When Maryam Sahar Naqibullah sets a goal, she sets it high.
The 22-year-old from Afghanistan is studying in Canada but plans to return to her home country. Then, she will run for president.
After meeting the passionate Carleton Unversity student, one is left with little doubt her name will one day appear on a ballot.
It could be dangerous, she admits, but she is undeterred.
“I think my passion is stronger and the change that I care for is stronger than the bullets that I’m going to get for it. I’m not afraid of bullets.
“I will only be afraid if I die without making any difference. If I die making a difference, I mean that will be an honour for me because I will serve my country and I will serve the world.”
Asked about the source of her courage, she credits Canada and the schooling it helped provide in Kandahar.
“When you get an education I don’t think you become the type of person who is willing to give up. You become the type of person who wants to fight.”
Naqibullah was in Lacombe on Saturday to speak as part of charitable organization A Better World’s recognition of Humanitarian Day.
The second-year international relations student was only 15 when she began working as an interpreter for the Canadian Armed Forces in Kandahar province. She helped with training sessions, interviews, conferences non-governmental organization meetings and women’s council meetings throughout the province.
When the Taliban suspected she was working with the foreigners, they kidnapped and tortured her brother as a warning.
Her family eventually moved to Kabul because of the danger. In recognition of her services and the risk she was facing, Naqibullah was granted permanent residency in Canada. She continued to work here with the Canadian Armed Forces and trade and foreign services staff to teach them the ways of her country and its people.
As she pursues, what she hopes will become a Phd, Naqibullah is devoted to sharing her message of gratitude and hope. Gratitude for what the Canadians and others are doing to improve her country, and hope for a future where a new generation can follow their dreams and young women can pursue an education.
To many Canadians, Afghanistan is associated with violence and TV and newspaper images of the aftermaths of suicide bombings.
But those tragedies do not define the country.
“There is a resilient and very passionate and very determined young generation that is living there and wanting to take on all the challenges to make Afghanistan a better place,” said Naqibullah.
“If you go to Afghanistan and meet any young person or little kid of five years old, he or she already knows what they want to be in the future,” she said. “They have the same wishes, dreams just like a Canadian would have here.”
In Afghanistan, one of her brothers has just graduated as an engineer, another is studying computer science and her sister is studying medicine. Her youngest brother wants to be a cricketer, she laughs.
“One of my main hopes is as a young person from Afghanistan to go back to my country to invest in women’s education and women’s empowerment and not to give up.
“I, and especially a lot of young people of Afghanistan feel leaving is not the solution, fighting for that country is the solution. My dream is one to go back there and run in the presidential election of Afghanistan and become the female president of Afghanistan.”
Millions of others have their own hopes and dreams. “I just hope the world will not give up on us and continue to support us, particularly in investing more in education.”
After decades of war, change will take a generation. That generation is alive now and she envisions a much different country in the future.