I believe that freedom can come in different forms, and that everyone interprets it differently.
As an educated girl, for me freedom means I can do what I want. I am a free girl raised in an educated family in Kabul in the early 1990s. In my childhood, I experienced freedom of choice in what I wanted to wear, what to eat, and whom I spent my time with. For example, I loved to wear pants and ride a bike and my parents allowed me to do so.
When I was fourteen, the change of regime in Afghanistan destroyed my freedom. Under Taliban rule, I was not allowed to go to school, watch TV, or listen to the radio or go to a doctor without a male guardian. During that time, freedom was totally washed away from my life.
But it also created another kind of freedom for me: hidden freedom. In those five years, I learned how to use my time well. I forgot about freedom of choice. I opened a private school in my house where I taught young girls of primary school age. I established a network of women to exchange books, and I kept myself busy with reading. I also learned by teaching. Although my family supported my efforts, I still had to keep it secret.
During that time, I discovered that freedom can be a kind of inner attitude and your attitude can determine how you use, create, and enjoy freedom. It is true that social norms, cultural barriers, and other traditional beliefs affect our freedom, but I accept that it is in our hands how we shape freedom for ourselves.
In Afghanistan we have a saying: “Keeping a bird in a golden cage is not freedom.” But I still think that how we enjoy, use, and view that golden cage is up to us.
Photo by reway2007
This comment was by Panda. Due to a problem with the site, which has since been resolved, I’m posting it again:
So very well expressed. A thirteen-year old girl having to quit school to take care of a six month old must be overwhelming in so many ways. I hope the future has not disappeared from this girl’s imagination. Thank you for speaking out on this issue.
Asma, your essay is so inspiring. You achieved so much during the Taliban period. And you have given us a lot to think about with your idea that freedom is an inner attitude. I hope it encourages women everywhere to not give up.
Asma, your essay and your strength are amazing. People like you inspire others greatly. You’re teaching people to be brave, and you are so brave yourself. Stay free!
Asma, I love your attitude. Thanks for writing.
Thank you so much for sharing your story. I teach a college course called Dimensions of Freedom. Your essay is a wonderful example of how we must, as individuals, create our own freedom. We do, indeed, decide how we will use and see our “golden cages.”