New Delhi : A 27-year-old female student from Afghanistan, a country where women are struggling for human rights, has won a gold medal for her excellent performance in a master's programme in a college in India, VOA reported.
She has dedicated this medal to all the Afghan women who were denied higher education. On achieving this feat, her thoughts flashed back to her homeland, which was taken over by the Taliban in 2021 and where it is more than normal for a woman to pursue her dreams.
The future was bright when she was growing up in the Afghanistan Bamiyan area. She pursued her bachelor's degree while working during the day and attending classes at night.
Life was peaceful and normal, Muradi told VOA.
Women had full access to higher education. Girls wanted to learn a lot. Families were encouraging their daughters' pursuit of higher education.
She arrived in India two years ago on a scholarship to pursue a master's degree in public administration. She was one of the tens of thousands of Afghans who have attended Indian colleges over the past twenty years since 2001.
She wanted to go back and use her degree in policymaking to get a job so she could help Afghanistan modernise, just like many of these young students.
When the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan in August 2021, everything dramatically changed. Like many other women, she was paralysed by fear that the nation might slide back into the gloomy times that the elder generation was all too familiar with.
This month Muradi received the gold medal for having the highest grade point average in her programme at Veer Narmad South Gujarat University in the western Gujarat state. This was a moment of both immense pride and profound anguish for her.
She told VOA, "I dedicate this achievement to all the women who do not have the opportunity that I have to study."
"And at some point in time, girls like me want to return this chance in some way to them. This medal is an affirmation that women can accomplish anything."
Muradi says that she sees herself as representing the Afghan women who lack access to education.
The Taliban earlier forbade girls from attending secondary schools, preventing millions of girls from continuing their education through the sixth grade. The Taliban dealt a second blow to female education by banning women from attending universities in December.
Ever since the organisation stormed to power, women's rights and liberties have been curtailed by hard-line Islamists. Women are no longer permitted to travel alone, go to parks without a male relative, or work out in public places.
Any hopes that the Taliban would uphold their initial pledges of a more liberal regime have been dashed for Afghan women like Muradi.
"I feel broken from inside. Everything that happened in the 1990s is repeated. The hope with which I came to India is destroyed," said Muradi, adding, "I cannot see any bright future for myself. I don't know whether I will be able to go back and meet my family. I struggle with these thoughts all the time."
It was difficult for her to study for her master's while her country was in upheaval. She expressed concern for her family but claimed to have made an effort to maintain her composure because there wasn't much she could do but be grateful that she was one of the few Afghan women still pursuing education, read a report published in VOA.
She also said, "I had to manage my stress. Every time I thought about Afghanistan, I told myself that it is my responsibility to take advantage of this opportunity that other girls in my country can no longer avail. So, I must focus on my studies and build my capacity if I want to bring change in the future."
Muradi is currently pursuing her PhD in public administration at the same college.
In her message for the Taliban, she said, "I think the Taliban need to rethink about depriving women of education. If they want to rule, they cannot ignore the women. Women will protest, and at some point, they will stand and ask for their rights. Otherwise, half the country's population will be useless," VOA reported.