For many Afghans, fear is not a part of life, but the heart of life. I have grown up seeing the fear of war, death, rape, poverty and life in the faces of those around me and those close to my heart. It wouldn’t be exaggerating if I say that I have seen people living and dying in fear. Whenever I look at an Afghan child with dirt on his face and torn clothes, it reminds me of my biggest fear and that is: will they inherit the misery as we did? And every time, the question remains unanswered.
Some 5.6 million Afghans found a shelter in Pakistan and Iran that never became a home. Phrases like “dirty immigrants,” “foreigners,” “children of Changez,” (a notorious warrior that people associate with the Hazaris) were what our generation grew up hearing. Newspaper headlines such as “Ask For The Departure of Immigrants,” brought sleepless nights to millions of fathers and tears to millions of mothers. I was in my early teens, walking towards play ground, when I heard Pakistani boys saying to the passing by Afghan girls “Look at the bitch immigrants.” This phrase made me remember that I was an immigrant for the rest of my stay.
Grinding poverty in the Taliban era drove thousands of young Afghan men to Iran to labor cheap and send a living back home. While being mistreated, paid unfairly and facing social barriers, many Afghan youth came back from Iran in the form of addicts. Every single year a large number of Afghan addicted women are forced to leave Iran to come to Afghanistan with no family, home or money. This leads many to the meat market. Many Afghan immigrants from Iran remember one phrase very well from their Iranian friends: “When will you be leaving?”
God gave us, Afghans, another chance to put together our country with the help of our international friends. In year 2001, when the Taliban were defeated, a large number of Afghan immigrants retuned from both Pakistan and Iran. These immigrants brought back with them painful memories of immigration along with an energy and fire to achieve something solid for themselves and for the future of their children. Millions of retuning eyes made millions of dreams for a better future for their children and grandchildren. My worst fear is the breaking of those millions of dreams.
Disagreeing with the media and political pundits, I choose to be very optimistic about the future of Afghanistan. I know nothing great can be achieved without sacrifice and nor will it be different this time. But looking at the young Afghan faces that surround me, the fear of leaving a torn Afghanistan comes to mind.
As Shakespeare said “… the world is a play and we all play our roles.” I, as an Afghan woman, will play my role in shaping Afghanistan’s future as a well-educated, ambitious private sector leader so that those who follow us will not know the fear that terrifies me.