Parasto Hakimi is an ESL student in Round Rock ISD.
A letter to two presidents on Presidents’ Day:
A few weeks ago, I realized that there is a day in the American calendar called Presidents’ Day, and I thought to myself how good it is to have such a day in the American calendar. I wanted to take this opportunity to congratulate the President of the United States on this day. I also wanted to share my pain as an Afghan immigrant girl with him and all the American people.
I am one of the Afghan refugees in the United States. I started my education as a child in one of the schools built by ISAF. Like millions of Afghan girls, I started studying under a tent in one of the most remote areas of Kabul. Some days we sat on chairs and other days we sat on the ground so that the boys’ school could use the chairs. We had very few books and no technology. Despite our lack of resources, we were dedicated to studying so that one day we would be independent women and change our homeland for the better. I learned year after year until I reached the tenth grade. Over time, our schools became more beautiful and better equipped. By 2020, we had a school building with dedicated classrooms. It was a hopeful time. My mother and I both worked hard for a beautiful Afghanistan and were happy to work with the international community to support Afghan girls and women.
One very dark and scary day, a tsunami came. This political tsunami engulfed my beautiful homeland that had tasted relative peace for 20 years. My land was destroyed in an hour and we all became homeless at that moment. For the first time in my life, I tasted the same bitter taste of displacement and fear that my mother and grandmother had experienced again and again in their lives.
Mr. President Biden, I never had a chance to vote in my homeland, but I witnessed my compatriots voting many times and the desire to vote to preserve my country’s democracy remains in my heart. I have never had a day called Presidents’ Day in Afghanistan to deliver my message, but now I use this day to send a message as an Afghan immigrant student in a country that is a symbol of democracy and equality. On this day, I want to send messages to two people who both studied in the United States.
My first message is to the former president of my country, Ashraf Gani. He had studied and taught in the United States for many years and was educated as a citizen. I want to ask him, when you left the country, did you look at the faces of the children around you? No doubt you did not look, so now go to social networks, look at the media, ask those who are in contact with them to know the depth of the misery of the children of the land of which you were the leader. The girls of your land are sold in exchange for a month’s worth of food for a family. The poor girls of your land are sold to men the same age as their father for marriage. The teenage girls of your land now live with the sorrow of an unknown future, like a suffering old woman with no one to care for her. The girls of your homeland are no longer allowed to study and do not even have the right to protest. Are you proud of the legacy you have left behind?
Mr. Biden, I hope you had a happy Presidents’ Day. I do not know what my country will be like next year. I do know the girls of my country will suffer from the laws imposed by the terrorist group. Under the oppression of this inhumane network, the souls of the girls of Afghanistan will be suffocated. I want to say that as you stand for democracy and as you continue to stand with Afghan girls and women, do not let the Taliban’s beliefs drown out the voices of Afghan women. Do not let their voices be silenced. Many may think that an immigrant is someone who leaves home, but believe me, in my native Afghanistan, we all emigrated the moment the Taliban took over Kabul. We became outsiders in our own homeland, because the Taliban does not accept the freedom of a girl.
Mr. President, it may be rude for me to say what you should do and what you should not do while I am still an Afghan wanderer, but this is so important that I will risk you thinking I am disrespectful. I want to say that the price the world has paid for democracy in Afghanistan is exorbitant, and at the same time Afghan girls have paid the highest price of all. From working in military institutions alongside NATO to shouting in the streets where even men who claimed popular power do not dare to go, women have been brave and determined to be free and to work for change. The presence of the Taliban and the spread of Taliban ideas are a major global blow to a world that emphasizes a better future for all at every conference. I know you, like us, were tired of corrupters, warlords and ethnic and tribal fanatics in Afghanistan, but I, an Afghan woman, never get tired of fighting misogynistic ideas. As an immigrant, a student, a woman, and a believer in freedom, I ask for your support for Afghan women.