I knew life is desperate in Afghanistan but nothing had prepared me for the moment when two young children between the ages of five and ten approached me as soon as I exit the airplane at Kabul Airport. They immediately took hold of my hands and started begging me for money. I almost felt angry at my private space being invaded by total stranger kids but when I looked into their eyes, I felt the greatest sadness and fear I had ever witnessed. It’s as if their actions were not voluntary but being driven by total hopelessness in life. I could tell beginning was the last thing they wanted to do but life had not given them much choice. At such a young age, their greatest desired seemed to be survival. These children shared their origins with me but our worlds could not have been more different. When I gave them the equivalent of $1, their eyes sparkled as if they had gotten the greatest happiness in the world. It was the exact moment when I wondered how little I knew about life and the world.
In Kabul, my stay had been arranged at my dad’s childhood friend’s house which was located in Kabul’s relatively prosperous neighborhood. The house was located just five miles from the airport but it took about an hour to reach the house due to strict security procedures. The law enforcement forces didn’t even seem to trust their own people and everyone would travel with documents that are usually needed for cross-border travel. My dad’s friend took us to dad’s engineering college and mom’s university and it was immediately apparent that the building had rarely been touched since pre-Soviet Afghan War days. Even the damage from explosions had been left intact and I didn’t see a single female soul in any of the academic institutions. It was a male-dominated world that was intent on preserving outdated and prejudiced customs and traditions. The observation was a stark reminded that mankind often overestimates the progress it has made in social terms. But I also told myself I am not going to wait for someone to come forward and help Afghanistan embrace modern ideals of equity, fairness, and justice because I am going to become the driver behind change I desire in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan trip helped me realize the power of rule of law and education. Societies progress when there is peace, security, and equal access to basic rights. Similarly, education helps people better understand their own rights and expand their worldview. Young people I met in Afghanistan didn’t understand their own rights and were simply a tool in the hands of the warlords that ruled over them. They didn’t have a dream and simply accepted the purpose they were given by corrupt and selfish elites of the society. I am going to help build an Afghanistan where young people become acquainted with the power of education.
This is why I am pursuing law school because a strong legal foundation is essential to the development of a progressive society. Afghans have lot of potential but they live in a society without any functional legal framework. The concept of basic rights is alien to them and before Afghans are empowered through education, the society needs a legal framework to create a stable environment where hope and not fear rules and where citizens are free to pursue their dreams and reap the fruits of their labor.