Elon University / Today in Elon / Huria Tahiry ’26, democracy engagement specialist, takes matters into her own hands

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Tahiry, an environmental studies student, seeks to make a difference during her time at Elon.

Most of the time, Huria Tahiry ’26 commutes to class by bicycle and to her part-time job on campus. A normal means of transportation for a student, riding a bike is an act of empowerment for Tahiry.

In her native Afghanistan, women are discouraged from cycling. Women are not allowed to work outside the home, must cover their faces in public, and have a male chaperone when traveling. Even as a child, Tahiry noticed discrimination as boys were allowed to play outside longer than girls.

“I want this situation to change,” Tahiry said during a UN Women panel in March 2021 on gender equality and the role of women in peacebuilding and economic development.

Motivated in part by her father, who worked on a women’s rights program in Afghanistan, and also by her own observations of inequality, Tahiry took matters into her own hands.

Women and girls cannot ride bicycles in Afghanistan. It is something shameful for them and their families. But I changed that, at least for my family. I bought my first bike when I was 17…and helped my little sister learn. I am one of the Afghan girls who learned to ride a bike on her own bike and not on her brother’s.

She is also the first Democracy Commitment Fellow at Elon University. Established in 2021, the scholarship supports students displaced from their home countries by conflict or natural disaster. In Tahiry’s case, it was the US withdrawal from Afghanistan that pushed her and her family to leave their home country.

Environmental Studies Major Huria Tahiry ’26, Commitment to Democracy Scholar from Kabul, Afghanistan. pictured on the steps of Whitley Auditorium on October 6, 2022.

She was only studying one country in Uzbekistan during the US withdrawal and eventual Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, but her family was still in Kabul. She regretted not being with her family and had a strong desire to return but was persuaded to stay.

“We have an expression in Persian which, when translated into English, says, ‘It is easier for your body to be in conflict than for your mind and heart.’ It was so strange because my mind and heart were at war, but everyone in Uzbekistan at that time was happy. It was sad for me.”

Her family arrived safely in Pakistan, but she has not been able to see them since her first departure for Uzbekistan. She arrived in America and spent time with her sister in Boston before heading to Elon just a week before school started. However, she maintains constant communication with her family.

An environmental studies graduate, Tahiry said her career aspirations are to be an environmental advocate and improve the lives of people living in rural areas. She heard about Elon through his mentor through a program that helps Afghan students get financial aid. She spoke with other students and was impressed with all the opportunities available. But, along with her love of nature, discovering Elon’s Forest sealed the deal for Tahiry.

While at Elon, she plans to get involved with various organizations and groups such as the Office of Sustainability, Elon Outdoors, Swim Club, Elon Volunteers! and Model UN.

Her journey to Elon has had many twists and turns and she recognizes how lucky she is. So much so that she wears a black backpack with “Lucky!” in bold white letters to remember.

“I feel lucky whenever there is an opportunity, and I can see that. But of course getting lucky without trying hard never works,” Tahiry said. best to achieve this. I feel lucky with my family and friends. I always find the best people.

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