By now you might know of their “Free the World” tour where they performed at four other NYC venues, which included the famous Beacon Theater. And a New York photographer recently spotted them out and about in NYC, because according to him, I was the only media person there. This is because she was a little uneasy about accepting so many interviews at one time.
Want to see what two young females from Africa and the Middle East have to say about their lives in America? You are in luck. A social media influencer supporting Afghan women from Queens, New York, who have met tons of Americans and suffered more here than they would in their home countries.
Sulqia Solaiman, 28, and Esmatullah Sayed, 25, are vocal artists, who come from “Sustai” a village in the Jalalabad district of the eastern Nangarhar province. The women have been protesting the new Afghan constitution that calls for sharia law and harsh penalties for premarital sex, adultery and drug use.
“In many other countries, women are oppressed and it’s not easy for them. We come here to try and live a peaceful life as Americans, but the situation is different here. Girls get married at a young age and don’t live long,” said Sulqia, who has done their own photography and has attended a high school for girls. “I don’t feel safe to pursue studies outside the home, so when I heard about the “Free the World” tour it made me very excited.”
The young Afghan women have also struggled to enter the Afghan economy. Sulqia said when they were kids they dreamed of becoming doctors or engineers. Now, like millions of Afghanis, they make the daily choice whether or not to leave the country, as many of their government officials and national companies support them only if they are married to an Afghan man. That’s why, they said, many young people choose to leave the country rather than wait for a job to come their way.
“They throw all these jobs to outsiders. They promise us jobs, but they hire only foreigners. Afghan people come from the villages; they do not have the contacts to get jobs. I hope the Americans understand this,” Sulqia said.
Shakila, 22, said she chose to leave the country three years ago after she was raped and beaten by the police officer she was working with. The officer later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison. Shakila was released after only seven months, when the prosecutor withdrew her case for lack of evidence, apparently for her mental disability.
“The police promised me a job when I returned home,” she said. “They promised to pay my rent, buy my clothes, get my groceries, things I needed. But when I returned home they took away everything, the city, the house, the clothes, everything.”
Despite the near constant violence to Afghan women, both Esmatullah and Sulqia are of great hope to Afghanistan’s future generations. As for their frustrations with the current Afghan government and their countrymen, they are hopeful for the country’s future.
“If the President (Abdullah) pays attention to the people, things can change,” said Sulqia. “The Americans and the government in general need to take action and support us because we are asking for justice. There are many things that are wrong in our country,” she said.
Sulqia and Esmatullah have been through enough war in their lives. But they still have a lot to offer humanity. Their message is simple and a message that everyone can relate to.
“The women have a role to play in the Islamic countries,” said Esmatullah. “At some point you have to confront the Islamic law, and our ancestors asked us to educate the girls because they know there is no relationship without knowledge. I want people to understand and I have to change and be inspired by the USA. It is important for us to travel together.”
Golam Bagher of “On Point International Productions” has traveled to Afghanistan, Kuwait, Libya, South Sudan, Guinea, India, and Cambodia, documenting inspirational people from different backgrounds to highlight humanitarian causes.