WVXU: UC law student and advocate for gender equality in Afghanistan speaks out

Zamira Saidi fears the Taliban will erase women from Afghan society

Zamira Saidi wonders about the future of Afghanistan.

The 27-year-old law student at the University of Cincinnati was born in the village of Khost in the Baghlan Province of Afghanistan. She describes it as "a cozy place" to grow up, where people are welcoming but education is still a novelty for many, especially for girls and women.

Saidi says it took some convincing to get villagers to send their daughters to school, but fortunately her parents saw education’s value for her and her older sister. She worries with the resurgence of the Taliban doors that were opening up for women and girls will again be shut.

She is speaking out about the Taliban and recently was a guest on WVXU’s Cincinnati Edition.

“Going to that very first class in my village, I knew not many girls were getting this opportunity to go to school,” says Saidi. “All I wanted to do was use that opportunity to the fullest of my abilities.”

Saidi eventually attended Kabul University where she studied law. After graduation, she practiced law for two years and advocated for gender equality and better opportunities for women.  She was a founder of Afghan Women Educational and Empowerment Services Organization, (AWEESO) a non-governmental organization that helps raise awareness about women's rights.

Zamira Saidi

Zamira Saidi, an Afghan lawyer, is a student in the UC College of Law. Photo submitted.

Saidi knew to further this goal of equality and to broaden her understanding of international law and of different legal systems, she would need to study abroad.

First she went to England to get a master’s of law then on to the United States where a Fulbright scholarship allowed her to study at the UC College of Law - initially obtaining a second master of law degree and then continuing for a JD.

Now Saidi is watching with concern as the Taliban, who took power in Afghanistan in the late 90s and were expelled when American forces invaded following terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001, return to power.

She is asking the international community to refuse to recognize the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Hear her YouTube message.

“There is a huge difference in what they do in the name of Islam and what Islam actually stands for,” says Saidi. “For the years they ruled, they were very restrictive and women were washed away from society.” 

Saidi said there were reprisals against activists and educated women and restrictions on how women could operate outside of the home - many were forced to earn income for their children when men killed during fighting in Afghanistan destabilized families.

“It is a pendulum, and with the Taliban back, they are putting women back in restrictive roles,” says Saidi. “No education and only home life. It will take another generation to swing back.”

Learn more about her journey to UC.

Featured top image is courtesy of Unsplash.