FROM AFGHANISTAN TO AMERICA AND BACK AGAIN
In order to truly “be the change you wish to see in the world,” you may have to leave behind the things you love. Such as leaving your home country of Afghanistan and traveling 7,800 miles away to pursue a degree in a foreign country. Such as moving your wife and son from Afghanistan to Pakistan because you fear for their safety while you are gone. Such as suddenly finding yourself in a new country, as the only Afghan student on a university campus.
Ghulam Ishaq Hassan ’10 came to the United States unfamiliar with the language, the customs and the educational system. However, after completing USD’s one-year master’s track in Peace and Justice Studies, he gained a wealth of knowledge to take home with him. And though he started off planning to advocate on behalf of human rights for the people of Afghanistan, he decided to help a more specific underrepresented group: Afghan women.
“I am particularly very passionate about advocating for the elimination of the Swara tradition, as well as advocating for human rights in general,” says Hassan.
The tradition, a custom in tribal areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, occurs when one family or clan gives up their daughter for marriage in order to resolve a conflict with another clan. Oftentimes, the female is traded against her will, in effect, serving as a substitute for money.
During his year in the U.S, Hassan was able to witness a more progressive culture in which both women and religious choices are more widely embraced. “I am a Muslim at a Catholic university, but I found there is a lot of respect here for other cultures. I was even provided a small room on campus for my prayers.”
No stranger to working with institutions that promote the culture of change, Hassan’s past job experience includes working for the International Development Law Organization as a legal component officer in Kabul, Afghanistan, and a stint at the United States Agency for International Development as a technical advisor under the Local Governance and Community Development project in Nangarhar, Afghanistan.
He was a student at the International Islamic University in Islamabad, Pakistan, and received a degree in Sharia law, a type of law that influences the legal code of most Muslim countries. He was able to attend USD as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar and was also offered the Gandhi Fellowship as well as other scholarships through the School of Peace Studies.
Though it won’t be easy, the future looks bright for Hassan. His wife recently gave birth to a second son, a child he was unable to see while attending school. Now, he’ll be able to be with them once again as he moves his family from Pakistan back to Afghanistan.
“The first thing I will do when I arrive back home is to start my research,” he says. He hopes to one day be employed with the U.N. as an advocate for Afghan women’s rights. — Kelly Machleit