Meet Afghan refugee Samira Nazar who went from flee­ing the Tal­iban to study­ing her PhD in Bris­bane

Life & Style Weekend - - WEL­COME // IN­SIDE TO­DAY - BY Sherele Moody

ED­U­CA­TION is some­thing most Aussies take for granted.

But for girls and women in Afghanista­n the sim­ple act of learn­ing – or show­ing their face in pub­lic – can get them killed.

It’s been 18 years since Samira Nazar and her fam­ily fled the war-torn south-cen­tral Asian coun­try but the mem­o­ries of the Tal­iban’s op­pres­sive misog­y­nis­tic bru­tal­ity are still strong for the 29-year-old.

“You see your mum, your aunts, ev­ery woman around you be­ing op­pressed,” Samira re­calls as she re­veals the sim­ple act of shop­ping was enough to end in pub­lic ret­ri­bu­tion.

“There were guns ev­ery­where, they (the soldiers) would threaten peo­ple.

“If you go shop­ping you want to see what you’re buy­ing. You need to see it and feel it and as a woman you can’t un­cover your face to see some­thing prop­erly.

“If you did you would get pun­ished. They would hit you.

“I saw my mum hit from be­hind with a stick be­cause she lifted her veil to see fab­ric at the mar­ket.

“The ex­treme way of pu­n­ish­ing women was to take them to a sports sta­dium where they would stone them.”

When Samira was 11, her mother Nas­rin and her fa­ther

Shukoor de­cided to risk ev­ery­thing by flee­ing Afghanista­n with their three chil­dren.

The Nazars be­lieved a good ed­u­ca­tion was the one thing all their chil­dren de­served and they knew they had no hope of giv­ing their daugh­ters that if they stayed in a coun­try where learn­ing could lead to state-sanc­tioned mur­der.

“It was not ac­cept­able for my par­ents to see us grow up with­out ed­u­ca­tion,” Samira says of the im­pe­tus be­hind their flight for life.

“It was a def­i­nitely a risk for them to take, but to take us to a safe place and get ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion they needed to take those risks.”

Samira and her fam­ily even­tu­ally set­tled in Aus­tria as refugees.

“My par­ents en­cour­aged us to em­brace our new home and our new lan­guage,” she says.

“They en­cour­aged us to get used to it and to have Aus­trian friends and that was the key to why we were able to adapt to our new en­vi­ron­ment very eas­ily.

“We just wanted to do well and that has con­trib­uted to a bet­ter life for us.”

Samira com­pleted her nor­mal school­ing at 16 and, in­stead of just set­tling for a job in a lo­cal fac­tory or as a wait­ress, she en­rolled in a Ger­man lan­guage school with the aim of go­ing on to study busi­ness.

She trav­elled 100km a day to at­tend classes, driven to suc­ceed by the in­cred­i­ble sac­ri­fices made by her par­ents.

“The risk they took is one of the things that de­fines me – it has helped me to achieve, to help me take my own risks and to say ‘yes’ to hard things,” she says, re­veal­ing that learn­ing in a lan­guage that was not her na­tive tongue was one of the hard­est, but most sat­is­fy­ing, things she has done.

“I be­lieve that lan­guage is a door opener to cul­ture and to peo­ple.”

Now flu­ent in four lan­guages and with a re­sume that lists CSIRO, Mi­crosoft and Fu­jitsu, the Univer­sity of Queens­land Busi­ness School aca­demic has her sights set on com­plet­ing a PhD with a fo­cus on so­cial im­pact and sus­tain­abil­ity.

“Busi­nesses have a ma­jor in­flu­ence on our so­ci­ety, so if you want to cre­ate change it is good to start with busi­nesses and that is why I am want­ing to com­plete my PhD at UQ Busi­ness School,” Samira says.

“We’re sur­rounded by so many things like cli­mate change and so­cial and po­lit­i­cal un­rest.

“I think as we ed­u­cate busi­nesses and help them make the right de­ci­sions then we will also help the wider com­mu­nity.

“A lot of busi­nesses would like to leave a legacy but they just don’t know how and I be­lieve that I can help them to make the right de­ci­sions and con­sider their stake­hold­ers in an eth­i­cal way.”

As Samira moves to­wards her dream of chang­ing the world one cor­po­ra­tion at a time, she knows that no mat­ter what she achieves she will be help­ing to pay for­ward the in­cred­i­ble sac­ri­fices her par­ents made so she could be free to learn. “Giv­ing up is a not an op­tion for me,” she says.

“I hope to in­spire oth­ers who are in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion to mine.”

‘‘ The risk they took is one of the things that de­fines me – it has helped me to achieve, to help me takes my own risks and to say ‘yes’ to hard things. "


◗ It's been 18 years since Samira Nazar and her fam­ily fled Afghanista­n but the mem­o­ries of the Tal­iban's op­pres­sive misog­y­nis­tic bru­tal­ity are still strong for the 29-year-old busi­ness ex­pert.

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