Narges Mohammed Mahdi
Audio Recording of Interview
Narges is a refugee from Afghanistan and came to the US alone on a student visa. It was dangerous for her family to be in Afghanistan because they converted from Islam to Christianity. She talks about her experience as an Afghan in predominantly-white Christian American communities, and how her own resettlement experience has informed her desire to work for the rights of woman refugees. experience as an Afghan in predominantly-white Christian American communities, and how her own resettlement experience has informed her desire to work for the rights of woman refugees.
Other interviews of this person can be found below:
Narrator: Narges Mohammed Mahdi
Location: LIRS Headquarters in Baltimore, MD
Summary: Narges is a refugee from Afghanistan and came to the US alone on a student visa. It was dangerous for her family to be in Afghanistan because they converted from Islam to Christianity. She talks about her experience as an Afghan in predominantly-white Christian American communities, and how her own resettlement experience has informed her desire to work for the rights of woman refugees.
Topics: Immigration process, Cultural adjustment, Conditions back home, Religion, Family, Education, Community
Section 1: (00:00-10:19)
Immigration process: Narges left Afghanistan with her family because of the Afghanistan war. They lived in Pakistan for a while then went back to Afghanistan. She eventually came to the US on a student visa to finish high school.
Cultural adjustment: Had to get used to making eye contact with older people, it was taboo in Afghanistan.
Conditions back home/Religion: Her family converted from Islam to Christianity, and found it difficult to practice their religion. Their extended family was against it, their community would persecute them if they knew, and the government had a death penalty for converts. They went to underground churches and kept quiet about their religion, until they feared for their safety to the point where they had to leave for Turkey.
Section 2: (10:19-25:41)
Religion: Her family hosted Church services in their basement, but had to be very cautious to not alert neighbors. They would board the doors and windows so the sound wouldn’t travel through.
Family: From a young age her brother and her had to learn to avert questions about their faith because they didn’t want to lie but also couldn’t outright say they were Christians. Some close instances were during Ramadan when people asked if they were fasting or on Fridays when people asked if they were going to the mosque.
Religion: She follows the non-denominational church, and uses the Bible scriptures to guide her beliefs. She also found community within her church, where they had potlucks and dinners. Coming to a far country on her own was scary, but she felt reassured knowing that God is there to protect her.
Section 3: (25:41-35:40)
Cultural Adjustment: Going to a predominantly white high school and college she felt as though there were not a lot of resources available for someone of her background. As an international student, she felt she was not included in conversations about diversity, which focused on American identities. She felt like it was US-centric.
Education/Community: In her small college, there were people who tried to connect different communities, but because there were so few people doing so that there wasn’t an effect felt. Even she tried to get to know other communities on campus, but felt the change was very temporary.
Cultural adjustment: Said she will stay in the US because there is more freedom and opportunities here.
Education: Will be starting grad school to do MA at Tufts, and JD at Harvard. Then she wants to work in an international organization that does work for women's rights.
Section 4: (35:40-41:26)
Family: Hadn’t seen family in 5 years because it had been hard for her to go back to Afghanistan because she was busy with school, and was worried about something happening to her student visa if she left. She connects with family through Skype calling and social media.
Immigration process: Family is in Turkey but they want to come to the US, and are waiting for their number to get picked for the process of refugee resettlement with the UNHCR.
Religion: Believes that resettlement, being a refugee, and faith are all connected. She cites the displacement of many religious communities.