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Utah woman from Afghanistan fears for the women and girls in her homeland

Zar Rahimi and her family grew up in Afghanistan. She now fears for the women and children in Afghanistan. (Family photos via KSL-TV)

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah woman knows firsthand the horror of living under the brutality of the Taliban. She fears for the women and children there who face an uncertain future. What she hopes to do next is remarkable.

"I remember one time my older sister and I were playing outside and a rocket hit our house," said Zar Rahimi, 30, who lives in Salt Lake City. It's a childhood most couldn't imagine.

"No TVs were allowed, no music was allowed, you couldn't go out," Rahimi said. "We had a little bunker underneath our house where we would actually go hide for hours."

Rahimi is from Afghanistan. In the late 1990s, her mother started a school for girls, knowing it was forbidden.

"She started it with one student and it turned out to be like thousands of girls and we had people banging on our door begging to take their daughter even when we didn't have any room," she said. "One day, a Taliban knocked on our door and told my mom that they are aware that she is running a girls school and that she is now a target."

Undaunted, her mother kept the school going, but eventually, they fled to Pakistan. Still, the consequences of her courage were dire.

"Multiple men came, their faces were covered, they came into the house and they shot my father three times." Rahimi says the Taliban killed her father and uncle. "I still remember the blood on the walls. It just felt unreal."


Heartbroken, they moved back to Afghanistan. Her mother, a widow with five children, wasn't allowed to work, drive or go anywhere without her husband or a brother.

"We had to pay or like beg the taxi driver to say that he was a brother or a husband because we didn't have anyone to even do grocery shopping."

They came to the U.S. as refugees in 2000. Here, she found shelter, and opportunity. Rahimi graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor of Science degree.

But she gets a sick feeling watching what's happening in Afghanistan now.

Still, Rahimi wants to do something extraordinary.

"I did apply for a job with UNICEF as a health educator nutritionist a couple of days ago," she said.

She wants to go back into the fire, the bullets, and the rubble with a singular purpose.

"Whether if it's scary or not, I don't think my life is any more important than all those little girls that are in need, in desperate need right now," Rahimi said.

Though it might be the most dangerous place in the world for her, Rahimi had a strong example.

"I just try to do what my mother did. She was so courageous and brave and I would love to follow in her footsteps and try to make the smallest difference," she said.

It's a sisterhood forged in despair that she can't leave behind.

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Heather Simonsen


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