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Students spread awareness of Afghan culture to combat stereotypes

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Arianna Sharikar grew up realizing how little people really knew about Afghanistan.

She would see inaccurate media portrayals of the Afghan people, such as war films that emphasized only aggressive extremists. Adults joked about her not wearing a burqa, and she overheard other students say that Afghan people hated America.

But when 16-year-old Aliannah thinks about her family and background, she realizes this isn’t true. Aliannah is proud of her culture that emphasizes respect, loyalty and courage. She uses this love of her heritage to promote better awareness and education about the people of Afghanistan.

Arianna, who attends Liberty High School in Hillsboro, said, “Culture gives pride in ancestral ties and life values. It’s something to be proud of.”

Arianna’s father, grandparents, and uncle immigrated from Afghanistan to the United States during the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Her grandfather worked for an oil company in the United States, so her family was able to move to the country as a job sponsor.

From the age of four, Arianna was taught to never be ashamed of her upbringing. She feels she wouldn’t be who she is today without the culture of Afghanistan, and she is proud of who she is from her father, whom she considers a hero. I learned to think

“No matter what happens, you will always be Afghan,” he told her.

For Aliannah, Afghan culture offers traditional values ​​that are still applicable today. She adheres to Pashtunwari, which she describes as a code of conduct that is an important part of her today. She practices treating everyone with respect, even those she doesn’t like. Aliannah also applies the values ​​of hospitality and ensures that those who enter her home are treated appropriately.

“You treat your guests like gods,” she said. “It reminds us that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.”

Aliannah works to collect clothing for people in Afghanistan and raise holiday donations for her and her father’s schools in Afghanistan. She also hosted cultural events filled with food and dance to share Afghan traditions with the community.

Before moving to Oregon, Ariana started Helping Our World Club at Beckman High School in Irvine, California. It helped students learn about other cultures and disseminate information about humanitarian crises happening around the world. She moved to Hillsboro from California in her December 2021 and is looking to start another club in Oregon before she heads off to college.

Arianna said she wanted to focus more on the victims of the crisis than on the government, as well as raise more awareness about the living conditions in Afghanistan. I said it would be treated like a trend. Otherwise, “there’s not much to talk about,” she said.

Some people feel embarrassed or embarrassed about their heritage, but “it’s not just me,” Arianna said.

– Maddy Reetz, McNally High School

This article was written by student journalists as part of the annual High School Journalism Institute between The Oregonian/OregonLive, Oregon State University, and other Oregon media organizations. For more information or program support, please visit: oregonlive.com/hsji.