The Power of a Citizen’s Voice

This month’s Thought Leader piece is written by Khadija Barati, a new United States Citizen. Originally from Afghanistan, Khadija and her two daughters resettled in Atlanta through the Special Immigrant Visa program in 2014. Khadija previously served with the United States Military in Afghanistan prior to fleeing the country for her and her family’s safety.

Khadija at her naturalization ceremony

Becoming a United States Citizen was important to me because I wanted to feel like I belong in America. I served with the American Military for over four years in Afghanistan because I believe in human rights. Afghanistan was not a safe place for women but I had big dreams for my country and I believe that women can do great things. I was concerned about the situation with women’s rights in Afghanistan and wanted to make a difference.

After it was not safe for me to remain in Afghanistan, I applied for resettlement through the Special Immigrant Visa program, which allows people who worked for the United States Military an opportunity to resettle in the U.S. I am grateful for the opportunity, especially for my daughters, as I wanted them to have a better future and have the opportunity for an education. My daughters have had those opportunities and have been able to do amazing things here. I’ve had several different jobs but now work in the financial services sector and have a great career.  I feel that we are so blessed.

This year my oldest daughter and I became United States Citizens. For me, becoming a citizen was important so I would have the right to vote and participate in a greater way. As a former refugee who came to the United States seeking safety, I am very disappointed to see all of the problems we are facing. People do not feel safe in the United States and there are many issues. When I first began to understand these problems, I wondered how I could help. And I soon realized that becoming a citizen was one way I could get more involved, because I can now vote in the upcoming election to make my voice heard and to make things better for everyone.

As we studied for the citizenship exam, I learned so much about the United States and our history. I worked so hard and studied a lot so I could pass the test. As I learned about America, I learned how the country was built by refugees and immigrants. Years ago, people came here looking for a better life, much like my family did. It made me cry when I learned about Susan B. Anthony and others who fought for women’s rights in America.  It doesn’t make sense to me that so many people say things that are not true about refugees. I hope that before people judge, they build their knowledge on how and why refugees come to America. We put a lot of effort into making a better life for our families. When I first came to America, I had so much hope, but I feel sad and scared when I see what is happening in our country. But by becoming a citizen, I have more rights to stand for what I think is right and to chose who I think is the best leader. I am looking forward to voting in November to make my voice heard.