On a chilly fall day, Rohullah Naderi walks into Mohler Laboratory, his dark and soft eyes almost hidden under the dark blue hooded sweatshirt he wears. The man under the hood has plans to help his country, and he has already been doing so for several years.
Naderi is a Fulbright Scholar from Afghanistan pursuing a master’s degree in political science at Lehigh University. His interest for political science derives from his father’s role as the advisor to former Afghan president Hamid Karzai.
“It is the passion I have for politics,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to study this major to know about it more, to kind of in-depth study, to explore its various branches, to understand the political moves and political activities, to improve my political knowledge and my political skills.”
Naderi hopes his degree will give him the knowledge, skills and ability to run for the Afghan Parliament after he graduates. If elected, he said he hopes to give a voice to the voiceless people in the province of Diakundi. Naderi described this province as backward because no development programs were put in place after the Taliban was overthrown. This in turn has caused the area to be in a poor condition with poor education.
However, Naderi has already begun to make positive changes in Diakundi. He and his sister established an NGO called MEHO several years ago that helps women learn how to read and write, teaches them human rights and women’s rights to enable them to be socially and legally aware, and teaches basic professional skills. Naderi became motivated to start this NGO after traveling to the area and seeing how women were not treated well socially, legally or career-wise. He hopes that by catering to the needs of the women, future generations can prosper as well.
“If you have a literate mother, you’ll have a very literate family,” he said. “So the education that the mother has will be transferred to the children and to the future generations.”
Traveling to this area of Afghanistan is also what triggered him to get into politics and run for Parliament. He decided to apply to be a Fulbright Scholar to have the opportunity to further his education and to travel and explore. He was placed at Lehigh based on his program interest.
Although it’s his first time to Pennsylvania, Naderi says he likes it because it is culturally diverse and beautiful naturally.
Naderi hopes to explore more of the area and become more involved in extracurricular activities once his work isn’t as rigorous. He said he’s new to the American education system, so the initial adjustment was hard.
However, Naderi is enjoying his time as a Fulbright Scholar. He said the honor of being accepted, along with the networks he has created as a result of it, are the best parts of the program.
“You get to meet people from different backgrounds, from different walks of life,” Naderi said. “You talk to them, hear their experience and opinion on different world affairs. So that kind of network is very handy. It connects you to the entire world.”
Through the Fulbright Scholarship, Naderi has been given the opportunity to pursue his interests in traveling, while also working toward his dream of joining Parliament.