Narrow Escape

It was the 4th year of the Taliban government, and sometimes when I was alone on the way to my school, I wore a burqa because I was tall for my age. I was studying school subjects in a secret school that was far away from our house (one hour walking). I and my young sister, who is in college in the US, would both cover our books in cotton, the same way we cover our Holy Quran so that the Taliban wouldn’t know that we were studying. They would think that we were trying to learn only the Holy Quran. We decided that if we were asked by the Taliban, we would tell them: “We are studying the Holy Quran.” I told my younger sister, who wore boys’ clothes, about this, and she nodded. I was afraid maybe my young sister, who was so much younger, would tell them the real fact, but she was so smart, keeping the secret forever.

One day while I was walking toward the secret school alone, groups of Taliban were inside a Dixon car, which is like an open Toyota. They followed me because they suspected I was going to study school subjects. They drove their car slowly and just followed me. They wanted to know where I was going every day and to find the secret school. (During the Taliban regime groups of school teachers started to teach secretly without Taliban permission.)

I didn’t look at them and went to another street, hid myself among the trees growing in front of the houses, planning to show them that I was entering the house, but by chance they lost me. They searched for a while but couldn’t find me. I was also waiting; my eyes followed their car until it disappeared. When I was convinced they were gone, I decided to go to school, but I was very afraid. Even now, when I hear such a car voice, it reminds me of that day and scares me.

The next day, they changed their method. They didn’t follow me, but when I was leaving the school to go home again alone, they were standing in my way. Thank God that they couldn’t see my secret school. Otherwise they would have beaten my teachers and sent them to jail. But I was lucky. They didn’t see me when I entered my secret school. As I entered the street, I saw them standing near the shop. I was about to escape from them, but one saw me and again started to follow me. When they reached me, they called: “Stop walking!” But I continued walking as if I didn’t hear them. My heart was shaking and my clothes were moist with sweat which came from my body like rain. I felt eventually they would arrest me and beat me with the whip. I breathed faster and faster, recited my secret Holy Quran verses from the second Sapara, the Ayato-l- Koorsai Verses, and requested help from Allah: “Save me from them, especially if our neighbors or relatives will know that the Taliban has carried me off or beaten me … what will happen to my family?” It is shameful in our culture when the police or Taliban arrest women. Before knowing the facts, there will be backbiting: “Allah only knows what happened to her that the Taliban arrested her. Maybe she did something.” Our people would whisper like this.

I was worried about this and told myself that if this happens to me, then I don’t need an education. I was immersed in my worries when suddenly again they called to me: “Stop! Hey girl! I am talking to you!” Again I ignored them and continued walking. I saw them from the corner of my eye. They were about to reach me. Some said “let her go,” but others said, “no, look, she didn’t respond to us as if she didn’t know. Go and stop her and tell her do not come alone next time.”

As I heard, my legs couldn’t continue walking. I was about to fall down on the ground. Suddenly one of them, who had a big white Turban and a long beard with a mustache and black long eyebrows and sorma on his eyes ( a kind of dark make-up which Islamic people use to line inside their eyes,) jumped from the car with his gun and appeared in front of me. “Where you are going?” I was afraid and didn’t have the ability to speak, as though my mouth was suctioned closed. I told him I was going to learn the Holy Quran.
“She said she is learning the Holy Quran,” he told the others.

“Tell her that next time we shouldn’t see her alone. Otherwise she knows what will happen,” said a person who was sitting inside the car wearing a dark Turban. And then they left the place.

“Thank you, God,” I said, “that you accept my prayer.” I started walking fast towards my house. As I reached home, I threw off the burqa and found myself next to my grandmother who was sitting under the shadow of the trees in our yard with a flower in her hand. She smelled the flower and she put the flower on the ground and looked towards me. “Welcome. What is up, my dear daughter?” she said kindly. I started crying and while I was crying, my mother came.

“What is wrong with you?” asked my mom. My grandmother put my head on her bosom, caressed me and told me, “Don’t cry, my dear daughter,” then told my mother that the Taliban had stopped me and told me that I shouldn’t walk alone.

I told my mom, “I am not going to the school.”

“Look, my dear daughter,” my mother told me. “Our country has had lots of war and those women who are educated suffered a lot, so now if you want to be a literate woman like your mom and other Afghan women, then you should struggle a lot and not take care over these small issues. Instead, try to learn knowledge. Otherwise you will be like a blind person who can never see.”

For a few days, I stopped going to the school because I was in shock and my goal was that the Taliban would forget me. Then I started going to the school. But I couldn’t forget that day when I was afraid.

By Freshta

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7 responses to “Narrow Escape

  1. I admire your courage in returning to school. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Your courage is incredible, and your mother is also a wise and brave woman. This story is beautifully written and compelling.

  3. This is such an inspiring story. I liked the way you used details to make everything seem so real, such as the sound of the car and the cotton on the books. Thank you for writing this.

  4. Freshta — This is a really good story that clearly illustrates your “narrow escape”. You are an inspiration!

  5. I was breathless waiting to see what happened! I love your honesty in this piece, and I love also your grandmother and mother’s courage insisting you get an education. You are all braver than I could ever dream of being. Thank you for sharing. Please don’t ever stop your education. Here’s an interesting article on girls’ education in Afghanistan: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/19/opinion/19friedman.html

  6. I love that your mother and grandmother had the courage to encourage you to get your education so you can become a strong, wise woman. Nothing in the world is more valuable than that!

    I hope God will bless you and help you do the things you need to do to get your education in those incredibly difficult circumstances.

    Thank you for sharing your story!

  7. Your story is very moving. It is hard to know if some of us, who have such easy access to things like education, would have as much courage if we were challenged this way. I’m glad you went back — you will be part of the change that can happen!

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