SHUKRIA RAAD, VOA's DARI SERVICE
When Shukria Raad was a girl growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan in the fifties, the United States was to her a dim, distant country on the other side of the globe, unconnected with her reality. Today she sits at a microphone in a VOA studio in Washington and daily opens a Dari-language window on the United States - and the world - for listeners in Afghanistan.
Shukria Raad opening the Dari airshow
"I always tell my colleagues that when you sit in front of a mike, you have to feel that you are talking to your mother. Because there's a love and respect. And I always say that even when you smile, people can hear a smile. Always, when I sit in front of mike, I want to share everything, to share the information, and give them what they want."
By profession, Shukria Raad is a radio broadcaster. By birthright, she is a princess. Her father was the last emir of Bukhara - now a city in Uzbekistan - who was deposed by the Soviet army in 1920 and fled to Kabul, where he lived out his days under virtual house arrest. Born in Kabul, Shukria Raad says that after her father's death she lived the life of an ordinary middle-class Afghan girl. But her achievements were not so ordinary. She started her professional radio career in Kabul after graduating as one of four women in the first journalism class of Kabul University in 1966. She participated in exchange programs with radio stations in Germany, India and Australia, producing women's and children's programs. She returned home to eventually become the head of educational programs for women, children and young people for Radio Afghanistan.
"I can proudly tell you that I was very satisfied that in a country where most of the women were not educated, and most of them were illiterate, through radio I could reach them. I knew how to talk to them, and make them feel that they should trust me."
Shukria Raad left Afghanistan with her family three months after Soviet troops invaded the country in December 1979. With her husband, also a journalist, and two children she fled to Pakistan, and then through Germany to the United States. Although the Voice of America was starting a Dari-language service and needed broadcasters, Mrs. Raad says that at first she resisted the idea of going back into radio.
"For a long time I didn't want to work in radio, because I had a very bad experience. When the Soviet invasion took place, some of my friends were killed in the studios of Radio Afghanistan, because the first thing captured was radio and television. So when I came here I was not in a very, sort of ? I was thinking to have another job."
But in 1982 she did join the VOA, and has worked as a broadcaster, editor, program host and producer ever since. Her paramount interest continues to be reaching Afghanistan's women.
"I am preparing a women's program every week. It is Women and Life. It is about women's rights, about what mostly American women do, and especially do for Afghan women. And the world - what's going on in the world, for women. In Saudi Arabia, in India, in Pakistan, in Iran."
Just last week Mrs. Raad hosted a call-in program in Dari specifically for and about women. She received calls from women around the world who wanted to share their views on issues facing Afghan women in post-Taleban society. For the first time, a woman in Afghanistan participated in the discussion
"We could just call through satellite phone, and I reached a lady there, and she was talking about what's going on in Afghanistan, and what challenges women are facing these days, and especially these months."
Shukria Raad has been a broadcaster for 35 years, and now she has no doubt that she chose the right profession.
"You know, I'm so happy. I really enjoy this job. Whenever I sit in front of mike, I cannot explain to you. You are a broadcaster. Suddenly you feel that through this mike, you are talking to a huge group of people, and they are listening to you... and when you give them the news of the world, when you talk about what is going on in other countries, it is something that they learn every day by listening to the Voice of America - and that gives me a lot of pleasure."
Shukria Raad says her life in the United States is not all that different from her life in Afghanistan twenty years ago.
"Since I was working in radio, and I was exactly wearing the same clothes, exactly doing the same thing, I don't feel a big change in my life, you know. I was a working woman in Afghanistan and I am still a working woman, you know. I raised my children and I do the job that I was doing there - and I'm proud of it."
Dari show closing
English Feature #7-35977 Broadcast February 25, 2002