aid when in doubt.

In conclusion, mediation can be considered a “metaphorical taser”: a ground-breaking method among the dispute resolution procedures. It shakes the way we perceive conflict in nowaday society, it changes the rules. The CDRC Vienna Competition was the perfect context to see how effective mediation can be.

We, as young students and future professional, are active witnesses of an epochal change in the way people face conflict: an opportunity instead of a danger to be avoided at all costs.

And if sometimes we’ll need to be “tased” to achieve this results, so be it.

By Emanuele De Napoli and Elisa Menichini,
University of Florence (School of Law),
Italy.

AFGHANISTAN – CONCEPTIONS AND MISCONCEPTIONS

Join this event and engage in dialogue with young Afghan scholars.
Get to know artifacts and intricacies of Afghan culture, arts,
and fragments of life amid chaos.
Thursday, June 28, 2018 7:00 PM 8:30 PM Kibbitznest 2212 North Clybourn Avenue Chicago, IL, 60614 United States
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“Till The Last Page” – a story of young Shazia’s migration to Beirut from Syria ~ guest post by Prachi Jain

Till The Last Page

The caterwaul and commotion around disturbs her sleep, she opens her dreary eyes, and lies wistfully in her makeshift bed.

Shazia fled Syria in 2012, and arrived at Shatila camp in search of refuge. Two years back, her life was totally different from what it was now. She lived with her family right outside small peaceful village Hama. Her family comprised of her parents and two younger brothers. Though they were poor, life was happy and full of hope for them. She attended government school in the neighborhood, her father had a small shop selling general household item. One of the brightest kid in school, Shazia never though she would have to live life of orphaned refugee one day.

Hama

– Village of Hama, Syria

Syria was under attack for almost a year by then, when one day her village came under attack of regime. She fled along with her family towards Southern Beirut to save their lives. She lost her mother before reaching camp, and soon after her father passed away due to fever and unavailability of proper medical care. Shazia still wonders was it really fever that took her father’s life, or was it pain of being uprooted from his homeland and loss of his life partner. By the time she reached refugee camp, all that was left in this world for her was her two little brothers, Alif and Rizwan aged ten and six. Responsibility of these two kids directly came up on their thirteen-year-old elder sister.

map-syria-300She steps out of her bed, folds it and places it in corner so that room can have more space during daytime. She shares one room with another family of 7 members. They were Palestinian refugee, living in this camp from past ten years. When she arrived at camp, all rooms were already brimming with people from Syria. Every month thousands of refugees were reaching camp in search of safe shelter from war affected country. In this dreadful time, that family had been kind enough to share their apartment with three orphaned children.

Life was tough in crowded dingy camp. Open electric wires spread like spider webs across the streets, running from building to building throughout alleyways. Power cuts and electrocution was common in this area. It was last week only, when a young boy got tangled in those wires while running here and there playfully. He tripped and lost his life. And this was the story of camp! Problems were many, earning was scanty, and the thing that was of least worth was LIFE.

“If you don’t try to write a memorable story, it will never be one! Be hero in your story, and make sure that it is the one that world remembers, one that inspires others.”

After living at camp for past two years, Shazia was no more a little girl. Responsibilities had turned her mature beyond her age. She along with her brothers used to pick bricks for construction, and carry them to site. They earned near about 4 dollars each and that was bare minimum for daily needs, let alone schooling, health care and other amenities.

Today was her birthday! In camp, every day was same, and thus apart from her nobody remembered it! While she was at work, carrying bricks on her head, memories of her last birthday with her parents came gushing to her.

She was hoping around in verandah wearing her pistachio green colored embroidered frock. Her mom was occupied in kitchen preparing her favorite dishes for the special day. Her father had gifted her doctor kit, a symbolic gift for his little princess who wished to become a Doctor on growing up. “Abba! I’ll study at a big university and then we will move to city, and then when I start working, you can stop working. You and ammi can spend all the time roaming here and there in city having fun, and I’ll earn a lot for five of us!” chimed Shazia.

“Will you move little faster?”, shouted contractor on site. Shazia came back to bitter reality. After finishing work, she took some time off, and sat alone at park’s bench.

Maybe because it was her birthday, or may be just a coincidence, but she was missing her past more profoundly today. Random memory came floating to her mind. She remembered a happy sunny day; her family had gone to nearby park with picnic basket for a day out. Her brothers were taking their turn on slide, and her mother was standing beside them making sure they didn’t get hurt. Shazia was sitting with her father on lush green grass. Her father said, “Shazia! You know our life is a story that is being written till our last living day. Once, we die, story ends. Some stories create an impact, some are dull and without any remarkable incident. But every life has a story”. Unable to understand the depth of her father’s thought, Shazia asked, “Papa! Who is author of our story? Is God writing it?” Her father laughs at this innocent question, cuddles his daughter in his arms and says “No my love! God just initiates this story by giving us life. But we ourselves are author of our story! Always remember! If you don’t try to write a memorable story, it will never be one! Be hero in your story, and make sure that it is the one that world remembers, one that inspires others.”

sabra-shatilla

-Shatilla Camp

The flashback ends and Shazia leans back on bench. What has she become? Is she even the same Shazia who was full of hope and aspirations once! If Ammi and Abbu would see her today, would they even recognize her as their Shazia? Sadness of years that had passed away, frustration of situations in present and depression of having uneventful future takes toll on her. She bursts in to tears. Why doesn’t it feel like her story! Sobbing alone on a park bench she shouts into oblivion, “This is not my story! It wasn’t supposed to proceed this way! I would have never narrated it this way”.

Who was telling the story? And whose story was it anyway?

The words fluttered and flew in the wind.

After the outburst, she sat bundled over there for some time and kept crying because of all the resentment that had piled up inside her.

How else will the sun rise if it won’t set? Darkness is inevitable, but so is sun rise. The break down that Shazia had on her fifteenth birthday, turned into a resolution. She decided to change track of her story. Her life is a blessing given to her by her parents. She cannot let it pass so indecisively. She makes up her mind to resume her education, and quit her daily wage job. Also she needs to find better source of income for three of them.

UNRWA operated a primary health care centre, one day school and one night school at camp. She enrolled herself and her brothers at night school. While her brothers continued their daily wage job, she requested Doctor Ahmad Shiabi at health care centre to take her up as an assistant. Doctor Shiabi had previously diagnosed Shazia when she was sick, and knew that she was mature and intelligent girl. He agreed to hire her at a monthly salary of 52 $. Soon she started learning nitty-gritty’s of health care and hygiene. In a camp hoisting such large number of people, patients were numerous and thus work was also never ending. But this was her childhood’s dream, and thus she enjoyed her job. Work for welfare gave satisfaction to her disrupted soul and mind.

When one finds inner peace, things start to align in a better way. Shazia now started saving some part of collective income that she and her brothers managed to earn. In a year, they saved enough to start a stall for selling yoghurt and tomatoes. Alif and Rizwan manned this stall, so that they can study better and continue earning a living without doing laborious work.

One day Doctor Shiabi at camp asked Shazia if she could take a session about basic first aid for women at camp, as he had some emergency and couldn’t take session today, and as the event had been priory announced, it couldn’t be postponed as well. Shazia was unsure, but she agreed to it.

Session went well, and everyone appreciated her. This gave her confidence regarding her knowledge sharing skills. She told Doctor Shiabi how she enjoyed this session, and is ready to take such sessions in future. Being always occupied in too many chores, this was a delight to him also in past one year Shazia had created a positive impression on him with her hard work and dedication. He wanted her to have a bright future, and thus he readily agreed.

One day after Shazia had winded up taking a session, a young woman in mid twenties came to her, and she introduced herself “Hi Shazia! Great session it was! I am Cathie; I am a volunteer for UNRWA.”

Shazia said, “Hi Cathie! It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Shazia I am here in collaboration with a NGO, which is trying to identify twenty bright young women, for whom they will fund higher education. I am really impressed by your awareness and knowledge for health care. Can you share your educational background with me?”

Elated to know about this initiative, Shazia said, “I am attending night school at camp. But I would love to get this opportunity. I have great deal of interest in medicine and science, and wish to study them. It has been my dream since I was a little girl!” She was so excited, but was trying to be calm and failing at it miserably just by shear possibility of having an opportunity to fulfill her and her father’s dream.

Within a month and half formalities for educational program were completed, and her formal education began. She was also getting a generous student stipend. By adding up their savings, she was able to afford better education for her brothers.

It’s been two years now, Shazia is studying at medical school. Alif will be completing his schooling by next year; he plans to take up a scholarship funded course at an American University in Social Welfare. Rizwan is still in school, he has interest in sports more than studies. He recently got selected for School’s football team.

 

Tentschools

Shazia remembers her father’s words “If you don’t try to write a memorable story, it will never be one! Be hero in your story, and make sure that it is the one that world remembers, one that inspires others.”

Once again, Shazia is sitting alone at a park bench. But this time she is not the depressed girl she once was due to circumstances. Hope has taken place of sadness, and action has taken place of complains. She has learnt that it is just not us who write our story. Situation and other people do play part in creating its plot. But the climax is always in our hand. One can surrender to destiny, and like a dead fish go with the flow, have no control over story of their life and thus end up with a tale not worth remembering. Or one can fight back, and take charge, write it the way they want it to be, and turn their tale into a saga.

Her saga is not complete yet, and it won’t be till the last day, but she will keep improvising it till her last day and till the last page. She won’t let her story be the one that is easily forgettable. She will make this story remarkable page after page.

~ Prachi

 

Prachi Jain is a young Indian writer. She has one simple philosophy for life, “At the end, we all will just have bagful of stories to sum up the life we lead, make sure to collect the most memorable ones.”