College of Extended Education and International Programs focuses on Afghanistan

Photo of Roxsareh Ghaemmaghami and Sonita Alizadeh

The film's director Roxsareh Ghaemmaghami (left) and star Sonita Alizadeh

November 8, 2021

International Education Week is a joint initiative by the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Education to promote programs that foster transnational relationships and global exchange.

This year it runs Nov. 15-18, and at CSUMB the College of Extended Education and International Programs has taken the lead on the annual observation since 2017 by bringing in high profile speakers.

Their marquee campus event this year is a screening of a Sundance-premiered documentary titled Sonita, followed by a Q and A with star Sonita Alizadeh and director Roxareh Ghaemaghami.

The film is about Alizadeh. She was born in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, and her family escaped by migrating on foot hundreds of miles to Iran. But as refugees her family was poor and she was undocumented with little access to education, so at age 10 Sonita was sold into marriage. The contract fell through, but her family tried to sell her again at age 16. Instead, she escaped.

She’s since earned acclaim as a female rapper, telling her story — and the stories of 12 million girls who are forced into marriage each year — through the culture and the medium of hip-hop.

“After President Biden pulled the troops out of Afghanistan, after 20 years [of conflict] and just a few days before the September 11th anniversary, I cannot think of a more relevant topic and film for our campus,” said Mahshid Bozorgnia, coordinator of International Student Services in the College of Extended Education and International Programs.

She believes it is crucial to see this film and discuss it with the director and the rapper/activist at its center who is an advocate for Afghan girls’ and women's rights. The discussion will revolve around the themes of the importance of education and art on women’s lives in Afghanistan.

The film will be screened free twice. Students are invited to see it together at 7pm on Monday, Nov. 16,  at the Pinnacle residence building with free snacks.

The second free screening, 2 - 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 17,  is virtual, open to the public, and will be followed by the Q-and-A with star Sonita Alizadeh and director Roxareh Ghaemaghami, moderated by Ondine Gage, the associate professor of the Liberal Arts department. Registration is recommended.

Another event the college is organizing, in partnership with Basic Needs, is an international cuisine cooking contest for which they are accepting video submissions

“It is crucial for our campus community to be exposed to traditions, values and heritage outside our own scope, and to foster a welcoming and inclusive campus environment,” said John Binkley, dean of the college.