Marco Werman: Sohabe Mojaddidy is an Afghan-American and is a long way from Kabul. He lives in Fremont, California. Tell us a bit about yourself. I know you're 18, you were born to Afghan parents here in the US. Fill the rest of your story for us.
Sohabe Mojaddidy: I'm currently a freshmen at Zaytuna college, the US's first Muslim liberal arts college in America. I grew up in Fremont, California, which has the largest concentration of Afghans outside of Afghanistan. I was in that Afghan environment while at the same time living in America, which was an interesting experience to say the least.
Werman: What was that like?
Mojaddidy: Contrary to what people may guess, Afghan culture is extremely similar to US culture. Afghan values like respect to your parents, ensuring that the family is strong, good ties with friends, those types of values completely overlap with the United States. It's also very important because the time where I went to high school and the time where I was in school, the United States was in Afghanistan as an occupying power.
Werman: It's interesting, you would've been 7 or 8 when 9/11 happened and then the US of course went into Afghanistan, so this has kind of been your life. How are you following the presidential campaign there right now?
Mojaddidy: Well of course you have to be fluent with the news sources here in the United States and that's one aspect at looking at how the elections are proceeding. On the other hand, you have to know what the Afghan people are saying themselves, how they're interpreting events on the ground and try to figure out which one is closer to the truth or if there is conflict between the two perceptions, how can we strike a balance?
Werman: How are you finding the balance? Where do you see things right now?
Mojaddidy: For instance, the news coverage in the United States I think is fairly accurate on how the election is proceeding. One thing I will say is quite absence from news sources here is what the Afghan people are saying themselves about the elections. For me personally, I have been able to ask family members who live there and their primary perception is if they can have an election that's free from corruption, from meddling, from control from warlords, then they'll consider it a success. That's the primary concern of Afghan citizens living in Kabul and living in the country.
Werman: Let's turn back to the Afghan community in the town where you're from, Fremont, California, which as you said has the biggest concentration of Afghans in the US. Are they following the election as closely as you are?
Mojaddidy: I'll say among the younger generation, I wouldn't say they're following the election as much as the older generation, per say. But I think one good thing about the Afghan community here is that we're very connected with what goes on back home, especially among the older generations. So there isn't a complete disconnect between the realities of Afghanistan and Afghans here in America. Although I would say among the younger generation there might be a type of defeatist attitude in which we perceive Afghanistan as not being able to move forward because of it being held down by foreign occupation, regardless of what that is.
Werman: It's curious, it sounds like you're saying most young Afghan-Americans are not as interested in this election as you are.
Mojaddidy: It all comes back to if they can think Afghanistan can make real change in the future. Unfortunately, if you study the history of Afghanistan, it's not hard to adopt a cynical, pessimistic attitude about how the country will move forward.
Werman: Will you be voting?
Mojaddidy: I will not be voting.
Werman: Is that because you can't vote as an Afghan-American or other reasons?
Mojaddidy: From what I understand, yes, you can't vote if you live in America.
Werman: What about people who are not Americans but are Afghan born who live in Fremont. Are there polling stations or any absentee ballot system?
Mojaddidy: From what I understand, I don't think there are any absentee systems.
Werman: Sohabe Mojaddidy, an Afghan-American living in Fremont, California. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us today.
Mojaddidy: Thank you for having me.