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The Atrocities of Afghanistan, by Evie Year 11

Published on isbi School News dated Thursday 20th of October 2022

In her interview with Mr Guest, Evie explains what inspired her to explore what has been going on in Afghanistan. She also has some excellent advice for any pupils considering doing a Hypatia project this year. What is the name of your project and what made you choose this subject. The name of my project is ‘the atrocities of Afghanistan’. I chose this topic because I felt that it was a good use of an opportunity to teach others what was happening in the country and increase awareness. The topic struck me as majorly important and made me want to speak up about the criminal ongoings happening that many people were clueless about. What challenges did you face whilst doing the project Well, my topic was quite an emotional thing to cover and the harrowing stories and lives of people I learnt about were very upsetting. Considering that my project was overall a well-known disaster I worried I would not capture the importance of the topic as I wanted and that my final result would not be as powerful as I wanted. I needed my project to make an impact on those who read about it. Was there anything that particularly struck you or surprised you when you were doing your research? A particular quote written by Christina Lamb in her article on Afghanistan still stays with me due to the closeness to the reality of the lives of the girls whom it impacts. It was: ‘girls are last to be fed, first to be sold’. Sadly, this passage perfectly sums up the reality of the lives of these young girls; due to the Afghanistan religions and Taliban influence boys are regarded as the most important and girls are the ones leftover. When it comes to food, the women cook the meals, the older men eat as much as they want, then the younger boys eat their fill and the leftover scraps are given to the ones who cooked it and their little girls. Many fathers use their daughters in mercenary trades for money as they are thought of as financial burden. Arranged marriage is a medieval practice but for these girls being sold in this way is their normality. What do you think we should be doing to make sure we never forget what has gone on in the past? Well firstly I think it’s very important disasters like these don’t get ‘tossed under the rug’ so to speak.We as a society seem to go from one story to the next without showing particular regard for any certain one. Each disaster is equally important, however the most recent always overtakes the other. It goes from Syria in the news to Afghanistan to then Ukraine. The ones before are not given a second thought as the newest disasters overtake them and reporters suddenly rush to the ‘more interesting’ thing to research. For future advances I think it is important that we try and keep information going on all the ongoing conflicts so that society is in full awareness of what’s going on. Just talking about it for an hour or so at the dinner table does not really do anything if it is not up in the news or over social media. Our modern society should use devices like social media and television to teach others about what’s going on across the world. Everyone should know about everything that’s happening to the innocent. And what lessons should we be taking from past events as well as more recent ones? We always seem to repeat ourselves in our actions. There are big conflicts, talks about it never happening again and then less than a century goes by and there are more wars. It’s the same with gender issues, there are always people who believe in certain social hierarchies who turn the days of the future back into the nights of the past. Instead of revolving around an eve turning cycle we need to try worldwide to break free of stereotypes and issues that have been going on for far too long. How do you feel about the domination of males in Afghanistan and the impact it has on girls’ education, marriage, family etc. The gender stereotypes of Afghanistan are blown way out of proportion in my opinion. Women and girls are constantly told of their unimportance and financial burden to the society. Girls are not allowed to be educated in proper schools anymore due to the completion of the Taliban takeover and any women with proper jobs have been fired. Afghan society does not respect women and refuses to modernise their beliefs and allow any form of assistance to girls to showcase gender equality. Girls grow up without education which leads them into adult life with no tools if they were given an opportunity to get a job. Instead, they are trained for marriage and being a good wife. Girls are sold at all ages to men who usually are much older than the children they are marrying and starting a family with. Typical Afghanistan fathers use their daughters as a trade to get more money to buy their sons a good wife, their daughters are tossed away and sold off like objects. Other Afghan fathers have no choice but to sell their daughters due to lack of job opportunities and the rest of their family dying of starvation due to the conditions the conflict has left them with. Shockingly there were even reports of fathers marrying off their six-month-old baby due to need of financial support. There have been some terrible references made about girls in Afghanistan such as them being compared to animals” – how can we move away from this? To move on from these types of accusations we need to stop instilling these concepts into these young vulnerable girls’ minds. This quote actual came from a young woman herself who said, “a seven month old baby – exchanged to marry an old man” (Unicef – Veronica Njikha). This reference to animals being rescued for their country when young girls are getting sold and abused is very harrowing. Especially since the speaker is comparing Afghan women with them and the way that the animals are being prioritised over human beings in need of help before they are thrown into dangerous situations. The woman did not even seem that surprised, according to the newspaper which shows the corrupt Afghanistan gender hierarchy system and how the women seem adjusted to this sort of monstrous criticism. For this problem to be solved what we really need is for the Taliban to overcome these ancient gender stereotypes, however, as they are so ingrained in society it will definitely be a long process. Our country needs to try to urge them to make small milestones like girls schooling via social media or news. Interestingly the Taliban’s younger leaders who are involved but not in charge have got more gender equal plans for the future. However, until the leadership is passed down the elders are in charge. These older Taliban leaders are set in their ways. Recently it has become known to me via news reports that the Taliban’s younger leader are doing thing to change the gender stereotypes in their society. For example, they did make a law against child marriage. However, in the current poor financial situation many families need to sell their children just to feed themselves. Although this law has not changed much it does mark a small step towards a less corrupt and modernised society. How can we all work together to help change generations of behaviour, can education play a role? To change these generations of behaviour society needs to wise up and come to terms with the fact that everyone is equal regardless of gender, race or sexuality. In today’s world there should no longer be social divides, however there still is. I think that education is very important in Afghanistan moving on, as once girls are in school it gives them job choices and then the opportunities to stand up to the overbearing positions of men and be their business competition. Due to lack of education for girls for years it is more than likely that most girls will jump at the opportunity of education if it was provided. If girls begin to get educated it sets them up for the future and proves their intelligence to those powerful male figures who are still in doubt. It will help Afghanistan break out of the gender stereotyping cycle. This first step applies to all world countries that struggle with gender cycles and unfair treatment of women. Even though it is not a solution it does set women up for opportunities. The next step would be getting males on board with employing the women who are educated. If they cannot get jobs their hard work will seem useless, but if the educated women are there, it is only the prejudiced who will turn them down as many business owners will be in need of new staff after the war’s effects on available employees. In conclusion, what have you learnt and which skills do you feel you have gained from doing this project? Skill-wise I think I have learnt research skill as and picking the best sources. As my Hypatia subject was Art Hypatia I also learnt to push myself out of my comfort zone and chose to do an acrylic A2 piece which was my worst media. The outcome however was something I was very proud of. Learning-wise I have learnt information that will stay with my whole lifetime. I have gained tremendous respect for the women who are held back by their own societies/ gender, and I have read many tragic articles and quotes that inspired me to do this project in the first place. This project also inspired me to carry on working along my career path of being a lawyer; I would love to fight for the people who deserve to live good lives and knock down prejudiced opposition. This project has really helped me find my passion and given me major respect for those women who suffer in silence. Finally what advice would you offer anyone who is considering doing a Hypatia project this year? If you are someone considering doing a Hypatia project this year I advise you to use your project as an opportunity to share stories or important causes that you feel need to be talked about. Don’t be afraid to cover a big project or do something you don’t know much about. Doing something new and different gives your project an important purpose. This is a huge chance to find your passion and pick a topic that resonates with you or even a topic that you’ve always found interesting; if you find it interesting and put your all into it it’s more than likely others will be fascinated too. When I started my project, I wanted to share the distressing stories I’d read and make the tragedies as many people as possible aware of them. If you find a topic that upsetting/ exciting that you think is the key to a project’s success you should definitely use the opportunity of the Hypatia award to bring these subjects to the understanding of others. You could choose a variety of Hypatia themes from worldwide issues, religious issues, scientific explanations, study of an idolised person or a specific period of time. Hypatia topics are unlimited and gives you the opportunity to showcase your interests to the whole school.

The Atrocities of Afghanistan, by Evie Year 11 - Photo 1
Grace Education