Afghanistan has few good opportunities for girls and women to succeed.

See, wherever and whenever people hear the word “Afghanistan,” a whirlwind of negative things come to mind: war, violence against women, crime, and poverty.

“Afghanistan,” where the government is weak, but terrorist groups like ISIS and Taliban are strong, where girls are married off at the age of 15, and where just last year, a woman was beaten and burned to death by a mob in public because she was wrongfully accused of burning the Quran. Afghanistan has few good opportunities for girls and women to succeed.

For girls, succeeding in anything is an uphill battle. For example, I am music student but no one can know about this profession I love, because for a girl, music is haram, or forbidden. Girls cannot ride bicycles on the road, because people will verbally and physically harass them. Children work on the street to support their families instead of going to school, learning, and enjoying their childhoods.

Despite this, being a girl here makes me strong, from learning to endure all these hardships.

Losing my friend to terrorist attack

However, one of the hardest thing I had to go through at young age was losing my friend, Sami. He was a simple, open minded, intelligent, smart boy who had dreams about his future, always considering his family, friends, and country. The outlook on life he had was very peaceful. He was working hard to be a good son for his mother, who dreamed to see Sami achieve success one day. He was working hard to be a good brother for his two brothers and sister. He was working hard to always be a good student, friend and classmate for everyone at our school, ANIM.

He had a lot of dreams, and one of them was to get a full scholarship at the American University of Afghanistan. I remember getting his excited texts when he heard the good news, that he had now passed the first big step to success. Everyone thought he was on the road to a successful career. Until one day,  when gunmen stormed the AUAF campus on August 25, 2016, and everything was taken away from him.

Thinking about that day haunts each of his friends; we cannot help to wonder how he was when he faced the terrorist who stormed his university campus. Was he crying, or did he try to fight against the attacker? Was he thirsty? Was he in pain?

When I think of these questions, my heart breaks into a thousand pieces. Sami was my love, but Mr. Khpolwak, Mr. Axcess, and the others killed in the attack have their own friends and family who ask the same questions I do, feel the same as I do, and grieve the same as I do.

This is not the end of Sami’s dream. Hard as it is, Sami’s dream has motivated everyone who knew him, his dream has given us a stronger drive to do our job as a daughter/son, student and youth in our country.

Sami won’t die, because he always lives on in our heart. Now I am going to work for his dream and for the dreams of the others killed in the attack. I will do my best to bring peace to my country. Even if my grandparents weren’t able to do that for me, I will do my best for my grandchildren.

It hurts losing my friends, but it can’t stop me from going to school, getting an education, and doing meaningful work. We will move on and when we do, it will be with hope and love.

Because of this, I have hope for a better Afghanistan and the next generation. I believe in what Nelson Mandela says: “The future belongs to the youth.” Nowhere is this more true than in Afghanistan! The future belongs to the youth here; we work for the betterment of Afghanistan, and I am so happy to join this movement.

Read more: Message To The Ohio State Attacker: Enough! I Am Not Here To Apologize On Your Behalf

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