Habib Sorosh: A Biography

By Mohammad Omar Ahmadi

March 2023

Habib reading his essay at Chatham University

Habibullah Sorosh is a professor, screenwriter, and playwright whose research includes the history of Afghan cinema, the structural effects of absurdist dramas, and Kazakh historical films. Born in the Jaghori district, Ghazni province of Afghanistan, Habibullah received his Bachelor of Cinema and Theater from the Department of Fine Arts at Kabul University and Master of Art Criticism at Kazakh National Academy of Arts Temorbek Zhurgenov. For the past ten years, Habibullah has been a professor at Kabul University in the Department of Fine Arts and Dramatic Literature. He is currently a Visiting Researcher in the Schools of Drama and Art at Carnegie Mellon University.

Born as Habibullah on October 28, 1985, in a relatively poor family, Habib is the 5th child of Juma Khan and Hakima. Juma Khan was a hard working farmer focusing on growing wheat, the most important crop in Afghanistan, followed by rice, barley, and cotton. Hakima was a housewife who did household jobs and raised their children. She also helped Juma Khan with farming, which is common for Afghan women living in rural villages. Juma Khan was a kind person known for his honesty within his community. He was like a friend to Habib and his siblings. Hakima was a smart woman, and she was always a good adviser in Habib’s life.

Habib has four living brothers (Rohullah, Mohammad Sharif, Mohammad Zarif and Mirza Hussain) and two living sisters (Jamila and Najiba). His oldest brother named Mohammad Asif was lost on his way to Iran in 2010, and still no one knows what happened to him, but after these many years, Habib and his family have accepted that he may have died. Another older brother Rahmatullah got Hepatitis, which damaged his liver, and died in 2012. Mohammad Asif had a Bachelor of Philosophy and Rahmatullah had studied up to 6th grade of high school. His living brothers Rohullah and Mohammad Sharif studied up to 8th grade of high school. Mohammad Zarif is a dentist, and his younger brother Mirza Hussain has a Bachelor in Dramatic Literature. His older sister Jamila only finished primary school. However, his younger sister Najiba has a Bachelor in Cinema.

Growing in a small village named Shahrzaida, a historical place, in Jaghori district, Habib attended Abu Raihan al Beroni public school from 1992 to 2004. During all those years, Habib was a smart student who always got the first place in class. The most influential person in his life was his teacher named Afzali who was a kind and humble person. He was Habib’s first grade teacher who not only educated him, but also helped him to find his educational path. He got cancer and died in 2019.

One most memorable experience of Habib’s life during high school is when he was in the 11th grade. One of his classmates had four members of his family as teachers who helped him to cheat and take the first place in class. Habib, therefore, got the second place in class. Habib complained to the administration of the school, and after taking the exams given by school committee members, he achieved his first place in class again. This incident made Habib very sad. He felt his family’s financial situation affected his education. By giving bribes and having family relationships with the teachers, someone took his position in the class. However, he wanted to show everyone that they couldn’t take his intelligence from him. His self-confidence and hope for a better tomorrow motivated him to stand against this inequity.

After high school, Habib attended Kabul University, and after four years (2006-2009), he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Theater and Cinema. In 2012, he started his Master of Art Criticism Science program with a specialty in Film Studies in the Kazakh National Academy of Art named after Temorbek Zhorgenov in Kazakhstan and finished his degree in 2015.

After his master’s studies, in 2015, Habib married Adila, who was a midwife, in Kabul, Afghanistan. They have two sons (Sami and Nima), Sami was born on August 16th, 2016, and Nima was born on April 2nd, 2020.

During his career, Habib had a lot of cultural and social activities in Afghanistan. In 2015, he was selected many times as a member of a judge panel in film, theater, and dramatic literature in national and international festivals. In 2017, he achieved the award for the best playwright among a large number of nominees from different countries for his drama about Maulana Jalaluddin Mohammad Balkhi (Rumi) in an international festival in India. Habib has also authored two books named “Characterization in Drama” in 2017 and “Criticism of Dramatic Literature” in 2019. He has also written and published several scientific articles for national and international journals during these years. 

Unfortunately, in 2021, the Taliban took over Kabul and Afghanistan, which forced him to leave the country because the Taliban has a very hostile relationship with art and artists in Afghanistan. He was a taboo artist in their eyes. Furthermore, he has written and directed many plays and screenplays about the Taliban, al-Qaeda, sheikhs, ISIS, and warlords of the region, all of whom wanted an opportunity to exact revenge on him. He has shown many plays at the Afghan National Festival and at international festivals. He has written a play called “The Unsung Song of the Village,” in which his sister (Najiba Sorosh) played the central role. This performance seriously criticized and ridiculed the views and ideology of the Taliban, ISIS, al-Qaeda, sheikhs, and warlords. This performance and his plays were widely reported in the media, such as the BBC and other  news sites. As a result, he was threatened with death by the Taliban, who attempted to arrest him and his sister several times but were unsuccessful.

Finally, when the Taliban started house-to-house searches in Kabul, Afghanistan, he and his family (his wife and his two sons) had to flee to Pakistan, and then they came to the United States of America with the cooperation of the organization Scholars at Risk. He is currently a Visiting Researcher in the Schools of Drama and Art at Carnegie Mellon University, where he is researching the fields of theater, cinema, and art theory.

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