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Celebrated Afghan journalist receives standing ovation after sharing her story of courage in the face of Taliban persecution

WASHINGTON, DC—The moment she leaned toward the microphone, a hush fell over the audience. On a rainy Tuesday night, as hundreds looked to her on stage at a grand auditorium in the heart of the nation’s capital, Nariza Karimi made sure her voice was heard.

The former Tahirih Justice Center client was honored as the 2015 Courageous Voice awardee at Tahirih’s 18th Annual Gala, “Saving Lives, Celebrating Courage,” on April 14 at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium.

Nazira rose to prominence as a journalist in Afghanistan. By the early 90s, she had become a widely recognized and respected reporter, known for her advocacy and intrepid spirit. It was this same spirit that the Taliban sought to crush when they decided to murder Nazira for speaking out against their brutality, fanatical activities, and gender-apartheid politics.

What followed was a horrifying ordeal, as Nazira and her entire family endured persistent violent harassment for years. Only when the entire family resettled in the United States as refugees, thanks to the tireless efforts of Tahirih in tandem with the Feminist Majority Foundation, were they able to safely and happily rebuild their lives.

During her speech, Nazira recalled how it felt to be forced to flee her homeland, and to have the threat of death hanging over her and her entire family.

“I had no choice. I left Afghanistan. I left my lovely country,” Nazira told gala guests.

Unfortunately, her painful journey did not end with her heart-wrenching decision to flee her home. Nazira revealed that after she and her immediate family had been relocated to the United States through emergency UNHCR action, she received a different sort of death threat; her mother vowed to kill herself and Nazira’s sister to end their suffering, rather than risk being found by the Taliban. At this point in the evening, Nazira paid special tribute to her mother’s strength through what she calls ‘the dark days.’

Several times throughout her speech, Nazira paused to recognize the bravery of her family, and to thank Tahirih for their work in bringing her family to the United States.

“Today I’m still alive,” she stated proudly, “Tahirih Justice Center saved my life and my family’s life.”

The Karimi’s case resulted in a well-received recommendation to expedite the resettlement of Afghan women in the United States, and for the establishment of a permanent INS processing center in Islamabad, Pakistan.

“Immigration law changed because of the wonderful job of Tahirih Justice Center,” Nazira said.

Despite her ordeal, Nazira said she has faith that terrorist organizations such as the Taliban and ISIS will be defeated— thanks to Tahirih Justice Center and organizations like it that fight for human rights every day.

Today, Nazira continues her intrepid reporting as a journalist with Afghanistan’s largest private media outlet, Ariana Television Network.

She and her family have found safety and dignity in the United States, but one of Nazira’s wishes remains unfulfilled.

“Women still suffer. They’re still suffering not only in Afghanistan – around the world. That’s very sad. My wish as a woman who suffered in Afghanistan, my hope, is that one day women will be equal. One day women will be free,” Nazira said.

The indomitable hope of the 2015 Courageous Voice honoree drew Tahirih gala guests to their feet, and their applause drowned out the sound of the rain.