A Young Peacebuilder in Afghanistan. Member Spotlight: Heela Hakimi

Growing up in the Afghanistan of today it is certainly no easy thing, especially if you are a woman and a peace activist like Heela Jan. Raised in the Middle East, Heela has conducted her bachelor studies in China, and she is now pursuing a master’s degree in political science in Kabul, working aside for the Chinese consulate in the capital offices. Despite the socio-political and economic prospects of Afghanistan look every day more dire, as the grip on power of the Taliban holds tighter, she wants to keep her hopes up and be at the forefront of building a more peaceful future; a future that is owed to the youngest generations rejecting the logic of war and haste. This is one of the main reason that eventually pushed her to join MBBI, just a couple of month ago, animated by the desire to connect with likeminded peacebuilders from other parts of the globe and participate in the effort of making the world, and Afghanistan, more “peace-able” places.

From learning Mandarin to the dedication to politics

“I have always liked diving into things I believe are difficult to learn”, Heela says while explaining what guided the choice of the Chinese language as her first university path. After the high school, she had a brief journalism experience with the Afghanistan Parliament TV, lasted until she received a scholarship for studying in China. Drove by an inner motivation to challenge her own expectations, she completed the Bachelor at the University of Shanghai, and she now masters the use of Chinese Mandarin. “I had a wonderful time in China. I loved the country, the culture and the people. Like here in the Middle East, the Chinese culture is one of hospitality and kindness. I have always felt respected for my faith and Muslim costumes, which is not self-evident in the modern world.”

Back in Afghanistan, she embarked on a working experience at the Chinese consulate of Kabul, facilitated by the fact of speaking five different languages fluently (Pashto, Urdu, Persian, Chinese Mandarin, English). Such a politically related experience, joint together to the thirst for understanding the geopolitical relations among States in a deeper manner, eventually led her to embrace the field of political science with a Master of Arts in International Relations at the Kardan University of Kabul. Currently, Heela keeps on cultivating such a passion by writing academic articles for a university journal as well as news articles for Autofintechs, a digital periodic of various genre, treating of political issues both at the national and international level. When asked what area of IR she enjoys the most, Heela mentions “The World Order” by Henry Kissinger, as she is keen to grasp thoroughly the balance of power between States and hegemonies in the current, and constantly evolving, world order.  

In the future, Heela aspires to work in a high-profile political setting, perhaps as a diplomat. However, her ambitions, and dreams, have now to reckon the harsh reality of Afghanistan, one where women are mainly excluded from the public life. “It is very complicated to be a woman in Afghanistan nowadays, and the worst thing is that nobody knows what the future will be”, she disconsolately acknowledges. No doubts that her courage and determination will crown her desires one day.

A peace activist in Afghanistan.

Growing up in the contemporary Afghanistan, Heela had to face the violence and suffering of war since an early age. What she assisted to across her life (being born in 1996) has been a fragmented society, where different social groups have embraced divisive stances and the tongue of enmity, while the voices of the younger generations have been mostly set apart, silenced. “What I see is that the youngest ones have been suffering a lot from the consequences of war, losing opportunities and hope, while what they want it is simply to live peacefully with each other”. Their voices are not heard, they have no job, no future; they are lost”. It is not by chance that experiencing such an intense feeling of oppression and injustice led Heela to espouse the language of peace, and stand up as a peacebuilder to shape a more inclusive and pacific society. In 2020, she became a Peace Ambassador for the Global Peace Chain as well as a Youth Ambassador for the International Youth Society, a global organization working to assert the voice of the younger generations at the global level, and especially, in the situations in which these are marginalized the most. Together with other four Peace ambassadors from Afghanistan, Heela has managed to organize a series of workshops on different topics (peace, education, social values), gathering young participants from different parts of the country. We need to raise our voice against hatred and violence, and work for creating real peace in our country”. Despite the young age and the grim conditions of her nation, Heela demonstrates to be full of pure spirit, talent, and willpower to develop as a peacebuilder and a peace leader, and surely, a seed of hope for Afghanistan.

Written by Matteo Piovacari: MBBI Writer