Safiya Wazir is a mother, daughter, wife, refugee, and recently, she has added “politician” to the list.
Wazir beat out longtime Republican Dennis Soucy, who stooped to the racist lows typically associated with President Trump during the election. But she did not let that bother her. Wazir, who was pregnant with her third child at the time, went door-to-door to make sure that her soon-to-be constituents knew that she was to be taken seriously, and that being their representative was a role that she took seriously.
Her victory has caught everyone by surprise, considering that New Hampshire’s population is predominantly white, and few thought she would win. But the people of Concord, New Hampshire, voiced their opinions through their votes, and wanted the positive change Safiya Wazir represented.
In order to understand just how incredible she is and why many Afghan women, such as my mother, are in awe of her accomplishments, I’ll offer some insight into her background. Wazir and her family escaped Afghanistan when she was six to elude the tyranny of the Taliban in 1997. They resettled in America after ten long years of being refugees in Uzbekistan. Throughout the years she faced hardships and racism, but didn’t let that stop her from completing her education. Wazir graduated with a degree in business from her local community college while working two jobs; doing all this with English she learned from a dictionary.
Imagine, at the age of sixteen, moving to an unfamiliar country and being expected to assimilate to a new culture and language. As a child of Afghan refugee parents, I understand how hard it is to adjust. There has to be an unrelenting passion and drive in order to succeed the way Safiya has. She has broken every glass ceiling, and consequently made every Afghan woman proud.
When my mom heard that Safiya Wazir had won the primary election in New Hampshire, she would not stop talking about it. The name Safiya Wazir was coming out of everyone’s mouth; everyone I knew was sharing the happiness of her victory. It was as if Safiya was not the only one who had won a seat in the House of Representatives; it was as though every Afghan woman had. Many of these Afghan women who felt Wazir’s victory personally were victims of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. I remember my mom telling me that when her family was fleeing Afghanistan in the early ’90s, she had begged her dad to let her finish the last semester of her undergraduate degree. During a war, the one thing my mother did not want to leave behind was her education. In Afghanistan not many families allowed their daughters the right to an education. My mom understood that, and valued hers. When the Taliban were gaining power in Afghanistan, they took care to shatter anything that empowered women. They used religion as a scapegoat for all the injustices that they brought into the country. They took away religious freedoms, education, and made women second class citizens through oppression.
The Taliban knew that when a woman is educated, she is able to have a say and influence in society. Educated women would be able to tear the Taliban regime to shreds because they have knowledge that the Taliban lack. Only uneducated and scared men would want to deprive women of their education. But Safiya Wazir accomplished everything the Taliban have tried to stop women from doing, and represents everything they hate.
My mom and women of her generation, or those who have had to flee Afghanistan are in awe of Wazir because they all went through the same experience. And in a country where immigrants are increasingly made to feel unwanted, Safiya created a platform where her voice matters. Afghan women see her as a symbol of hope. She has accomplished all the dreams of women who have suffered at the hands of the Taliban. Women such as Wazir, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib encourage others that they can do anything they set their mind to. And we are here for it.