Afghanistan: “Girls and women must be part of a democracy”

Portrait Simia Ramish

Simia Ramish is from Herat. The 27 year-old graduated from Herat University and is a civil rights activist. She also writes poetry and newspaper articles. She is standing in the Herat provincial council election and aims one day to play an active role in politics.

Here is our interview with this young politician:

Please tell us about yourself.

I always try to be myself. I am determined to achieve the goals I set myself in my life.

What are your goals?

My greatest goal is to be a decent person and live in a civil society. I would like to live in a society that is based on respect for human values and in which there is gender equality.

Is it easy to pursue a goal like that?

Pursuing a goal like that is not easy. It takes perseverance and motivation. It's a very long process. Throughout history this has been a goal. It's a difficult path and there are obstacles, which require you never cease trying. You have to start with yourself as an individual and then focus on society. The quickest way to achieve that goal is with the change that happens inside the individual.

How does an individual changing help society to change?

Society is made up of individuals. Every individual has responsibility for him/herself. The thoughts of the individual can lead to social change. It is naïve to expect society to change of its own accord. It is a big mistake to think that others will suddenly want to start fighting to achieve the goals we set ourselves.

How much do think you are the master of your own destiny?

I have always been the master of my own destiny. Ever since I can remember, I've never waited for others. I've always tried to find my own way forward.

What is it like being an activist in Herat?

No one can deny the presence of women in society. Herat has accepted our presence. Although women face numerous problems, we make every effort to reject the traditional treatment of women, and we have to make our social and political presence felt in way that we believe is right.

You write poetry and are also a candidate for the provincial council election. What prompted a poet to get involved in politics?

In Afghan society, almost everything is directly or indirectly related to politics. The fact the women can breathe is in itself a kind of politics. Walking on a road paved by the West and turning on a light that has been brought to us from the East has had an impact on literature as well. As soon as we put pen to paper the environment becomes political, either intentionally or unintentionally. At some point our opinions on peace, war, weapons and women always come back to politics. That's why I chose to get directly involved in politics.

In your view, what is good governance?

All politics have a human side to them. It is difficult to say what kind of politics make for good governance. Politics have to be adjusted in accordance with the demands and needs of the people.

How is the participation of women in the election effective in the growth of democratic values?

The objective of democracy is to give more power to the people and people are the basis of a democratic government system. Women and girls must also be involved in this system and show their presence, otherwise we cannot institutionalize democracy.

What's your opinion on gender equality in Herat?

Women in Herat have realized they must change things themselves and not wait for others to do it for them. Herat is a civilized city and compared to many other regions in the country, women now have better career opportunities there.

There is no doubt that Herat city and its citizens are civilized. But there have been incidents of self-immolation by women in Herat, what's the reason behind that?

I think that self-awareness is a major reason for women setting themselves on fire and committing suicide. Women in Herat are aware that they shouldn’t tolerate violence being inflicted on them, and this is a kind of protest, but in the wrong way. Unfortunately, violence is part of our society. Everyone wants to fight it but some choose the wrong way.

In the current situation, what role can young politicians play in bringing peace and stability to the country?

Today our young people are more aware than any other time in the past. Fortunately, political awareness is very high. They possess the capability of leading our war-torn country towards peace and prosperity. We are seeing young people becoming active in every corner of the country. I believe we need young people to lead the country. They must grasp this opportunity, and we must stand firm and actively participate in all fields of life.

Which way is the best way for you to prove yourself a better citizen: writing poetry or taking part in decision-making processes as a member of the provincial council?

Firstly, I am citizen – a citizen who knows her rights and duties to society. I do not want to stamp myself ‘exempt’ and merely be a spectator. As a citizen I know my rights and I will fight for them. Meanwhile, I have to fulfil my duties and responsibilities in the way I see fit.

Now that you have started taking part in politics, do you ever think of becoming a leader?

Right now I am just in the beginning of a very long journey. I am very optimistic about the future.

What kind of work have you done so far?

About ten years ago, I started working in media. I wrote for local newspapers until I became the editor of a women’s page in the Etifaq-e Islam Daily. At the same time, I was beginning to get involved in some social and literary activities. For the past five years, I’ve been the head of Nawandeshan civil foundation. I am also the founder of a radio station for girls in Herat. I have had three books published. I’m also a member of a civil and human rights society in Herat.

What were your books about?

My first two books are collections of poetry and the third is a compilation of interviews with renowned figures from literary and cultural circles.

You often wear violet. Why is that?

The colour violet symbolizes knowledge and freedom. The colour relates to what I think and what I do. The colour represents non-violence and it is the colour of my election campaign.

How is this colour related to feminism?

Feminist groups use it because it represents non-violence and symbolizes equality.

How old are you?

I am 27.

Finally, is there anything else you would like to say?
Let us hope for a better tomorrow.