I was born in the northern province of Takhar in 1996 – the same year the Taliban first took control of Kabul.
I was born under the Taliban regime; I have grown up under the threat of the Taliban. My father was a bystander when he was killed in a suspected Taliban attack on German forces when I was 10 years old.
But I consider myself lucky, because in my province, girls could still go to school, which helped me to go on to become a journalist for the BBC.
I was able to receive the education many missed out on. By the time the Taliban left the country, I was in second grade. By 2003, two years after the end of the first Taliban rule, only 6 per cent of girls were enrolled in secondary education, according to the World Bank.
Education can certainly change lives. I’m now based in the UK and I’m about to front a new educational TV, radio, and digital programme for the BBC aimed at young Afghans – many of whom are currently banned from the classroom.
I feel responsible for girls in the whole of my country. I want to teach them that they can be anything they want to be.
I was able to go to secondary school, following the Taliban removal from power by the US-led military coalition in 2001. Life was tough. I used to witness explosions and hear the sound of bombs every day, but I accepted it as my daily life. I managed to finish high school. I also went to university before becoming the BBC’s women’s affairs journalist in Afghanistan, covering daily stories that affected girls and young women in my country .
But then Kabul fell to the Taliban again in August 2021.
I was living my best life, working my dream job, but I suddenly lost everything – all my achievements.
It was a like a flashback for me, because I was born into the regime. Everything stopped overnight.
In a frantic rush to be evacuated, I managed to get out of the country and into London a week after Kabul fell. Some of my extended family members, including school-age girls, remain in the country.
That’s why our new half-hour show, called Dars (Lesson in Dari and Pashto), is so important to me. It sees the BBC World Service partner up with BBC Bitesize to offer Afghanistan’s children weekly lessons including maths, science, history and IT.
I am motivated by my late father, who was a teacher, and I am excited about presenting this show for Afghan schoolgirls who are again living under a school ban.
Now more than ever, it is crucial the BBC delivers accurate, impartial, and trustworthy news to Afghanistan. People there do not have access to credible information due to media censorship. I have always kept to these values and will continue to do so with this new show, building trust between us and the audience. Not only is it about reputation, but also about keeping people safe and not putting anyone’s life in Afghanistan in danger.
I keep thinking, what if I was a teenage girl who cannot go to school, who cannot go outside the house, who does not have any basic rights? But when I have this privilege to be here… why shouldn’t I help?
I will present the programme along with three young women evacuated from Afghanistan following the country’s takeover by the Taliban. One of them, my BBC colleague Shazia Haya, who presents the Pashto version of the programme, says that she wishes there was a TV programme such as Dars for her when she was 16. She hopes that just like her – like all of us – our young audience will be happy to learn, that they understand education and knowledge are the only thing that can help them and make them independent. We are all on the same wavelength, my colleagues and I. We want to help.
The Taliban say schools for girls are only temporarily closed until a “suitable environment” is created, but plans to reopen secondary schools in March last year did not materialise, and in December, Taliban officials went on to ban women from universities.
I expect the show will receive mixed reviews. There will be some families who do not let their girls watch TV because of traditional society. But I hope some families will welcome the show and encourage their daughters to watch it. I think it’s going to be very engaging – we are going to try to help our audience who want to learn at home. And it isn’t about government policy or politics.
Right now, our girls do not have the chance to choose. But I believe one day they will. And in the meantime, our TV lessons will help keep Afghan girls’ hope alive.
BBC World Service’s programme for Afghanistan’s children, Dars, starts on Saturday, 1 April, on BBC News Afghanistan satellite channel, BBC Persian TV, BBC News Pashto, and BBC News Dari Facebook and radio.