Yesterday, one of the most powerful leaders in the Afghan Women’s Rights Movement made me lunch.
My son, Gavin, and I took our new Afghani friends to the Halal market, and they asked us to stay to share a meal. While Gavin played a game with the children, I leaned against the counter and talked to Sediqa, her husband, and her niece, Shikwa, as they cooked goat curry, spiced okra, and a beautiful dish of rice, raisins, and carrots.
“My aunt is a very important woman,” Shikwa had said the day before. “Google her.”
It wasn’t until Sediqa began telling me her history that I took Shikwa’s advice. The sweet woman who worried that their food would be too spicy for me is Sediqa Sherazi, the famed journalist and founder of Radio Roshani—an Afghan news organization focused on promoting the ethical treatment of women.
Sediqa offered me her phone to watch a video where her face is obscured but her voice is unmistakable. She spent twenty years challenging cultural traditions and the Taliban’s violent interpretation of the Quaran.
Dozens of articles, videos, and social media posts popped up on my phone, each decrying Sediqa’s bravery as she fought extremist beliefs and describing how her radio broadcasts helped dismantle the patriarchy.
Her actions weren’t without risk. Taliban forces fired a rocket launcher at Radio Roshani’s headquarters, raided the building and stole equipment, and planted mines in her office. In 2015, one of her colleagues—a young cleric who hosted a show on the station—was killed when a bomb hidden in his car exploded.
As the country destabilized, there was no choice for Sediqa and her family but to escape to the United States.
“I’ve left many friends and colleagues behind,” she said, as she chopped vegetables for our meal. “I need to help them.”
Sediqa is barely settled. She doesn’t have internet access, a car, or an easy way to go grocery shopping, but she’s focused on caring for other people. Even American strangers like me and my sixteen-year-old son.
Many comic book heroes wear capes, but my new hero wears a hijab.
*Reposted from my Facebook update January 24, 2022 for easy access.