Muzhgan Yarmohammadi is currently serving as a Research Fellow at Marymount University’s Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), which works to strengthen the university’s commitment to “promoting diversity and equity across the university and strengthening ties with diverse communities across the Greater Washington, D.C. area,” striving to create an atmosphere where “all Marymount students feel safe, accepted, included, needed, treasured and seen.”
Yarmohammadi, who comes from a background in women’s rights and advocacy work for people with disabilities, spoke to the News-Press about her past, her journey to America during the Taliban takeover last year and her work at Marymount.
Her passion for civil rights and equal representation is tied to the life and experiences of women in Afghanistan, Yarmohammadi’s home country. She spent five years working at the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Kabul promoting political participation for women; prior to that she worked with Handicap International. Between 2017 and 2021, her work focused on rule of law concerns as a Senior Program Officer at the United States Institute of Peace in Afghanistan. She explained that her experiences in Afghanistan were backdropped by decades of “involvement from the international community.”
“To secure back the 20 years of achievement,” Yarmohammadi states that “the fundamental issues of Afghanistan have to be tackled” especially following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August of last year. She believes that people in scholarly and political spheres should “focus more on women’s achievements in education, health…the enforcement of law in the country” and other signs of social progress that “just vanished” after U.S. withdrawal.
In the time since Yarmohammadi and her family transitioned to life in Northern Virginia, there have been “more than 30 policies” passed by the Taliban and “they’re all against women’s rights.”
She stressed the importance of fighting the Taliban’s rigid, destructive governance and that it can be done in relatively small ways, here. The kind of fighting Yarmohammadi envisions “can be carried out through different civil ways as well.”
“The Taliban does not have the people’s support” and they lack acknowledgement and “support from the international community,” adds Yarmohammadi. Remarking poignantly and with a historical eye, she states “history shows that tyrannical regimes don’t last forever.”
In addition to the conflict, she talked about a long history of improper “distribution of resources” and a lack of “healthy competition” among the various ethnic groups in the country. Making it easier for all kinds of groups to get involved in governance is a big segment of her focus and work.
About her role at Marymount, she remarked that “since I joined…my involvement was on a small scale.”
“I contribute to some of the research that examines racial relations and the Marymount community.” She also attends discussions about “women and the politics of Afghanistan,” which inspires her to fill in the ‘bigger picture’ and tell truths that may or may not have been ignored or overlooked when discussing Afghanistan and its societal problems. Yarmohammadi shared that her team is “very supportive and appreciative” and working at Marymount provides her with a unique “accessibility to a great wealth of information and resources.”
She added that she had “support of the team at DEI” and they have been “encouraging me to write my story.” She has considered working on a memoir, “or short article” about her background, experiences and insight, with a lens on the “historical issues” in Afghanistan as well, specifically looking at the past 20 years.
She also hopes to get “more in touch with the student-run associations at Marymount” that carry out work pertaining to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) and Dreamer (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act) rights.
Having to put her education on hiatus — Yarmohammadi began a master’s program in International Relations, Peace Building and Diplomacy in 2019 — she is “looking at ways I can continue my education here.” Education as a whole is a sphere which she remains passionate about as it relates directly to her work with women’s rights — women in Afghanistan can no longer receive higher education — and, with the near future in mind, she has expressed keen interest in teaching at some point.
Yarmohammadi stated “this needs to be a lecture or a course.” Teaching people in detail about this multifaceted subject would be a “way forward.” Women in Afghanistan “want to bring back those achievements” that have since been broken down by the Taliban. She stressed the issue of women’s rights and social justice has to be seen in tandem with the political problems in Afghanistan.
Honesty, transparency and inclusion are cornerstones of Yarmohammadi’s experiences in both advocacy and education. Talking about her country’s future, she stated women in Afghanistan “are still fighting for their rights. They are now stronger, more committed.” Advocating for women’s rights and social justice in Afghanistan remains one of her foremost goals in the years ahead.
The Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is located in Rowley Hall, Suite 1004, at Marymount University (2807 N Glebe Rd, Arlington). For more information, call 703-908-7863 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.