Nadima Noor last spoke on air with Salaamedia’s Miriam Mia in December 2021
Nadima Noor has been released after twenty-three days of captivity. Noor, the Director of Dream Voice Act, an NGO based in Kabul, Afghanistan, was kidnapped on 13 February along with five of her colleagues and a British citizen. It is alleged they were kidnapped by Taliban soldiers.
Dastaan Noor, Nadima Noor’s brother, spoke with Salaamedia, before news of her release emerged, about their wait for information from the Ministry of Interior Affairs.
“She had a legal NGO registered in Afghanistan and she was conducting her business according to the rules and regulations of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They were well aware of her business, her conduct and her cause. So, it caught us by surprise when she was detained,” Dastan said.
Noor has come to be well-known in Afghanistan for her humanitarian work in aiding society’s destitute and her efforts in uplifting the country. In previous connections with Noor, she mentioned the Taliban supported and encouraged her work and offered her their security. Since the ministries in Afghanistan are not fully integrated, there is the likelihood the ministries are unaware of one another’s work, explained Dastaan Noor.
“There is reason for them to believe that she didn’t have her registered NGO. That could have been a conflict with other ministries. There is reason to believe that [the] government [is] not integrated or not on the same page and that could have been the cause of the arrest of Nadima.”
Noor is a fervent advocate for the people of Afghanistan. Born during Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980’s, Noor and her family left and eventually settled in Canada. In December 2019, she moved back to Afghanistan. When the Taliban reclaimed their land after much plundering and pillaging by the western allied forces, in August 2021, unlike many Afghans, Noor chose to remain in the place of her birth. When a friend called her to get her bags ready to leave, Nadima declined.
“I said, ‘No. I’m the creator of my own life, I’ll decide.’ She said, ‘Well this is your chance.’ I said, ‘No my life just begun, I get to correct what should have been done a long time ago.’ She said, ‘oh my God are you crazy?’ In that split second, I knew I had to stay. For one reason, breaking the pattern and seeing everything for my own self. That’s important. Second, I don’t follow anybody. I’ve never run away from problems or challenges. I’ve always faced it as all us women around the world. We always have to protest for every little thing. Especially women like us in the Asian community.”
Noor chose to remain in Afghanistan as leaving would render her words and her message meaningless, she said. The love, respect, and the recognition Afghans showed her, also contributed to her positivity.
While most news agencies reported on the airport chaos, with hundreds desperately fleeing, they opted to ignore those who chose to stay. Business people went back to work a day after, on 16 August, for the transition to take place. Weddings that were planned went ahead. Family get togethers continued.
“All of us know we are in the middle of government change. To be honest people were not happy with the previous government due to such extreme corruption,” said Noor.
“My cousin said to me, ‘You know what was crazy? Yesterday, I comfortably picked up my phone and I started talking on it. Before, I would hold my phone tight, afraid somebody would steal it’. She said even before, during Taliban’s time, twenty years ago, nobody could steal, and no women were harassed in the middle of the street. ‘The one thing I am relieved about is nobody will rob my home and no man can whistle at me and chase me’.”
In December 2021, Noor was working with the Humanitarian organisation Red Source, to deliver a three-month supply of basic goods to families in various provinces around Afghanistan. Millions face starvation and 98% of the country is short of food according to statistics. President Joe Biden signed an executive order releasing $7billion in frozen Afghan assets which is to be split between humanitarian efforts for Afghans and American victims of 9/11.
The Delivery of food parcels provide temporary support, but it is not a sustainable solution. Noor would like to take it a step further and find ways to create opportunities, especially for women, to build self-reliant and independent communities.
“I went to Khost province, and I met with the municipality leaders. We had a chance to meet with the general director of education. I met with community leaders in Logar and Wardak. They’re all supportive… From our gathering and my understanding, they’re very supportive of what I’m doing. It surprised me and I’m still in shock that they welcomed me, and they sat with me. They gave me the support and encouraged me to bring support from the rest of the world for the women and the children and they have a good vision, how the direction of the women will move forward especially in terms of health and education.”
With members of the Taliban, Noor visited Shaikh Zayed University, where facilities for men and women have been created. Funding to accommodate basic necessities is scarce. While empowerment of women and education is the topic initiated by many media outlets with Noor, she said education will come once these necessities are met.
“I’m sick and tired of BBC, CNN and now yourself asking me what about women empowerment. Are you kidding me? How do you empower women? How do you empower a sister? How do you empower a mother? By empowering her child. How do you empower? Through food, shelter, and clothing. Education is the last priority for me right now and I’m tired of discussing that. You want to empower the women of Afghanistan then put food on the table.”
Moreover, Noor questions where the US invasion of Afghanistan has brought them twenty years later in terms of empowerment of women, education, food security, infrastructure, and peace of mind.
“Ninety percent of the budget that was brought into Afghanistan was never used in Afghanistan. It went outside the country. We are going to change that. We have social media. One thing about the Taliban is they have loyalty,” said Noor, “So far all they’ve done for me, for my life experience is to stand beside me and make sure nobody stole the food that was going to the widows. If we claim we’re Muslims, we need to redefine what empowerment is. We need to re-evaluate our own lives.”
The focus should be on humanitarian aid. The crisis in Afghanistan should not be a reason to attack the Taliban, she explained. If humanitarian support is topmost, the frozen funds should be released to NGO’s, organizations run by women in Afghanistan like herself who are working to get support to others. Humanitarian aid has been needed in Afghanistan for a long time.
“If people are sincere, the international committee are sincere, and the world really cares about humanitarian aid, they’ll support us.”
With Noor’s release from captivity, she will most likely get back into her work of providing aid and support. It is in line with the goal she shared with Salaamedia. When the government collapsed late 2021, while a lot of people fled, Noor chose to stay and help those around her. To create a shift in mindset from fleeing, to building.
“As soon as the first week went by, she was able to deliver aid to five different provinces,” shared Dastaan Noor, “She physically went and set up the logistics and physically gave aid to each and every family. That was Nadima. She was full of hope. She is full of positive energy. She wants to see a change in Afghanistan. She wants to change the narrative of Afghanistan. This is her dream and I hope she achieves her dream.”