Suraya Pakzad

‘Born in 1968 in Herat, Afghanistan

[Suraya] grew up during the years of armed resistance against the Soviet-backed government in Kabul.

Mujahedin were in control of many areas and threatened the education of girls. At the age of 10, going to school was dangerous and Suraya would hide her books in a plastic bag, pretending she was going to the market instead of class. When she was only 12, she saw her headmistress assassinated in the schoolyard simply because she had refused to wear a headscarf. Another of her teachers was shot on the street in Herat for teaching young girls.’

After witnessing these atrocities Suraya still risked her life to teach young women to read and write from her home. She started going into the prisons and doing all she could for the forgotten young women abandoned there, some as young as 12 and some with their children.

I had the privilege to meet Suraya at Curtin University on the 9th of September where she was interviewed by Perth, SBS reporter, Sophie McNeill.

Suraya told us how the Taliban called to tell her that they had killed her son (they hadn’t he was hiding in a neighbours basement).

How they told her they had tracked her every move that day, where she crossed the road, where she lives, what she was wearing.

This was because she would not release a woman and daughter back to their ‘home’ where they would surely be killed for running away.

She told us how her school had been ‘discovered’ and to avoid certain death for her and her students they burned every last book, and evidence of their school work.

She explained how many young women end up in jail for running away from their abusive, arranged marriages, often to men double or even triple their age. It is not because they are fleeing their marriages that they are found guilty but because they are considered adulterous to have run away in the first place.

Suraya started the Voice of Women Organisation, to supply legal aid and even babysitting to the women in prison. She lso opened the very first woman’s shelter in Afghanistan, a place where women can find safety, often from their own families.

When people tell me that there is no need for Feminism any more i think of people like Suraya, and I wonder how anyone could think this.

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2 thoughts on “Suraya Pakzad

  1. Akhila says:

    Hello, I am part of a fundraising campaign for Suraya Pakzad. We are creating a video to promote her work, and would like to use this picture in the video. Could you please connect me with the photographer who took this photo, so that we can gain permission to use this photo in our video?


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