At the age of eleven, Nahid Shahleimi decided to one day return to Afghanistan – she was fleeing the mountains to Pakistan with her family. It wasn’t until 2011, 25 years later, that the time had finally come. Since then, the writer, who now lives in Germany, has been making frequent trips to the country of her birth.
“We’re still there!”
“I only saw beauty,” she says of her first visit after escaping. The country was marked by decades of wars, and yet: “It was like a dream.” On her journey, she has repeatedly impressed the women of the country, who try to maintain their independence even in the most difficult of circumstances.
Nahid Shahleimi has written two books about the women of Afghanistan: “Where Courage Keeps the Spirit” and this year “We Are Still There! The Courageous Women of Afghanistan”. The current book, in which she talks about 13 different women The paintings – from political activists to pilots – were published soon after the Taliban came to power and international forces were withdrawn in the summer of 2021. Days after 15 August as he tried to keep in touch Her friends, coworkers, and the women she interviewed were “the most emotional weeks of my life,” and she had already experienced a lot.
The book was created within seven weeks and often with only a few hours of sleep, providing insight into the lives of Afghan women in a way that is rarely seen from a European distance.
flight trauma persists
Nahid Shahleimi learned long ago about the meaning of maintaining her independence – at least not from her mother, “probably the strongest woman I’ve met in my life”. Born in Kabul in 1973, Shahlimi grew up carefree with three sisters in a 37-room villa. Big festivals, sports, private teachers, all this was a part of his childhood. The father, a minister, ambassador, and later political adviser – like his wife – cared about the education of his daughters. He was a “visionary”.
But in 1981, two years after Soviet troops marched into Kabul, his father died and the family’s male patronage with him. “All of a sudden it got dark.” After threats and intimidation against the family, the mother fled to Pakistan with her daughters in 1985, until the family received a visa to Canada a few months later. Family solidarity has comforted him over the years, “but the trauma remains”.
Foreigners in Germany for the first time
“She felt like a Canadian from the start,” the author told TODAY of her arrival in Montreal. With great patience everyone brings him and his family closer to all walks of social life: from the school secretary to the teacher to the volleyball trainer. She was able to profit from the often discredited Canadian integration programs and yet never “felt like I had to give up my Afghan identity.”
Quite different in Germany, where Nahid Shahleimi started a family after studying fine arts and international politics. “I felt like a foreigner for the first time in my life.” He was, a Munich resident who had previously traveled around the world, say, was “a mess”. The artist, who has already painted the German men’s national football team and speaks six languages fluently, quickly settled in Germany.
“We make our own future the way we want it”
Today a 48-year-old campaign is going on for women’s rights in Afghanistan at various levels. Not only does she want to paint a truer picture of life there with her books – female conductors, entrepreneurs, skateboarders and a general – women should also be more visible in political processes, Shahlemi demands. This applies not only in negotiations with the Taliban, which they believe should only take place on condition that women’s freedoms are preserved, but also in negotiations with international representatives, in which often only men are negotiated. are sitting at the table.
It’s about providing today’s girls with female role models, “Sheroes” who show them: “We create our own future as we want it”. Fighting against existing structures makes you “tired at times”, but her goal of improving the lives of Afghan women is “drilled firmly in stone”.
“This resilience,” says Nahid Shahleimi, “makes me think I was born with it. And many Afghans are born with it.”
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