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Until this year, Said Jawad had a hard time getting people interested in his native country: Afghanistan. Jawad, a senior business paralegal at San Francisco-based Steefel, Levitt & Weiss, has been sharing his perspective on Afghan affairs long before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. In the course of the past seven years he’s carried out nearly 100 contract assignments for the BBC World Service’s Persian Section and has lent his voice to dozens of Voice of America radio programs. In addition, he’s written hundreds of articles in Farsi media outlets in the United States, Europe, Australia and the Middle East. Last week, Jawad wowed some 50 Steefel clients and attorneys at the firm’s offices with his knowledge, insight and, given the gravity of the topic, his subtle use of humor. “I never thought I’d be able to see the [Afghanistan] weather report in the Oakland Tribune,” he commented after describing Afghanistan’s semi-arid climate. Jawad fled Afghanistan in 1980 — the same year he graduated from the country’s most prestigious law school — and headed to Germany, where he continued to study law. In 1989 he arrived in California after a brief stint on Wall Street and has been working for Steefel, a 65-attorney firm specializing in real estate and finance, ever since. Earlier this month Jawad completed an executive M.B.A. in international finance at Golden Gate University, hoping it will lead to a shift in roles at the firm. But it is his work outside the firm that keeps him hopping. “I am awake many nights,” he admitted, referring to contacts from abroad. Fortunately, a good deal of Jawad’s interaction with his Afghan contacts takes place over e-mail — technology he said a number of nongovernmental organizations in Afghanistan managed to maintain despite the Internet ban under Taliban rule. Now that Americans are finally paying attention to Afghanistan, Jawad said one of his missions is to persuade the State Department to contact and make use of the highly educated Afghan population in the United States. Unlike Afghans who settled in homogeneous regions of Europe, he suspects that most Afghans living in diverse regions of the United States will opt not to return to their homeland. The San Francisco Bay Area, home to about 60,000 Afghans, has the highest concentration of Afghans outside of Afghanistan. “There is a small agency in [the city of] Fremont that helps refugees with family law issues and provides them with a general orientation to life here,” he said. But because English isn’t widely studied in Afghanistan, many immigrants lack the basic language skills necessary to interact with communities outside of their own. Their voices, he maintains, need to be heard. For now, however, Jawad is using his own voice to educate others. The presentation last week was his second — the first held several weeks ago was open to Steefel staff only — and it may not be his last. “Some clients have asked me to do in-house presentations,” he said.

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