We were privileged to interview Sosan Yakrang, a former judge of Afghanistan. As a result of the occupation in August 2021, Sosan was forced to flee and since has found a new home in the United Kingdom. We asked Sosan to tell us about her journey into the judiciary and her plans for the future.
Can you give us a bit of background- tell us about your life and work in Afghanistan before you had to leave?
I am Sosan Yakrang born in 1989, from northern Afghanistan, Panjshir province but I was born and raised in Kabul city. I come from a very educated family, my father was an engineer, my elder sister is a dentist, all my other siblings are lawyers. I have a LLB (Law and Political science) from Kabul University. I worked part time as a gender program office at RTA. In addition, I completed a practical course in prosecution and defence advocacy at the National Legal Training centre in Kabul University. In 2015 I joined judiciary training studies at the Supreme Court of Afghanistan. After two years of theory and practical studies, I practiced as a judge for four years at Parwan Province Primary court of Afghanistan; Civil and Public Law Division. There I reviewed and decided on military criminal cases as well as business, family, public and civil law cases.
In 2018, I joined the AWJA (Afghanistan Woman Judges Association) and in 2021 I joined the IWJA ( International Women Judges Association) in order to help those women who tolerate violence but don’t have voice or don’t have access to justice. I became the representative of the AWJA for the Parwan Province Primary Court. I recruited other judges to join AWJA and fight for their rights and for the rights of other women in Afghanistan. We wanted to share our knowledge and experience to highlight the rule of law and the role of women judges, and support gender equality in the judicial branch of Afghanistan.
What made you decide to pursue a career in law?
There is a very personal and long story behind my decision to be a lawyer as well as a judge. Ever since I was a child, I felt the need for structure. When I was five years old, my father died, and without a man my father’s family would not have given my mother and us any help. We witnessed and faced lots of injustice and challenges, or I can say domestic violence against women and girls, such as forcing my mother out of the house. Despite this, my mother fought for our survival and remained at home and raised us. She is really a hero. My grandfather did not want me and my sisters to go to school. When I was young, I also witnessed life behind the Taliban curtain. Women were paraded through the streets and beaten for not wearing a burqa or for the way they dressed. All these circumstances made me incredibly angry, so when I got older it started me on the road to studying law and standing up for my rights and other deprived women’s rights in Afghanistan. However, my family wanted me to study medicine or engineering (because these are the two favourite fields) in Afghanistan, while I had different goals and thoughts in my mind. I chose to study law, but the knowledge of law was not enough for me because I wanted to have the authority to provide justice in practice. Hence, I decided to become a judge.
Have there been any women who have inspired you throughout your life/career?
When I was a student at the Faculty of Law and Political Science in Kabul University, two of my role models were Shukria Barakzai, a former member of the Afghanistan parliament, and judge Maria Bashir, the head of the Herat Province Court of Appeal. These two women are extremely intelligent, brave and influential in Afghan society.
Why do you think it is important to have more women in leadership roles?
In order to create gender balance at the leadership level we need to ensure that women are not deprived of their rights simply because of their gender. This requires that they have leaders of their kind to personally understand these issues and stand up against gender discrimination in order to ensure social justice. In addition, women are naturally fantastic diplomats and have the upper hand in securing relations.
Why do you think celebrating International Women’s Day is Important ?
As we know, March 8 is the day of women’s solidarity for the realisation of their rights and for the provision of justice. This day should be celebrated to remind women around the world that they must firmly stand up for gaining their rights and never give up. It also reminds them that their struggles will lead to positive results in their social and political life. There is a very famous quote that says, “rights are taken, not given”, it means you have to get your rights, otherwise no one will give it to you.
It must have been very hard to leave your life in Afghanistan; what hope do you have for life in the UK? What work would you like to do in the UK?
I will continue my studies, then I will try to find a replacement to work in a legal position again because I don’t want to waste my legal knowledge and experiences, and would continue my struggles for women and children rights as well as ensuring social justice in UK and Afghanistan.