Wednesday, August 1, 2012

"Mina Wali, a heroic Afghan woman in war-torn Tora Bora"

During a visit to Europe, invited by the European Foundation for Democracy, Mina Wali is interviewed by "Today's Zaman", an English language Turkish newspaper. Here is the integral article.

Mina Wali is one of many heroic women in Afghanistan, which is one of the poorest countries in the world and has extremely abject living conditions. After spending 28 years in California, one of the most beautiful and wealthiest states in the US, Wali decided to return to her homeland of Afghanistan in 2003 because she felt needed to do something for her country.

Wali did something even braver -- she headed to the slopes of the Tora Bora Mountains, the most dangerous part of the country where Osama bin Laden had settled and administered his global operations for many years. Her primary reason was to make a humble contribution to her homeland by opening a school after her 28 years of comfort in California. Wali, during a visit to Brussels as an invited guest of the European Foundation for Democracy, shared the story of her return to Tora Bora.

According to the UN Human Development Index (HDI), Afghanistan ranks 155th among 169 countries; average life expectancy is 44.6 years and average education is 3.3 years. In other words, the average Afghan citizen is not even a primary school graduate. Wali, who launched a school by the Hope of Mother organization in the foothills of the Tora Bora Mountains in 2005, is trying to offer world-standard education to 500 students. What is significant about this school is that the number of girls is greater than boys. Stressing that the literacy rate among Afghan women is only between 5-8 percent, Wali notes that there are 260 girls studying at her school.


The location of the school bears symbolic significance in some respects; the name of the city where the school was opened in 2006 is Torghar, which means Black Mountain and is located on the slopes of the Tora Bora Mountains. When asked, “Why this city,” Wali responds: “When I got married, they gave me some land as dowry. When I went back to Afghanistan, I wanted to see this land. I noticed that the land was located at the base of the Tora Bora Mountains. We built the school on that land. This way, we saved money and besides, we built a school in a region that was badly in need of education.”

The first rocket against the Red Army during the Soviet occupation in the 1980s was fired in this region. Wali says that what this region needs is education and books rather than weapons.

"I have great expectations from Turkey"

Stressing how much the Afghan people love and respect Turkey, Wali is now asking for help from the Turkish people in her fight against illiteracy. She is urging the Turkish government to sponsor initiatives to open more schools in the region so that children can be saved from the streets.
Noting the success of Turkish schools in Afghanistan, Wali complains about conditions in her region and asks Turkey to consider this matter.

Saying that they are experiencing serious financial problems, Wali explains, using an interesting analogy, how she secures support for resources for her school: “When I go back to America, I am like a beggar. I ask for money from everybody I encounter. I urge my relatives and my close friends to direct their alms to the school.”

One of the reasons for her return to the homeland she left at age 17 was to find out the fate of her father, Shivali Han, one of the first pilots in Afghanistan to serve as an aide of Afghan King Zaheer Shah. Her father disappeared in the 1970s while under arrest at Bagram Air Base, which is currently being used by the Americans. Whether her father is dead or alive is still a mystery. If he is dead, his grave has not yet been identified. Wali says: “I worked hard to find out my father’s fate when I got back in 2003. We do not know if he is alive or not. We do not know the location of his grave if he is dead. I realized something during the search for my father. There are thousands of families like us; and their agony is greater than ours. Sadly, I gave up on searching for my father.”

"Osama bin Laden brought nothing but disaster to Afghanistan" 

Wali, who is in Brussels to participate in an event sponsored by the European Foundation for Democracy after Osama bin Laden was killed in an American operation, says the al-Qaeda leader exploited her people for many years. Noting that bin Laden inflicted the greatest harm on the Afghan people and Afghanistan, Wali said: “Who loves and respects these people? According to the Quran, only Allah can take away life, nobody else. Afghanistan had been in a state of war for years already; it already had many issues to resolve. Then bin Laden came and exploited the Afghan people.” Wali argues that al-Qaeda kidnapped and brainwashed thousands of orphans in Afghanistan. However, her remarks about the Taliban are more lenient. Noting that no incident of corruption was identified or discovered during the Taliban era, Wali believes that corruption cases are on the rise under the Karzai administration in Afghanistan. Wali says: “I have no problem with the Taliban. I respect Islam. The Taliban has done nothing to me or my school so far. I did not pay a dime in bribes to open the school. I should note that there is no government authority in the school district.”
She has no problem with the Taliban, but there have been a few attempts to kill her. She has no idea of who ordered this, but she simply says: “I could be killed at any time. What can you do if this is your destiny?”

Photos HOM

Original article:
"Mina Wali, the heroic Afghan woman in war-torn Tora Bora", Today's Zaman, 19.06.2011

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