Zahra Rahimi and Hosai Rasuli  ·  Afghanistan

Desperate: Teenage Filmmakers Tell the Story of Women in Afghanistan

"We can change the world, because every word has meaning."

Edited by Heather Oman
Hosaiand Zahra
Zahra Rahimi (L) and Hosai Rasuli (R) met while attending school in the US.

Hosai and Zahra are two 17 year olds from Afghanistan who produced the documentary DESPERATE about the fall of Kabul and the evacuation in summer of 2021. TSOS had the privilege of interviewing these young women to help tell their story and the story of all women in Afghanistan.


I was born and raised in Kabul. I would say that Kabul is more developed than the provinces and the mindset there is different. I have just one brother, and we lived there in a house with my grandparents.

There are two types of schools in Kabul: private and public. Mostly, students go to public schools. I’m talking now about Kabul, because in other provinces, girls rarely went to school. In some provinces, even boys didn’t go to school. I went to public school for 10 years, in the same school for all the grades. It was just a school for girls, no boys. Boys and girls were separate. We had something like 16 subjects a year: science, math, and language, etc. I had to drop out of school my sophomore year when we came here.


I was also born and raised in Kabul. I grew up in a large family. I lived with my parents and my five siblings. I went to private school for seven years and then for half a year in eighth grade I went to public school. So I have experience with both private and public schools. But I didn’t finish 8th grade because we moved here.

My experience with school in Afghanistan was both the best and the worst. It was the best because every day I went with the hope of learning, becoming something in the future. But the worst thing about it was every day when I went outside, I thought, ‘Am I going to make it back alive today?’ One day while we were in school, there was a bombing very close to the school. That was a very devastating experience for me.

The idea for doing the documentary came to me at the end of my 10th grade, sophomore year. Advocating and doing something for Afghan women was something in my mind from childhood. Everyday, I saw women’s rights in Afghanistan get ignored, simply because they are women. So when the evacuation happened in Afghanistan, I saw again that there was something going to be wrong with women and their rights. So I wanted to do something, since I have the ability and opportunity here to help those who are in need. They need someone to be a voice for them and advocate for their rights.


Zahra asked if she could interview me and if I could answer some questions. Then she asked me to come over during the summer. We filmed the interview and then I got more involved. I knew she was planning to do a documentary. She started it as a podcast. She said, ‘We’re going to just do a voiceover’ and then her idea changed into a documentary because she was able to check out some equipment from the school, like cameras and a computer to record and then edit. And then she filmed her interviews and she started editing those. As she got into the editing, we thought it would be a good idea to put some artwork in there and show another side of the story, like using artwork to tell these stories visually to people. It also shows them that Afghan girls have some talents.


Something that I’m hoping to accomplish with this film is that I want people to know that women in Afghanistan are ignored every day. They’re not even having the natural rights of being a woman: going to school, getting their education, having the simple rights. Things are going backwards. And I’m hoping that people hear about it and do something.

These are the stories of three brave young women who risked their lives to tell their stories. They do not speak for all of the women in Afghanistan. There are lots of untold and unheard stories. So by sharing this documentary, I want people to think about those women who can’t share their stories, either because they do not have the courage to share it or because it is not safe.


The next thing that we wanted to tell people is that there are a lot of SIV cases, like 70,000, that are pending and there are more cases that are waiting for approval. All those cases need to be processed faster, in order for them to be safe and be evacuated from Afghanistan because there are a lot of people waiting in Pakistan, Abu Dhabi or other countries, just waiting for their case to be approved.

Even though things are terrible, we are a people who never lose hope. We never get tired of advocating and telling stories and letting people know what’s going on. We have hope that things can get better, but we need people to help. If people are involved in politics, they can do their part. Other people can donate to organizations that help. If you are educated, maybe find a way to do Zoom classes and help others be educated. There is always a way. We don’t want these stories to be ignored.


People can help just by saying one word. We can change the world because every word has meaning. Even a simple word can change a person’s life. Sharing posts on social media, spreading the word, trying to let people know what’s happening, that makes people aware so they can do something about it. Even if it’s small, it counts.

Hosai’s and Zahra’s documentary, Desperate, can be viewed here. In the future, Hosai hopes to go to medical school, and Zahra hopes to be elected to Congress.

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Our team members obtain informed consent from each individual before an interview takes place. Individuals dictate where their stories may be shared and what personal information they wish to keep private. In situations where the individual is at risk and/or wishes to remain anonymous, alias names are used and other identifying information is removed from interviews immediately after they are received by TSOS. We have also committed not to use refugee images or stories for fundraising purposes without explicit permission. Our top priority is to protect and honor the wishes of our interview subjects.

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