Roya Zamani is an Afghan social media journalist, writer and poet based in U.K
Q. When did you leave the country and what are your earliest memories of growing up in Afghanistan?
A.I was forced to leave Afghanistan, my land of love, in late 2007. After the collapse of Taliban regime, in 2002, I was the first women bronze medalist in Taekwondo at the 14th South Asian Games in Korea. In 2005, I was awarded the Malala Bravery Award. By that time, I was the first ever women broadcaster as an English newsreader of Ariana TV in Kabul. I was also women’s rights. These activities endangered my life and I was eventually forced to leave my home.
Q. A large majority of Afghans are now based abroad, mostly in Europe and U.S. How difficult is the cultural adjustment, especially for someone coming from a third world country?
A. It is never easy to move, even though it is hard to be dislocated from your city in your own country. Moving abroad does carry quite a lot of loneliness, depression, physical and emotional problems. Cultural differences are obvious and it does take away a lot of your strength and ambition by the time you settle down and find a place for yourself in your own life and in the society but it is much more difficult for young people who move alone.
They mostly do not know the language to communicate and there is no family or friends for emotional support. So, for youngsters, it is difficult. There is of course support for young refugees from our own Afghan communities but none of them can give total protection.
Q. As an Afghan living and working abroad, have you faced any stereotype, prejudice or racism?
A.People are generally different from the governmental system. Through the governmental system, I personally have not faced any, because the base of every job in UK is democracy, which means ever single person living in the UK enjoys same rights. If anybody within the system is biased or acting in prejudice, they are going to be prosecuted and punished and they lose their jobs as well. Having said that, there is still no guarantee that you will not face stereotype, prejudice or racism. But, it is not comparable with our own system in Afghanistan.
However, they have class differences and cultures and subcultures. It is easier for people to be biased rather than the system. Personally I have not faced any racism or stereotype, but I have seen others faceit.
Q. When you come across the news reports about suicide attacks, violence against women and children in your come country, how do you react?
A. Those painful news stories do break every human's heart. But, for us Afghans around the world, it is like losing our own family. It is shocking and heartbreaking beyond words. Every time I hear these kinds of news stories, they make me burst into tears.
I write a lot on these grave socio-political issues, especially on social networking sites like Facebook. In my posts, I have always condemned such attacks and tried to build a wide understanding of the realities of what is going on. We do go for protests to raise our voice and call for the attention of the world in assisting Afghanistan to fight back against terrorists.
Q. Tell us a bit about the work you do?
A. I am a multitasker, doing pretty much everything. Once I arrived in this country, I went for higher education which I successfully finished and enrolled for a course in journalism at university in 2009. After first year of media and journalism, Iswitched to media production which is basically about filmmaking.
Working in Afghanistan as documentary makerin recent years made me go for filmmaking as I found journalism quite limited in freedom of speech here in UK as well. I graduated as a director from Northumbria University in 2013 and my graduational film. The film was about me and my little son’s journey for whose safety I left Afghanistan and went to Britian.It was one of the best graduation films of the North East England universities in 2013. Two other student films I made were screened at women’sshort film festivals in England.
I am the mother of two sons as well, which is more than a full time job. Since graduation, I have been on and off on the variety of short and long film projects. I have written two collection of poetry which I plan to publish soon hopefully. They are mostly about women, love and humanity.
I write a lot on social media and recently was nominated for Best Social Media Journalist at the annual Rumi Awards 2014.
Q. As they say, you can take the person out of country, but you can’t country out of the person. What is the one thing that makes you proud as an Afghan?
A. It is absolutely true. You are not able take a country out of a person. Your country is your mother and no one in the world can be replaced with your mother. There are many things that make me feel proud as an Afghan, it is difficult to pick one.
Staying there for each other and caring for each other in times of need and hardship makes me feel proud as an Afghan.