Niloofar Rahmani, the history making first female fixed-wing Air Force aviator of Afghanistan came under fire this week for seeking asylum in the United States after her most recent training in the US. While most of the reports are reactionary, as a blogger I like to take my time and wait for a few days up to a week before commenting because I know that in Afghanistan, stories start growing arms, legs, and tails within days.
It’s ironic that Niloofar is being frowned upon by some other Afghan women who themselves have only just come to Afghanistan for the first time in their lives and who have not achieved a fraction of the success Niloofar already enjoys before even getting to the US.
Headlines around Afghan social media and news channels have been divided in their opinions on the reports of Niloofar Rahmani seeking asylum in Afghanistan and I happen to see myself on the side of the people who support her decision to seek asylum and here are my top ten reasons:
- I want her to have what I have
Contrary to what most Afghans think, I never held dual citizenships for the most part of my life. I’m a fairly recent dual citizenship holder from Afghanistan and having briefly worked in Afghanistan, I can assure any Afghan reading this blog that yes, the grass is greener on the other side and if you ever get the opportunity to live and stay abroad in the west, do it! Don’t listen to President Ghani or Dr. Abdullah Abdullah when they tell you to stay in Afghanistan because Afghanistan is far away from where any of us, the younger generations, want it to go. Just look at the current state of the nation and judge for yourself.
- I think she should put herself first
It’s okay to be selfish for Niloofar and put herself first! After all, how is she able to help the rest of her family unless she decides to do something about her own life? Back in 2004, much to dismay of my late father who was unanimously against my decision to leave a great job in Kabul and move to Australia, I made sure I did what I needed to do to live and work in Australia post my tertiary education. Having an Australian citizenship on the side has changed my life forever and I never looked back.
- America will give her what Afghanistan will never give her
To put it in the simplest of words – Afghanistan will never give her the respect that she deserves and recognize her place in the country as a young woman who has worked her way up to her own success. In Afghanistan, anybody who is a self-made success is labeled as someone who has become successful because they have a lot of money or they are ‘corrupt’ or any other excuse where an individual success is not recognized based on a person’s own hard work, blood, sweat and tears.
- I think she can contribute more to Afghanistan from outside than from the inside
As Afghanistan’s younger generations, we need to fight this stigma and predisposition of contribution to Afghanistan having only one channel and that is – if you want to help Afghanistan, you have to be in Afghanistan. True, it’s a lot different to be on the ground and face the realities of Afghanistan and build an emotional attachment to our country but that should not stop us from discouraging others who want to pursue their personal dreams outside Afghanistan.
- She can make a better living in the US
In fact, any Afghan woman who is at Niloofar Rahmani’s level of education and talent can make a better living anywhere for themselves outside of Afghanistan too!
I would like to see proof of those “millions of dollars” that the Afghan government allegedly spent on her that the member of this ‘White Assembly’ claim. The last time I checked, the Afghan government is surviving on a welfare project with donations from the western countries and the survival of its parliamentarians and ministers is dependent on bribery and kickbacks.
- She is the only person who has had to live her life in Afghanistan.
None of us have the right to tell her what she should do. It’s her life and it’s her choice how and where she wants to live. It’s ironic that Niloofar is being frowned upon by some other Afghan women who themselves have only just come to Afghanistan for the first time in their lives and who have not achieved a fraction of the success Niloofar already enjoys before even getting to the US.
They say “haters will see you walk on water and say it’s because you can’t swim”.
- America will provide her with safety and security that Afghanistan never can or will
If there’s one proof to why my reason holds true, just look at Afghanistan’s situation over the past 15-years with billions of dollars in aid that poured in and the thousands of US/NATO troops in the country.
- She can help her family move to the US too
It’s natural human tendency to look out for personal safety and security of oneself and family. In her case, she should get her family out as soon as she has settled herself down in the US. Afghanistan has a disgustingly vengeful society – if the critics and those threatening her don’t get to harm her, they will do whatever they can to harm her family. Read the next point below and you’ll understand what I mean.
- She has already left her mark as a historic figure in Afghanistan
It’s time for other things to progress in her life. I wish I could say that Afghanistan was Niloofar Rahmani’s ‘comfort zone’ and moving to the US is a great change but if anything, Afghanistan is the source of discomfort for her in reaching her maximum potential in life and in career.
- She doesn’t owe Afghanistan or any Afghan anything
In an article published this morning on Khaama Press at 9:38 AM, a group of “educated” youth and supposed human rights activists have put together an open letter to the outgoing US President Barrack Obama to deport Niloofar Rahmani back to Afghanistan. Here’s a quote from the article:
“The White Assembly, which is consisted of educated youths, policy makers, human rights activists, university professors, civil society activists, and analysts across Afghanistan, is requesting the government of the United States of America and all other respective organizations to reject her asylum application and deport her back to Afghanistan in the soonest possible, because the Afghan government has invested and spent millions of dollars on her education and capacity building. On the other hand, she is one of the main and vital cadres for Afghanistan, and we severely need her for our country.”
I would like to see proof of those “millions of dollars” that the Afghan government spent on her that the member of this ‘White Assembly’ claim. The last time I checked, the Afghan government is surviving on a welfare project with donations from the western countries and the survival of its parliamentarians and ministers dependent on bribery and kickbacks.
And by the way, aren’t these human rights activists supposed to help people seeking asylum and not work against them?! At this point, the biggest threat to Niloofar Rahmani’s life and her career are the people of this ‘White Assembly’ because they are hypocrites. If the US was to start giving away green cards or passports to the members of the ‘White Assembly’, they’d be the first ones crawling the mountains of Afghanistan to get another citizenship; additionally, for all we know, some of them may well be dual-citizenship holders already.
Where were the members of this ‘White Assembly’ group when Malalai Joya, the former disgraced parliamentarian who is a member of the militant Marxist political group RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan), sought political asylum in Italy? Where were these ‘educated youths, policy makers, human rights activists, university professors, civil society activists, and analysts’ back then? This is just a micro-representation of the larger problems of Afghanistan – the lynch mob mentality of Afghanistan. The mentality that ‘if I can’t have it, I won’t let you either’ as opposed to lifting each other up, Afghans are too busy trying to do everything in their power to tear each other down. Under the current government, internal strife and personal attacks against individuals have been the worst in Afghanistan’s history because the leadership of Afghanistan promotes such lynch mob behavior.
Earlier this year, in one of President Ashraf Ghani’s interviews where he was discouraging young Afghans from seeking asylum when the refugee crisis in Europe was at its peak, he claimed that Afghans seeking asylum will end up becoming ‘dish washers’. Perhaps he was referring to failure of Afghans in stories like this where Afghans ended up not making much of their lives past wars in the western countries with all the opportunities available to them.
Post-9/11 Afghanistan has thousands of youth going to western countries and specifically to the US on USAID/Fulbright-funded scholarships, some of whom have decided to return and work for US-based international newspapers promoting western interests while others have return to work for NGO’s – still others have returned to Afghanistan to find themselves hopelessly unemployed and their lives stuck in a rut. If the US has paid for Niloofar Rahmani’s education and she chooses to work in the US as a pilot, why is she the one being sidelined?
A person’s patriotism should not be judged by a piece of paper called a passport. The right to a citizenship is a basic human right as mentioned in Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and it is up to the individual to decide which country they wish to remain a citizen of. Even with influx of billions of dollars and monumental support of the international community, Afghan government still fails to provide some of the basic rights for its citizens.
If the US happens to be the country of her choice for a secondary nationality and if the US can provide her with a better life that Afghanistan cannot and will not anytime soon, then there is no reason why she should not take charge of her own life and remain in the US.
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