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Interview for

Sughra Bakhtairi


Interviewed By:

Simone Wallk

Date Interviewed:

Audio Recording of Interview
00:00 / 34:38

Raised in Pakistan, Sughra describes living in Afghanistan to work in the embassy before leaving for the United States with her husband and two children for safety. She details the fear she felt after her son’s attempted kidnapping in Afghanistan, her feelings toward practicing Islam in the United States, finding community and employment, and giving her children a secure future.

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Additional Notes

Narrator: Sughra Bakhtiari

Date: 06/28/2020

Location: Alexandria, VA

Summary: Sughra and her family leave Afghanistan for their safety. She speaks about their new life in the US, the adjustments, and her take on religion as separate from other matters in her life.

Topics: Childhood, conflict journey, employment, family, violence, discrimination, personal finance, religion, family, religious practice, place of worship, education, conception of home, adjustment, future, language, interactions with people in the US, community, politics, discrimination


Section 1: (00:00-3:03)

  • Childhood- Raised in Pakistan and went to Afghanistan after finishing schooling.

  • Conflict journey, family, violence- Came to US for safety of herself and her family, references the attempted kidnapping of her son. Left to US with her husband and her son; daughter was born in US.

  • Employment, personal finance, discrimination- Her and her husband made good money (Sughra as a core assistant and her husband as a finance manager) and both worked for the embassy. But they worried about their safety because they worked for the embassy and that they would become targets.

Section 2: (3:04-11:05)

  • Religion, family - Born a Muslim, given from her father, described as the only thing he gave her. Describes her father as someone always doing good for the community instead of saving money for himself. Believes in Islam as a religion but not in its followers who enact violence in its name. Does not see this violence within what she reads in her religion.

  • Religious practice - When growing up in Pakistan, prayed 5 times a day and wore hijab. Describes Pakistan as a traditional place. Beliefs have remained the same since growing up except that she wears the hijab less in the US.

  • Place of worship, family, education - Doesn’t attend a mosque in the US, tried going once but didn’t like the woman who was in charge of the children. She decided to teach her children about religion herself, reads them books. Sughra doesn’t feel lonely not going to the mosque. In the past even when she wasn’t in the US, her ambition and many activities kept her from going to the mosque.

Section 3: (11:06-17:04)

  • Family, conception of home- Always felt home, self-described as peace of mind, when she was with her parents and siblings. Feels now at home with her family in the US (her husband and 2 kids)

  • Employment, adjustment, violence, family - She went to Afghanistan for work, a difficult experience with a very different environment than Pakistan. Liked her job at the embassy, knew what was expected of her, liked the discipline. Though outside of the embassy, she felt unsafe, describes bomb blasts around that area. Describes in detail how her son was targeted for being her husband’s son and almost kidnapped while with her sister-in-law.

Section 4: (17:06-20:46)

  • Adjustment to US- Sughra describes beginning as very difficult. Didn’t have a car or relatives nearby, had to learn how to go to the market and take the bus. Her husband also had an appendix surgery here. Now, many of her friends have now come and live near her.

  • Employment, family, future - When coming to the US, was worried about if she could find a job and if her educational background was up to par for the US. But she was happy about the future she could give to her children. She now works as a bookkeeper for Emmanuel Church.

  • Family, language- Her daughter was born here, and her son was a year and 4 months old when they came, doesn’t think he remembers Afghanistan. Speak Dari at home and English outside of the house. Sometimes her children mix up the vocabularies of the two languages.

Section 5: (20:47-)

  • Interactions with people in the US - Has had good experiences with Americans since she came to the US, but describes a kind of tension with “the African or black African people.” She doesn’t know whether those she has tension with are African American or immigrants from Africa.

  • Community, home- Probably will stay here, especially because her children are young. Might only go back to visit alone to see her parents. Community of friends and relatives gather monthly, visit someone when they get sick, and celebrate Eid. Also in correspondence with her old supervisor from the embassy.

  • Religion, politics, discrimination- Religious practice has not changed. Thinks religion might make it harder to transition to the US, talks about how they eat frozen meat in the US and how her parents would not for religious reasons. Believes that it is best to separate religion from other aspects of her life. An example is how she does not wear the hijab anymore, wonders who could get a job with a hijab. She talks about the unfortunate reputation of Islam and how there are some people who might assume that a woman wearing a hijab carries a bomb.

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