Moslem Shah: Arrested by Taliban 15, Now Poised for Leadership in Afghanistan
Fulbright student Moslem Shah (MAIPS ’13) had his pick of U.S. universities; he chose the Monterey Institute because he felt it would fit into his long-term plans to take on a leading role in the rebuilding of his native Afghanistan after three decades of war. “My experience here, both personally and professionally, has gone way beyond my expectations,” Moslem shares, adding that he loves how the diverse student body has helped him to broaden his perspective.
Moslem is from the ancient city of Herat, Afghanistan’s third largest city in the beautiful and fertile province that bears its name, close to the borders of Iran and Turkmenistan. His mother was a schoolteacher, but she and his two sisters were banned from schools under the Taliban’s rule. When he came home from school, he would teach his older sister what he had learned and soon she started to invite her friends over to get lessons as well. Before long the demand for his services led the family to rent out a space to accommodate more girls.
Eventually the Taliban heard of the underground school, and at the age of 15 Moslem was arrested. “I was lucky,” he says modestly, “because my father used all his connections and got me freed my second night in custody.” The school was shut down, but he kept up his clandestine teaching, this time further underground.
When the Taliban left, Moslem had just finished high school. He was still passionate about girls’ education and founded WDP Youth Development, recruiting university students as volunteer teachers for young girls who needed help making up for lost time without schooling. “We created curriculums that lasted six to 12 months to help girls prepare for official school placement exams,” Moslem says of the program he founded, which helped 300 girls further their education. He adds in modest tones that he is really proud of their accomplishments.
Moslem has high hopes and great plans to improve the quality of education in his beloved Afghanistan. One of his ideas is to replicate the Teach for America model to fit Afghani culture and Islam, and he has already created a business plan and assembled a team. Another idea is to facilitate the creation of a consortium of private universities that would serve as academic advisors to build the capacity of Afghani policy-makers. He plans to start working on both plans this summer after graduation. We can’t wait to follow his progress.