A Dream I Had

When I was child I wished to be a doctor like my uncle, who wears a white shirt and everyday checks on lots of ill people. But one day, all of my wishes were destroyed. It was the day the Taliban came to our country, Afghanistan.

I was in school, in 8th grade. We were playing sports in the yard, where there were trees and no grass and no water. We never noticed the dust, we
just enjoyed playing. Sometimes we felt down, and our clothes mixed with dust. “Akh,” we said (akh is the word we use when we feel pain). But we were standing and smiling, not showing small injuries, just shaking our clothes. During our playing we saw a helicopter flying over our school. “Who is inside the helicopter?” we said.

“Maybe high officials,” said my classmate, Hila. “I am sure that they escaped.” I saw group of our teachers talking to the Taliban. Suddenly the principal came. “Everybody should enter their class,” she said, trying to organize the students and teachers.

After a while, our principal told all the teachers to tell the students that they must leave for home, and wait for the TV announcement telling them they could come back, because she knew that the Taliban would never allow girls to continue their education.

Some of our classmates were happy, because after two weeks our mid-exams would start. “It is good I didn’t study. It is a good chance for us to repeat our lesson and get ready for exams,” said Rahila, with smiley face, shiny eyes, and tight scarf.

“You are crazy,” we said.

As we were leaving the school, all the trees branches overhead were hanging towards the land, as if they were crying and knowing that for five years we would not be allowed to see our school, our teachers. All the trees were shaking as if they were saying bye. The birds were singing and flying from one branch to another, trying to tell a secret, or maybe to encourage us to demonstrate against Taliban. But unfortunately, we couldn’t understand them. Maybe they were saying that Islam gives us equal right for both boys and girls, and we should not stay at home. None of us were thinking about what had happened; it didn’t seem real.

When I came home, Shabana, my sister, opened the door, looking silently to me. I entered the yard as usual, and smelled the flowers. My father loved flowers and birds. He was watering the flowers, putting the birds in the shadow, and he came with me inside the house. My mother was sitting on the mattress, leaning on the wall where my parents’ picture hung, in which my father wore a black suit and my mother wore Gand-e-Afghanai (our traditional clothes). Everyone was upset. My mother was crying when she heard this news. My mother said, “I can’t bear that I am a teacher and my daughters will be illiterate women.” My father told my mom, “Don’t worry, we will continue their education at home.”

During the Taliban regime, I studied school subjects at secret courses which were secretly taught by school teachers. When the Transitional government came, we took three years merit exams, and succeeded in 12 classes, while finishing our twelve years of the school. We are supposed to pass matriculation exams to enter the university, but these years of Taliban had a negative impact on women’s studies, because studying at home is quite different from studying at school.

In our country, those who get a high number in matriculation exam, such as more than 290 out of 360, will succeed in medicine. When I passed the matriculation exam, I succeeded in journalism and got 280. The difference between my number and the medicine number was 10.

It was morning when my brother came and told me that the Ministry of Higher Education announced the Matriculation numbers. I was in the kitchen trying to cook. Do Piazza (a kind of Afghan dish in which we cook meat with onions and add some spices over it). We had a guest. My paternal aunt had come to our house, and she was in the guest house watching the TV.

“I am going to see your numbers and in which Faculty you’ve succeeded,” said Mustafa, my brother.

“Go and tell me as soon as you can Mustafa jaan, please,” I said. My heart was vibrating as if someone had turned on the fire inside my heart, because hearing this news was soooooooo important as it determined my future. My hands and legs were shaking, and I couldn’t continue cooking at the kitchen. Apparently I was speaking with my aunt who was sitting in the guest house, but spiritually I was not with them. In fact, I was merged with the Matriculation numbers Mustafa left home towards the university to see my numbers. I waited for him.

In the past, before finishing my house chores and homework, the day passed away very quickly. But this time it was taking longer and longer.
“Maybe something will happen,” I said. My heart told me bad news, and was shaking because my brother was getting late. But I said to myself that I have studied too much, I have self-confidence.

Suddenly my brother called and told me that I have succeeded in Journalism. As I heard, I thought that all my wishes had been turned down, and thought that sky and ground approached each other. I was in the corridor leaning on the wall, but couldn’t cry because I didn’t want others to know that I am unhappy. Slowly, slowly I fell down on the ground and put my head down on my leg. I tried to cry but I couldn’t.

For a while I could not think of what to do. I thought that it would be very difficult for me to study in any other faculties except medicine. After that, I thought that instead of wearing a stethoscope, I will wear a head phone, instead of injections and writing prescriptions, I will use a pen.

“A pen,” I said, “is stronger than injection.” When a doctor injects the ill person, they feel pain, but after a week they will get healthy. The same is true with the pen. I will about those who do illegal actions, and at first people will show a reaction, but after a while it will reform that person. And when one person is reformed, it means that whole society will be reformed.

“What about the doctor’s long white clothes?” I regretfully said. There will be no chance to change this. Suddenly our cat came and touched her head on my leg and rubbed her tail over my leg, as if to tell me she was sorry I had not succeeded. But I didn’t show any reaction. She understood that I was not in a good mood, and then sat next me silently, trying to touch my leg, trying to change my mood. But my heart had a very big hole in it, and no one could cure it forever. I really loved medicine, and I wished I could be a doctor. But I didn’t succeed on my favorite faculties due to the Afghanistan Ministry of Higher Education. So my father encouraged me to study journalism.

Currently, I am working as a media relations officer in the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation. Day by day, I am getting more and more interested in my field. I want to be an intelligent writer and journalist, to reflect not only my people’s pain, needs and ideas, but all the people in the world through the topics about which I write. Especially those women who suffer a lot of the pain, who are sold, who as young women are married to old men.

By Freshta

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4 responses to “A Dream I Had

  1. Dear Freshta
    I am deeply moved by your story of life in Afghanistan. I understand your pain of not being able to study your heart’s desire but I am also very glad that you have found the courage to embrace this other pathway for if you had not I would never have heard your story.
    As a fellow writer, I want to encourage you. Telling the stories that surround you is one of the most vital roles in a community, for it is from the stories that we grow in our courage, in our belief and in our faith.
    You are a fine example of the determination that lies within the hearts of women the worldwide. Congratulations on sharing this poignant story with us.
    Kind regards
    Hayley

  2. Hello Freshta,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story. Along with many others, I am eager to hear what life is like in Afghanistan. At one time, I wanted to be a doctor, partly because I thought that healing people was one of the most important jobs humans could do. Now I believe that telling stories is one of the most important jobs we can perform, because by doing so we not only heal, but also educate, enlighten, and create common bonds. Thank you for your courage.
    Warmly,
    Laurie

  3. Freshta — This is a beautifully told story about your life. I loved the image you used to describe your leaving school — “trees branches overhead were hanging towards the land, as if they were crying and knowing that for five years we would not be allowed to see our school, our teachers” — very powerful. I’m sorry that you were not able to follow a path of medicine but there is a saying (I’m not sure where it comes from) that when one door closes another opens — and so I hope it will be with you. The world will be better because you are going to write the stories about all that is happening around you. We can learn from you and that is a great gift. Thank you for sharing it. Best wishes, Nancy

  4. Dear Freshta,
    Although your dreams of becoming a doctor were thwarted, think of the good you can accomplish with your writing! You have a gift – you told a story that touched people, making us imagine what it would be like to be forbidden to attend school for five years. It sounds like you are becoming more interested in a career in journalism, and I sincerely hope you continue to tell these stories because it is important for the world to hear them. I admire your courage, and I wish you good luck; you sound like a remarkable young woman.

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