My Sister’s Golden Hair

(Eds Note: This story has been written from a brother’s point of view, but is based on real events.)

We had a kind and lovely family. We were not so rich in money, but rich in love and kindness, in happiness and sympathy, more like friends than family members. My father was an engineer, I was one of three brothers and we had two sisters.

We were living in Mazar in a small house with one room, a bathroom, a kitchen and a yard. My father worked in a construction company. He was working hard and his target was to bring us up with education.

I was in fourth class when there was a change in the government. Everyone was afraid—what would happen? Then they announced on the radio that girls could not go to school; only boys could go.

My youngest sister Malia was eight and in second class and my other sister Noria was nine and in third class. We were sad because they couldn’t go to school. But after a week, I told my father I was going to school even though I was sorry my sisters could not. My father said he was thinking about my sisters—what should they do? I told him I was sad too. “But still, tomorrow I am going to school; I can’t wait, I can’t wait.”

My father was thinking; he didn’t reply. It was 2:00 p.m. and I was tired. I went to the room and lay on the mattress and after a few minutes I fell asleep. I don’t remember exactly how long I slept, but my Mom woke me up. She was worried and told me, “Ahmed, your father went to the barber.”

The barber’s shop was at the beginning of our street and the barber was my father’s friend, so I told my mother, “It doesn’t matter, he always goes there.”

“Yes, yes, I know, but this time your father took Noria and Malia to the barber!”

I was surprised. Lots of questions were in my mind. When my father returned, he told Mom: “Life is so dangerous, so hard. Taliban were in the barber’s shop, warning him he couldn’t cut people’s hair and beards. If he does, they will put him in jail.”

My two sisters were silent. They wore veils. My father asked my mom to bring him the scissors. She did and Dad called Noria first, “Come, my golden-hair angel.” Noria and Malia both had long hair and my dad loved their hair, especially Noria’s hair.

Now, Noria sat in front of my father. My father had the scissors. His hands were shaking. He combed her hair and then he started cutting it. He cut her hair like a boy’s, like mine, very short and straight.

I was shocked. I thought, “Dad is mad, or something is wrong with his mind,” but I didn’t say anything. Mom and I just stood watching. Then Dad called Malia and cut her hair too. They both looked very ugly, very poor.

Then my dad told Mom, “Bring all of Ahmed’s old clothes.” Mom looked like she was going to cry for her daughters’ hair. She opened an old box, but it only held some of my sister’s old clothes, not mine. Our next-door neighbor had a son my age, so Mom borrowed his old clothes for my sisters. Then my father told me, “Come stand next to your sisters.” I stood and Mom and Dad were looking at us.

The next day my dad didn’t go to his work. He took me and my sisters to school. My sisters looked like simple school boys. My father told me to try to watch out for them.

We were happy like this, going to school every day, for six months, but after a while I began to get very afraid. One day my sister Noria didn’t go to school. She stayed home because Mom was very sick. Malia went to school with me, but unluckily the teacher was absent that day, and boys were fighting in the class. One boy threw an eraser at the window and broke the glass, and it fell and hurt my Malia’s leg. Blood came from her leg. She cried and said that she wanted me, her brother, to come from another class but no one cared. The principal took Malia to the clinic and while checking her, the doctor told the principal she was a girl. “How is that possible?” asked the principal and he ordered the doctor to stop treating my sister.

After school that day, I waited for Malia but when she didn’t come from her class, I felt worried. I went home and told my mother. She cried. We thought someone kidnapped Malia.

After Dad came from work, the principal arrived holding Malia by the arm, and accompanied by four Talib police. Her face was white and she was crying silently. Her clothes were bloody. The principal didn’t say anything. My father told them, “Welcome.” The Talib commander hit my father, and then all the men started to hit my father in front of our eyes. They hit him with big wooden sticks and cables and wires. One Talib hit Dad’s nose and broke it, and blood was coming from his nose and mouth. I tried to rescue my father but I couldn’t; I was very small. Before they left, the Talib warned my dad: “If you do anything bad again, we will put you in jail or kill you.”

Dad was in the hospital for two months. During that time I went to school alone and worked with a tailor. Noria and Malia stayed home. When Dad got out of the hospital, he told us he wanted to quit his job and begin working as a teacher.

Yes, he wanted to teach us at home, and he invited all the neighbors to come and study. Half of the room we were living in became a classroom. Dad painted part of a wall black and it was our blackboard. Girls came to our house from morning until evening. Dad taught all school subjects. He never seemed to get tired.

One day the family of one of my dad’s student’s was moving from our street. She came to say goodbye to my father and promised she would try to visit in the future. Dad was talking to her until prayer time. A Talib carrying a cable was in the street to call people to come to prayer, and he saw the student come out of our house. She said to my father, “Goodbye, teacher,” and the Talib heard it. He pushed at the door. Dad thought it was his student returning so he opened the door and there stood the Talib. He didn’t hit my father with the cable. He just told him, “Come with me.”

I saw my father with them in the car and then the car drove away. Mom was at home, and we all were crying. Neighbors came and told us, “He will be back, be patient.” We waited until evening. It was dark. Mom went to my uncle’s house to tell him what had happened. My uncle began investigating with his sons to try to find my father. The next day, he went to all the Talib police stations but no one had information about Dad. We checked all the jails and prisons, but he was not there. I kept asking myself: “What did they do with Dad? Did they kill him? If so, where is his body? If not, then where is he?”

What was his sin? It was that he was teaching girls. He quit his job because he didn’t want his daughters to be illiterate. His second sin was that it was prayer time, and he prayed at home. He prayed for Allah, not for the Taliban.

Days and nights passed with no word from Dad. We had money problems and other worries, but still at nights, I taught Malia and Noria. I wrote on the blackboard of our wall. I thought of myself as my father.

After the Taliban regime, we were hopeful that Dad would be back, but he never returned. Malia graduated from school last year and attended faculty of journalism in Mazar. Noria is still in the 12th class. She wants to be an engineer. Her golden brown hair has grown back, and it reminds me of how much my father loved it.

By Roya

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18 responses to “My Sister’s Golden Hair

  1. Beautifully written. I will share this with others.

  2. Beautiful and moving story. Your father was an extraordinary man. Thank you for sharing this. I am Board Advisor for a small US charity that funds educational projects in Afghanistan, the Rebuilding Afghanistan Foundation. Your story, and like so many other similar stories I have heard over the years, reminds me how much courage and determination the ordinary people of Afghan have had in trying to give their families a decent life. Education, something we in the West often take for granted, is one of the most precious of gifts and rights that humanity enjoys. You clearly have put yours to wonderful use in telling both your own stories and the stories of the people you know. Thank you for sharing your great achievement and gift with us.

  3. Your writing talent comes through in this piece about a horrible event. You’ve done a masterful job of telling this from a boy’s point of view. I could feel his pain and the suffering of his family was very clear to me. I hope that you will continue to write stories like this that illustrate the atrocities of the Taliban. Everyone in the world should know these truths.

  4. choosing to tell this story from the point of view of of one of the son’s is compelling. To know that there are young boys and men trying to resist is a story that needs to be told. Thank you for this story.

  5. This is such a heartbreaking story. But it certainly shows that your father loved you very much, and was willing to do anything for his children’s well being. Thank you for sharing.

  6. I really enjoyed this story. I never knew that this happen over there. I think that your father is very brave to teach inside of his home even after he was told that he will be killed if he had gotten in trouble. What you women are doing is very great, letting your voice be heard is the first step to move forward. With writing your stories the world would get to know what the government is trying to hide and then people will want to help more. I wish you and your family the best.

  7. This was a beautifully written story. It was inspiring. I could sense the atmosphere and pain.

  8. This was a beautiful story and wonderfully written. Your father was very heroic and a stupendous rolemodel for you and your syblings. He had remarkable courage and you can tell through this story. I love the title choice. It tied right together with the story. Thank you for sharing.

  9. well, this story was compelling in so many ways to me. As an american i take education for granted, and now after reading this story i feel guilty. I do not know what i would do with out my education, and i definately do not know what it is like to fight for it either. I am however thankful for my family and it seems like you are too. My mother and father themselves would od anything for me and would be up for anything that would improve my life, just like your father did. He stood up for what he believed in, and went against the government rules, just to get your sisters an education. I do, give you congrats though for overcoming struggles and having the ability to write about it; im glad it was from a younger boys point of view, because i can relate to it on a certain personal level.
    Thank you so much for writing this story.

  10. This is a very beautiful and intriguing story. The events were very unfortunate and tragic; you show a lot of courage and talent in writing about them. Your father was a very brave man. He demonstrated characteristics that not many people would ever show. I also find it interesting that you told the story from a boy’s point of view. Thank you.

  11. This is a tear-jerker, for sure. When you live in the U.S. in present day, you almost forget how backwards some parts of the world still are, and how some people still think. Women not being able to get an education is a terrible thing, and abducting the father for teaching them is even worse. Very compelling story.

  12. This story is tragic, but out of the chaos arose a hero. Your father was a brave man who risked everything in order to have equality in an unjust sytem. This story has shown me the strength of love and determination an every day civilian has. It has helped me appreciate education, and recognize that individuals are still fighting to receive it. This story was heart-touching and has given me great insight to what achieving greatness is, and what the meaning of over coming fear is as well. Thank you

  13. This was such an inspiring story. This shows how determined and dedicated the father was to his children in getting the education they really deserved. It’s a shame that the Taliban was very brutal and biased in only educating boys. I believe the father made a difference in his own way by sacrificing himself for his children to become successful.

  14. Roya, this is a wonderful and moving story. I’m a teacher in America, and I shared your story with my students today. I just wanted you to know that they were as moved as I was.

  15. What a hero your father was. And you are for writing this down and sharing it. I will keep passing it on.

  16. A poignant story of true courage in action. It takes an extraordinary person to stand up for one’s principles the way your father did, and you portray his bravery beautifully.

  17. Please keep sharing your stories with us. It is a reminder of what a struggle life has been in Afghanistan, especially for those helping girls and women to be educated.

  18. Katherine Sterling

    Your story must be told over and over again until people bind their hearts, souls, and intellect by joining with your voice to speak out. I am so sorry that your family endured such terrible circumstances (I feel especially akin to your mother). Please give my regards to her and to your siblings. Because you have written this story and it is accessible on the Internet to many, I, an American, join forces with you in the plight of Afghanistan. Our nations are bound by blood now, which to me means that we are related and all decency says that we must help in anyway that we can. Write more and tell us how we can do this. Blessings upon you for your bravery and your loss.

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