NPR for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

As U.S. Troops Leave Afghanistan, 2 Afghan Siblings Discuss The Country's Future


And I want to introduce you to a man named Sanjar Sohail. I met him in 2003 during my first reporting trip to Kabul. He was a young radio journalist for the state broadcaster in Afghanistan. It was early after the U.S. had ousted the Taliban, and there was a sense of possibility in the country. Five years later, the optimism started to wane. Sanjar started to see the writing on the wall, and he fled to Canada, where he lives today with his wife and two kids. I called him up this week to talk about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and what it means for the future of his home country.

Oh, there's your face. Hi.

SANJAR SOHAIL: (Laughter).

MARTIN: Much of his family is still in Kabul, including his youngest sister, Nilofar, who is there studying at The American University. She also joined us on the line.

What kind of a guy is Sanjar?

NILOFAR SOHAIL: He is so kind, and also, he is my hero. He did everything for me to get a better education and to go to a good school and also a good university.

MARTIN: Sanjar, how do you describe Nilofar? What is she like?

S SOHAIL: She is the last child of my mom, so she's kind of the sweetheart of everyone in the family. And she is attending an American university. So I have a big dream for her to come here and get a better education, and she also has the capacity to do it. She is actually studying computer science right now.

MARTIN: Ah, that's great.


MARTIN: So, Sanjar, I can hear in your voice you're very proud of her.

S SOHAIL: I am. I am, really. Well, the thing is, my older sister - she is after me - when we escaped from Kabul at the '90s, the time of the regime change in Afghanistan and the mujahideen return to the power, unfortunately, she was unable to continue her education. I was the oldest son of the family, and, you know, this oldest son is more responsible in the Afghan family. So I decided to provide a better way for my other sisters to go to school, and I am proud of that.

MARTIN: Yeah. So much has changed since those early days, since you and I met in 2003. There was, back then, a real sense that change could come, that it would come and that hopefully it would stay.

S SOHAIL: Mmm hmm.

MARTIN: How are you feeling, Sanjar, now that the U.S. is leaving? And do you feel like that progress is in jeopardy?

S SOHAIL: Yes, unfortunately. It's very fragile, and it could get reversed. Our institution is still weak, and we are fighting very primitive groups of people - that they have primitive ideas for the society of Afghanistan - banning girls from education, banning women from participation in the society and creating an authoritarian society which could be ruled by very strict views of Islam. So the withdrawal could put - everything that we have achieved in the past 20 years could be lost.

MARTIN: Sanjar, why did you move? Why did you leave Afghanistan for Canada?

S SOHAIL: I decided to move from Afghanistan on 2007. As a journalist, I'm always a target. I was really afraid of, you know, the security and well-being of my children. People could kidnap my child and, you know - and put pressure on me to do things on their way. So, yeah, it was a good decision. But I was always and I am still in close contact with Afghanistan. And I'm still running the newspaper. And so I am going back and forth, and my family is there. My memories are there. You know, I am still hopeful to go back to Afghanistan with my family one day.

MARTIN: Nilofar, can I ask you what it's like to be in Kabul right now? Recently, there was that bombing of the girls school, and so many people died in that - young girls, students like yourself. How does it feel? Do you feel safe right now?

N SOHAIL: No. I'm not - I don't feel safe in Afghanistan. Afghan women have achieved their rights and also, they have this opportunity to study and work outside of the house. But Taliban wants to destroy this achievement by targeting a girls school. And I'm, as an Afghan girl, also worried about my future.

MARTIN: Are you trying to leave?

N SOHAIL: I have plan to leave Afghanistan after I finish my bachelor degree. I have a plan to apply for Fulbright scholarship. And from - yeah, I want to leave Afghanistan.

S SOHAIL: For Nilofar, I am really worried, you know? She has big dreams, and I have big dreams for her. But now things are not going in a direction that I imagined before. So there could be a chance that she could lose the chance for continuing her education and fulfilling her dreams.

MARTIN: Well, I appreciate both of you taking the time to talk. Nilofar, is there anything else you want to add or anything - is there anything you want to say to Sanjar?

N SOHAIL: I just want to say that I love him so much (laughter). And I proud that I have a brother like Sanjar. And that's all.

S SOHAIL: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you. (Non-English language spoken).


MARTIN: Afghan journalist Sanjar Sohail, who is based in Canada, and his sister Nilofar, who we reached in Kabul.