Introducing Humaira

I am Humaira Rahbin, and I come from Afghanistan. I am a refugee in the UK, hoping to rebuild everything new here. I currently work as a full-time researcher for a London based non-profit organization and I am hoping to embark on an ambitious research project through a fellowship with a US based think tank. In the meantime, I write blogs for Recruit for Spouses (RFS), coordinated by the Governance and Reform Advisory (GRA). I enjoy my work with RFS and GRA as it not only adds to my income but also keeps me interested in my real passion of writing. 

 I was only two years old when my family was forced to seek refuge in Pakistan amid the civil war in Afghanistan in 1994 – the civil war erupted in Afghanistan after the fall of the USSR backed government in 1992. We sought refuge from persecution and fled death but faced other forms of suffering in Pakistan. As refugees, we went through the harshest circumstances living in poor neighborhoods, often with minimum facilities. I undertook my primary education at a school built for refugees in Pakistan.

After the US and its allies in the West toppled down the Taliban regime,  the Taliban ascended to power after the civil war escalated in Afghanistan in the early 90s and ruled over the country between 1995 and 2001. My parents decided to head back to our home country in 2002 and for us, it was a dream come true! After going back to Afghanistan, my parents, both law graduates, retained their jobs and status. I found scores of opportunities to draw upon and flourish, and so did many girls of my generation as the ban on girls’ education and women’s right to work (imposed by the Taliban) was forbidden.

After finishing high school with top scores, I succeeded to enter tertiary education at the Faculty of Political Science of Kabul University (one of the finest universities of Afghanistan). Along with my studies, I became an activist. I worked simultaneously for various youth and women empowerment programs and organizations in Afghanistan and this trend continued in the years to come.

After graduating from Kabul University, I embarked on a postgraduate degree in International Relations. In the meantime, I worked for several civil society organizations and later for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Dutch diplomatic mission in Afghanistan. My roles were mainly at the policy level and focused on women empowerment. As an avid reader, I adored writing thus I wrote academic and non-academic pieces for research journals, print media, and the organizations I worked for.

Another turning point in my life was when I received an offer letter from the University of Cambridge to pursue an MPhil degree in Public Policy in 2019. I had applied to study at Cambridge but to be honest, I had zero confidence I could make it. Coming to the UK to study at Cambridge was beyond my imaginations.

After finishing my studies at Cambridge, I went back to Afghanistan. I worked on a project focused on Afghan women’s access to justice and had plans to explore more career opportunities, including academia (my all-time favourite). Unfortunately, the universe had planned otherwise. In February 2020, the landmark peace deal paved the ground for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan after twenty years of military engagement and as a terrorist group, the Taliban used terror to pursue their goals.

I lost some of my friends and acquaintances to the Taliban’s target killings in mid 2020. Along with massive and deadly bombings and suicide attacks, they started assassinating people (especially women) who were part of Afghanistan’s post 2001 progress. Amid the worsening security situation for women activists (including myself), I had no option but to leave Afghanistan again. I travelled across the continent and sought refuge in the UK.

Over time, I started to rebuild my career, life and aspirations here in the UK. I strive to achieve my goals and ensure my son secures a better future. In the meantime, I continue to advocate for the rights of women and marginalized groups in Afghanistan through my work and activism.

Being uprooted two times in my life has left me with periods of unsettling and the belief that no matter what, we humans are far more resilient than we think. Starting new and never losing hope are two of the biggest emblems of resilience and strength.