After months of insecurity and danger, Afghani native Faryal Yaquby M’24 has finally found safety. And she found it at Merrimack College.
Yaquby escaped her home country in February of last year following the Taliban’s hostile takeover in 2021 and after a tough year she arrived in the United States. She is enrolled in Merrimack’s one-year public administration and affairs master’s program and is also a graduate resident director. After graduation this spring, she hopes to pursue a doctorate in international relations.
“I’d like to work for the United Nations, the World Bank or the U.S. State Department,” she said. “Maybe as a development manager at the World Bank or a diplomat at the State Department.”
Growing up in Afghanistan, education was something Yaquby never took for granted. When she was five years old, during the first Taliban regime in the early 2000s, she attended a hidden UNICEF-funded school for girls.
“I defied the Taliban regime by hiding my books while passing through checkpoints every day,” she said. “From that young age, I learned that being a female is difficult outside my house. Despite that, I tried to push the boundaries of masculine-defined life the regime defined for all women and girls, including me.”
Once the Taliban government was overthrown, Afghanistan’s first elected government allowed women to attend school freely. Yaquby went on to receive her bachelor’s degree in political science and public administration from the American University of Afghanistan.
After graduation, Yaquby worked as an international relations manager at the Central Bank before serving as a research analyst for the Afghanistan government. In 2021, she was accepted to Merrimack and began applying for her student visa. However, on August 15, her life changed forever.
“The sudden collapse of Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban was an immense shock,” she recalled. “I was in the office enthusiastically working to bring positive changes in the community; however, it remained a dream. I got calls from my family saying ‘The Taliban has taken over Kabul, you need to come home now.’ When I got home, I was in total shock – I was traumatized. That place that I would go to every day, the street that I used to go to work, now suddenly it looked so unfamiliar to me.
“Post-takeover of the Taliban, circumstances were challenging, and I was threatened for three reasons. The first and foremost reason was that I am a female, and in their ideology females have no right but to be ignorant and stay at home. Second, I studied at the American University and they considered me a target to be killed because I do not have the same ideologies. Third, I was in managerial positions at distinguished organizations, and this group hated to see any woman in leading positions. Thus, I had to relocate every three to five days for over six months to hide from the Taliban.”
Eventually, she was able to flee to Pakistan.
“I stayed there for another seven to eight months,” she said. “That was another problem because I was alone over there and they knew I was an immigrant, and a very vulnerable person because I was a single female, so anyone could take advantage of me. My life was in danger and I was not feeling secure over there, so that was another trauma.”
Eventually, she left Pakistan and enrolled in a graduate program at Middlesex University Dubai. After three months, however, Yaquby’s student visa was finally cleared and she was on her way to the United States and Merrimack.
Yaquby said she is extremely grateful to Graduate Enrollment Associate Vice President Jeanne Zilliox, and Bradley Miller, director of the Master of Public Administration and Affairs Program, for not giving up on her through the long and arduous visa process.
“Those two people never gave up on me, and were incredibly happy that I finally made it to the United States,” she said.