Jawan Shir

Jul 8, 2009

Harrisonburg, VA – Twenty-four-year old Jawan Shir is a citizen of Afghanistan.

He has lived through the Soviet occupation of his country and has been jailed by the Taliban.

Jawan is now in this country on a Fulbright scholarship, studying at James Madison University and WMRA's Martha Woodroof recently sat down with him to hear his story.


The war was like forty miles away, thirty miles sometimes, away from the town. I would say we were used to it. It's like it's okay if there is war. It's fine. As long as there is no rocket coming toward you and it doesn't hit you, then don't worry about it.

There were anti-Taliban movement in my province. But then the Taliban took over our province also. So what happened is the Taliban massacred some people and they arrested a lot of young people. And I was fourteen years old and they put me in jail for three months.

Prisons in Afghanistan and especially those under the Taliban are not like prisons we have in this country in America or elsewhere. It was tough. Actually, undesirable. You don't want to go there.

Then my uncle who was anti-communist and later became anti-Taliban commander, he exchange me with a Taliban prisoner.

I found out the U.S. department of the State has announced Fulbright exchange scholarship and program for Afghan citizens. I am an Afghan citizen. So I applied to this Fulbright Scholarship and I ended up in Virginia.

I'm Muslim. I love my religion. Islam means peace, and I believe in Islam. I think Islam brought unity. Unfortunately we cannot say what a small group of people does then that represent the whole country. I'm referring to Muslim fundamentalist. We do have fundamentalists in every religion. It has been with mankind since the birth of mankind.

It has been for 3 years that I am in this country. I have not faced anything that says Islam is bad, Islam is not good. No. I have very, very good friends here in this country. I think of my first year here in America, I lived in a frat house. I had four roommates. One was a Catholic, one was a Jew, two were Southern Baptists from Virginia. They were great people. We became real brothers now.

The reason I decided to live with these guys is because I am a Fulbright scholar and the mission, the goal of Senator William Fulbright from Arkansas was to bridge cultures; to improve understanding and to exchange ideas. And that's what I believe in. And so I decided to go and live with these guys. We talked about religions. We talked about politics.

During the election, like my two roommates from Virginia, they were Republicans. But my other two roommates, they were Democrat. And I was in between. Any political event in this country influences back my own people, my own country. So I had to watch it carefully. And there were arguments and disagreements with my roommates, but we were good. We were good.