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From Horror to Hope — with Hard Work

Colby College sophomore Qiamuddin Amiry sums up his life under the Taliban in Kabul, Afghanistan, as a time of emptiness, grinding labor, and periodic horror.

“I always compare it to Orwell’s 1984 — how education was trying to brainwash you,” he says. “There was no freedom of speech  or anything.”

The teenager stayed away from his Taliban-controlled school to weave carpets to help support his family. He watched weekly soccer matches in the city stadium. But sometimes the Taliban would lock the gates and tell the crowd inside that instead of a game, there would be executions and punishments for alleged crimes.

In 2000, the young man shook off his depression to resume studying English. After 9/11 he got a job as a translator for British Special Service where he heard  about application forms for five national UWC scholarships.

“It was kind of a fairy tale. Nobody thought I could get it,” he says. But he did. That led to two years at Li Po Chun UWC in Hong Kong — “We had people from 75 countries there! It was the best two years of my life” — and then to Colby, where he’s majoring in government and philosophy.

In time, Qiam hopes to go home, to work for Afghanistan’s renewal. If he can.

If it’s more stable, I want to eventually live in Afghanistan. The international community gave a gift to the people of my country, through helping me.”

Qiam is already working to develop a program that would enable deserving Afghan teenagers to attend American prep schools.