Today’s interview is with Hijratullah Ekhtyar, who interned with the Law Library’s Global Legal Research team this past summer. Hazel Ceron contributed to this blog post.
Describe your background.
I am from the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan. I grew up outside of Afghanistan at a refugee camp in Haripur, Pakistan. I studied in Afghan refugee schools, and graduated from Abu Ayoub Answari High School in 2003. My father was a farmer, and my mother was a housewife. I am the first and only person in my family to receive a formal education. I have three kids; one daughter and two sons. I am a native speaker of Pashto and Dari, and can speak English and Urdu fluently. I have been known as a poet, author, journalist, lecturer, and civil society activist in my region of Afghanistan. I have a dream that, one day, everyone would be able to attend school or university regardless of his or her financial circumstances. I deeply believe in Victor Hugo’s saying,“he who opens a school door, closes a prison.”
What is your academic/professional history?
I earned my LL.B degree in law and political science from Nangarhar University in 2008. After that, I worked with different governmental and non-governmental organizations, such as the National Assembly of Afghanistan, the Electoral Complaints Commission, and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR). I worked for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) in eastern Afghanistan from 2011 -2014. Approximately thirty of my investigative reports on the security, social and political situation of eastern provinces were published and broadcasted on www.iwpr.net and on several other international media outlets. I have been an active defense lawyer since 2009, and was head of the Ekhtyar Legal Services (ELS) for six years. I am also a member of the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association.
Additionally, I became a lecturer in the Law and Political Science Department at the Nangarhar University in 2012. I taught fundamentals of political science, contemporary legal systems, political geography, political sociology and history of international relations, before coming to the U.S. for my graduate studies. I have written and translated more than 17 books. I visited the U.S. in 2013 as a defense lawyer with support from the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). I returned to Afghanistan after I completed the IVLP. While there, I continued to strive for positive changes and to become a role model for the younger generation by promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law. In cooperation with fellow professors, I established the Mosbat Baloon (Positive Change) Association in the Nangarhar province. We volunteer to provide short-term educational classes for young people in subjects such as: leadership, introduction to law and politics, introduction to the principles of journalism, core principles of management, English language courses, internet learning courses, and TOEFL preparation classes. We also provide new graduates with free books and teach courses to prepare them for the Concur Exam (a university entrance exam).
In 2015, I returned to the U.S. as visiting scholar, and attended the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle. In June 2016, I came to the U.S. for the third time under the Legal Education Support Program of Afghanistan (LESPA), and completed my LL.M in Sustainable International Development Program at the Law School of University of Washington in Seattle. This past summer I served as a volunteer research fellow at the Law Library of Congress.
How would you describe your job to other people?
I volunteered at the Law Library of Congress as a research fellow. I spent almost two months in Washington D.C. helping the Global Legal Research Directorate with various research topics related to the legal system of Afghanistan.
As a young university lecturer myself, most of the younger generation in my region trust me. I am well-known on social media platforms, such as Facebook, and have about 8,000 followers, in addition to my own 5,000 friends. Most of them are young professionals who desire to serve their country. My main goal is to the help the younger generation of Afghanistan by providing advice on how to pursue higher education outside of Afghanistan. I am also busy translating an interesting book called, “Law and Development,” which is an essential text for young Afghan lawyers to read.
Why did you want to work at the Law Library of Congress?
To be honest, I feel really lucky and really proud of every single moment that I was with the Law Library of Congress. The Library of Congress is a world-famous institution. I used the Library mostly for research during my studies in law school at UW. I really wanted to come to this famous institution as a visitor, but when I learned that I was selected to work in this institution as an intern, I felt very lucky. I worked on several topics dealing with Afghan law, but I am proudest of helping to update a 2012 report that a previous intern and friend, Shamshad Pasarlay, wrote on Afghanistan family law. I updated the report to better reflect issues related to the Shiite Personal Status Law of 2009.
Furthermore, I worked on a few other projects, such as research on child custody laws in Afghanistan and a few reports for the Global Legal Monitor about Afghanistan laws. The Law Library of Congress provided me with many great opportunities to exercise my knowledge and experience, which is why I really wanted to work at the Law Library of Congress.
What is the most interesting fact you have learned about the Law Library of Congress?
I find it most interesting that the Library of Congress has 160 million items–making it the largest library in the world. I also find it interesting that the Library of Congress provides its visitors with millions of items in various formats such as print, audio and video. I also like that the Library holds newspapers, books, legislation, and so many resources from all around the world. The Law Library of Congress, in particular, is a branch of the Library of Congress that provides foreign and comparative legal and legislative information services to national and global researchers. It is interesting to me that I met with staff from different parts of the world, and every one of them is expert of not only his/her country’s law but of the whole region.
What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?
Most of my co-workers do not know that in Afghanistan where I live, I cannot watch TV and that people cannot connect their phones to the internet nor do they have electricity. We use solar-battery power only for lighting, and the heat goes up to 45-50 Celsius during summer. As such, I study and prepare every night for the next day’s lecture at the university.