‘No one leaves home, unless home is the mouth of a shark’

After hearing an appeal to be the voice of the voiceless – the many women and girls suffering in Afghanistan – Ali Clarke has decided to do just that.

Feb 02, 2023, updated Feb 02, 2023
Fahima Ahmadi, speaking on Australia Day. Supplied image: Andrew Beveridge, Principal Photographer, asb Creative

Fahima Ahmadi, speaking on Australia Day. Supplied image: Andrew Beveridge, Principal Photographer, asb Creative

I was fortunate to spend January 26 hosting the Australia Day Council’s ‘Aus Lights on the River’ – a celebration of Indigenous history, multiculturalism and people from all types of backgrounds and beliefs who make up this country I call home.

Yes, it was held on the date that has now divided large parts of this country – and that is a debate that must be meaningful and then resolved – but the focus was one of respectful inclusion, highlighting our uniqueness in moments of celebration.

And then Fahima Ahmadi spoke.

Fahima fled Afghanistan in September 2021 after the country fell to the Taliban’s control. When she spoke, a hush descended over the crowd: in that moment, you could have heard a pin drop among the thousands of people watching on.

Brought to tears, I listened as she told her story. She finished with a simple plea that we listening might be the voice of those left behind.

I would like to do that now and so asked her permission to bring her words to you.

As thousands of South Australian girls went back to school this week with the support of their parents and the encouragement of our society, the contrast is stark. There is much we can improve on in this country, but there is still so very much we can be thankful for.

The following is an edited transcript of Fahima’s speech.

I am Fahima Ahmadi, an Afghan girl who left a house, a family, and a life back in her country and fled to Australia all alone to save her life in September 2021 after the country fell to Taliban’s control.

I am also a Hazara girl, a minority ethnic group that is persecuted for their beliefs.

I was guilty because of choosing to work as an Interpreter with Australian and American Coalition forces in Kabul Resolute Support Headquarters.

I was guilty because I did not accept the way of life which is forced upon women of my country in Afghanistan.

I was guilty because I did not give up on my dreams and my basic human rights.

Today women are deprived of their basic human rights to study, work and be a part of Afghanistan and they have been completely erased from society.

They are not allowed to go to school, to work or even step outside of the house alone without a male companion.

In Afghanistan, I was harassed, followed, threatened, questioned, and criticized by society every single day.

I was told to leave school and I was reminded that women are only meant to stay at home.

Now I’m working as a community liaison officer, helping new arrival refugees with settlement and cultural services.

After all who can understand better than me how it feels when one leaves his/her country for a better future?

I found Australia a peaceful and beautiful place for living but, unfortunately, I still can’t breathe in the peaceful life because of the leftovers: my family who are still waiting to be saved and the parents who are impatiently waiting to hug their daughter and eat with her at the same table.

InDaily in your inbox. The best local news every workday at lunch time.
By signing up, you agree to our User Agreement andPrivacy Policy & Cookie Statement. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We are a big family of nine siblings and the only one who is safe is me.

I left without hugging and saying goodbye.

I now carry all the financial responsibilities whilst living here all alone, but I am giving hope for a better future in Australia to the rest of my family, who are waiting in Pakistan and are in danger and cannot return to Afghanistan because they stood with their daughter.

My family has been on the watch list and under serious threat by the current rulers of Afghanistan for being affiliated with the Australian and US Coalition forces where I was working back in Kabul.

They are under threat for being brave enough to allow their daughters to study and go out.

They educated their children to have a positive impact and contribution to the well-being of any society around the world.

They taught us to be tolerant and learn coexistence and give respect to all.

But now they have to suffer for their choices for many more years in exile.

Today, Australia is my new home and I am genuinely thankful for the opportunity life has provided me, allowing and encouraging me to contribute and do my small part in this beautiful and peaceful country.

I would like to appeal to all of you, those who are hearing my appeal to be the voice of millions of women and girls who are suffering in Afghanistan under a narrow-minded regime.

A voice for those who are voiceless.

Australia played a tremendous role in empowering the women of Afghanistan for more than two decades, and now (this) is at risk of being erased and women being excluded from society altogether.

There is a big difference between choosing, or being forced to leave your country and loved ones.

I would like to finish with a poem from Warsan Shire, a Somali-British writer and poet:

No one leaves home, unless home is the mouth of a shark.

You only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well.

You only leave home when home won’t let you stay.


Ali Clarke presents the breakfast show on Mix 102.3. She is a regular columnist for InDaily.

Copyright © 2024 InDaily.
All rights reserved.