Choosing Flight for Freedom: The story of Madiha Rahimi

On August 15, 2021, the course of history shifted dramatically in Afghanistan. As U.S. troops prepared to withdraw from the country, the Taliban seized power in Kabul. With minimal resistance, they entered the capital city, leading to the collapse of the Afghan government and the fleeing of President Ashraf Ghani. The aftermath left countless Afghan civilians stranded in uncertainty. 

Among these individuals is Madiha Rahimi, Luminus’s finance assistant, whose journey embodies the courage and resilience of Afghan women seeking refuge. Hailing from a family of professionals, Madiha received her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 2018. Her career encompassed both private and public sectors, including work with international organizations and the U.S. government on empowering women economically and advocating for vital issues like clean water and public sanitation 

However, with the rise of the Taliban, Madiha’s pursuit of justice and progress became increasingly perilous. The Taliban was targeting those associated with the U.S. government, subjecting them to imprisonment, torture, and death. Women bore the brunt of the new regime’s cruelty, with girls barred from education and women forbidden to work or attend universities.

Recognizing the threat that her involvement with international entities posed to her and her family, Madiha made the heart-wrenching decision to flee her homeland. 

Madiha, along with her mother, father, older sister and brother, and sister-in-law, joined thousands of Afghani citizens trying to get to the airport in Kabul. They waited for hours, until the Taliban began shooting into the air and her family was forced to return home. 

The next day, they tried again. The airport was chaos; it was loud and hot and terrifying, people shoving each other and falling to the ground. In the turmoil, Madhia’s mother got sick. Her mother and father left the airport to go to the hospital. Madiha and her siblings stayed at the airport; they knew they could not remain in Afghanistan. 

Amidst the chaos at the airport, an explosion took the lives of 182 innocent people. The explosion serves as a stark reminder of the dangers that many Afghans face daily.  

In many ways, the Rahimi’s got lucky: they boarded airplane bound for Germany. Eventually, they were able to settle in the United States. 

Madiha knows she had to flee Afghanistan, but that does not mean it was an easy decision. She had to leave behind her elderly parents, two of her older sisters, her friends, and her career. “Leaving everything behind and starting from scratch is our only option,” Madiha shares. “The new Taliban regime’s mission is to erase women from our society.”  

It is as if Madiha, along with other educated Afghan women, is being erased from the very narrative she worked so hard to shape. “Women cannot be educated, because an educated woman will educate her children,” Madiha Rahimi asserts. “Educated women empower generations with the wisdom of right and wrong, eventually allowing the seeds of change to sprout.” 

The consequences of the Taliban takeover have been dire; the economy has collapsed, and jobs have disappeared. Madiha’s heart aches as she witnesses people selling their children for survival and young girls being denied their right to dream. “The desperation and loss that I’ve seen among my people has broken my heart,” she lamented.  

Amidst the turmoil Afghanistan grapples with, Madiha’s determination remains unshaken. She envisions a future where she can return to her homeland, contributing to its restoration and serving her people. However, for now, her pursuit of knowledge continues in the US. Madiha plans to fulfill her dream of attaining a master’s degree in civil engineering, a testament to her enduring spirit. 

Luminus has played a pivotal role in Madiha’s journey, extending its support to her family as well. Luminus helped Madiha’s sister, a qualified doctor, to secure a position as a medical assistant in the US. Presently, Madiha contributes her skills as a financial assistant at Luminus, a steppingstone towards her ultimate goal of pursuing higher education. With the backing of Luminus, Madiha is poised to take steps toward her aspirations. 

Madiha and her siblings are scattered around the globe: in America, Romania, Czech Republic, and Afghanistan. However, Madiha says “I hope someday we’ll have a family reunion.” 

Madiha hopes for many things. “I hope for freedom, not only for Afghanistan but for Afghan women. I dream of education being a right, the return of basic human rights that were taken away, and a future filled with peace, security, and opportunities for everyone” Madiha said. “My heart longs for a world without the shadow of the Taliban, where women’s potential is cherished and protected.” 

As we mark two years since the fall of Kabul, Madiha’s story serves as a testament to the indomitable spirit of Afghan women amidst adversity. Their strength, resilience, and unyielding hope continue to inspire us all.