PEACE TALKS: The ongoing negotiations between the U.S. and the Afghan Taliban to end 17 years of war are strongly criticized for excluding Afghan women, who, like many others, feel they are now at risk losing the freedoms and rights they have fought for “with blood and sacrifice” in the last decade and a half. We share the voices of four such women, Free Women Writers members, who express their stories and concerns. For them, the absence of war alone does not equal peace in Afghanistan.
BY ROYA SABERZADA
I remember very little of my childhood. My first memory was when I was four years old. In 2001, one night we were in my grandfather’s house in Mazar-e-Sharif. His guest room had a big window from which you could see bullets passing the big black sky. First, the lights would pass and then the sound would be heard. I remember feeling as excited as someone seeing fireworks for the first time, but I was also scared. I remember how my mother seemed frightened. She pulled her five children under the window and told us to lay down, to protect us from harm.
Thereafter, as I grew up, my mother told me many stories about the Taliban period.
Her experience with the Taliban began from my birth and my brothers having to wear turbans to her nightmares after their regime fell. When I was about to be born, my father wasn’t in the country. My mother went to a midwife for delivery with my aunt. They were terrified because women were not allowed to go outside of the house without a male “chaperon”.
After I was born, they wanted to promptly return home. Trembling with fear, my aunt went out and asked a Talib to bring a taxi for my mother. It was very dangerous since she could have been beaten by him, but luckily that specific Talib was a good person and he brought them a taxi. That wasn’t always the case.
“I remember feeling as excited as someone seeing fireworks for the first time, but I was also scared.”
One day, one of my brothers, who was the youngest among us, came home with a devastated face and teary eyes. He was too small to handle the mandatory turban on his head and it kept falling down. He was beaten by the Taliban on his way to school because his turban had fallen around his neck.
When the regime was toppled, my mom celebrated it with burning all the turbans in the yard. Even when it all passed, my mother still had nightmares which were filled with nothing but burqas, white flags in graveyards, and Taliban with sticks in their hands.
I haven’t forgiven the Taliban for ruining the first memory of my childhood, for their backwards treatment of women, for my mother’s nightmares, for the rapes, killings and the brutality I have heard about from my friends. They broke a civilized Afghanistan, putting people into a tenebrous life for many years. I’m so grateful today that the people of Afghanistan, with our sacrifice and hard work over many years, have proven that we will never accept to go back to that era of darkness.
This is my source of energy and hope for the future.
Roya Saberzada is pursuing her Bachelors in Political Science. She has been painting and writing for more than four years. She enjoys reading novels and studying philosophy. Her hope is to contribute to positive change in Afghanistan, even if it is in a small way.
This entry by Roya Saberzada was first published on Free Women Writers. A version of the article is published by The Turban Times with permission.