Sitara was my classmate when I was in the 12th class. We studied science together. Our class was on the second floor of an old building. It had two doors, one for girls and one for boys. In front of the first door was a waiting room for the girls, and when we were early, we sat in that room studying. There was always a woman in a burqa. She seemed to be 50 or 55. She looked tired and there was pain in her face.

We were studying and sometimes talking, but she was always silent, sitting in the corner, and sometimes she was napping. Maybe she was painting her dream garden, and comparing it with her real life. After a long time, I found out she was Sitara’s mother. Sitara also wore burqa, even though among the girls no one wore burqas—it was beginning of Hamid Karzai’s government. It was a question for me was: why was Sitara coming to class with her mother? Her mom was like her guard. Does she have an enemy? Does she have family problems? I didn’t have answers.

Sitara was very intelligent. She was always thinking, as if she were going to discover something, maybe life’s secrets. She was always confident and loved to study hard. All her desires were to attend university. She was always asking me, “Roya, do you think I will have a good number? Do you think exam will be easy? You know last night I studied until 2. You know I didn’t eat my breakfast today. I just study, and study.”

Then it was summer, and two weeks passed and Sitara was absent for 14 days. I was worried and I wanted to check on her, but I didn’t have her address. Finally I saw another girl named Freshta who knew Sitara and I asked her, “Where is Sitara?” She said, “Don’t you know? She is at the hospital and she is in very bad and critical condition.” “What happened to her?” I asked.
Freshta told me that two weeks earlier when Sitara was lighting the oven, suddenly a balloon of gas exploded and burned Sitara all over. Her mom came to help and was burned too, but just on her hands and face. Both were in the hospital but poor Sitara, Freshta said, was shouting from the pain. “If you can, please visit her once,” Freshta said, but I couldn’t right away – the hospital was too far away. After a week, before I could get there, I heard that Sitara had died at the hospital.

Words are too poor to explain how deeply sad I was for Sitara. Her mother was still in the hospital and It was my responsibility to go and visit her. After many problems I went to the hospital. When I opened the door of the room—oh, let me close my eyes, I can’t explain and I can’t paint the picture I saw—about twelve female patients were there. All were in bad pain; all were burnt by family violence. A woman was burned all over and her face was covered by a bandage. Sitara’s mom was in the corner on the right side. She lay on the bed and her eyes were closed. Her hands were burned, and there were some burned places on her neck. I stood in front of her for one minute. I didn’t want to disturb her. She opened her eyes and stared at me. Her look was hopeless. I was silently crying. With a dead and sorrowful voice, she asked, “Are you Roya jan?”

Then she closed her eyes, and after a minute she opened them again and said, “Roya! I lost Sitara. My Sitara, my bride daughter, my kind friend, my only daughter, died. Now she is in her new house. She went, she went.” She was talking and I was crying. A mother brings up a child with a world of hopes, and now winds came and destroyed her hopes. Who can revenge the wind? Who can destroy the wind’s house?

She told me, “Roya jan, be successful with your studies. May all your dreams come true with your education and your life. I lost my daughter. There is no house for me for the rest of my life. I will make Sitara’s grave a shrine and stay as her guard.” I couldn’t talk; my tears didn’t let me. I just told Sitara’s mom that if she needed anything, she should tell me. She thanked me and I left. On the way home, I was crying not only for Sitara but for all the disappointments women in my country suffered.

After a month, I was at a party. One of my close relatives was a teacher at Sitara’s school and she told me a story that shocked me. Sitara’s mother was her father’s second wife. Her father forbid Sitara to attend school. Her mom supported her, and Sitara was struggling to study and prove herself.

That day that she got burned, it was her father who burned her, her father who killed her. He didn’t like Sitara or her mother. When he burned her, he forbid her to go to the hospital because there were male doctors there. The neighbors helped her and her mother to the hospital.

When I heard the whole story, I remembered Sitara’s mom waiting for her, her sad face, and I remembered Sitara’s hopes mixed with happiness and fear, and I understood why she was still wearing burqa, why her mom came with her and waited hours for her. I appreciated her sacrifices and I admired her heart with its large pains.

Even though all the neighbors knew Sitara’s father was a killer who burnt his daughter, a father who didn’t deserve to have such a daughter, no one reacted against him. He still lives with his first wife and children. I don’t know about Sitara’s mom; maybe she died too. May Sitara’s soul rest in peace and may God give her rewards in paradise. Her name is recorded in the history of our women, a history full of sadness, sorrow and tears.

By Roya


13 responses to “Sitara

  1. Roya–This is a beautiful, amazing and evocative story–and so well-written. I am so very sorry for Sitara and her mother.

    Through your extraordinary work, we are all getting a better picture of life for women in Afghanistan. Thank you and kind regards, Ann

  2. Roya,
    Your story is beautifully and courageously told. You and all women of similar courage are our hope, our dream for the future. May you be blessed in your studies and your work.
    Thank you,

  3. Roya
    It is difficult to express in words what the feelings of your story transmit, your tears are ours. And the need and will to go on fighting and resisting is the hope for the future. Life belongs to all human beings. May the future bring the transformation and change we all want. In other places in the world, women and men can be closer to you thanks to your loving and courageous words

  4. Roya,

    She is with Allah now, and he is the best of Protectors and the most Merciful. Be strong and keep doing what’s right. Take care.


  5. This is the kind of story that everyone in America needs to hear so that we know what terrible things women in Afghanistan face every day. Thank you for sharing such a tragic story and for writing it so beautifully.

  6. Dear Roya,
    thank you for showing this courage and for sharing this cruel story in such a beautiful way. I did not know about this blog before today, and I’m glad I found it, yet it hurts to know about the risks you take to be able to tell the world what’s going on. You will all be in my prayers –


  7. Pingback: Women voices from Afghanistan « Readings From A Political Duo-ble

  8. Roya,
    I was very moved by this story, thank you for sharing. It is so unfortunate that people such as Sitara’s father are not punished for what they do.
    Good luck in your studies and your work, keep writing!

  9. Roya,
    it is a beautiful and very moving story. You have a great talent so please keep posting new stories! May Allah bless you and your work and study and give you a good happy life.

  10. Dear Roya,
    So tragic, but so beautifully written. I read this with my own science-mad daughter. We will remember Sitara’s name.

    Stay strong. The world is a better place now your voice can be heard.

    Love and thanks,


  11. Dear Roya,
    Keep writing. Sitara is dead but you still have a voice. Your life of writing is a defense against the injustice that your sisters are suffering. I will pray for you.

  12. Roya,
    Through your writing, you have given Sitara voice. What a tragic story. I imagine it must have been hard to write.
    Your work is inspiring.
    Take care,

  13. Roya,

    I will carry this story with me for a long time to come.

    Last summer, as I walked through an airport terminal in Washington, DC, I passed a number of lines of people waiting for flights to destinations in the Middle East. Many of the women wore some form of a veil.

    But one woman caught my eye. She wore a burqa, with only a small opening for her eyes, which were obscured by sun glasses. I could not help myself from a brief stare. Even though I could not exactly make eye contact with her, I’m pretty sure she was returning my stare.

    I felt that for a brief moment we were both thinking how very different our two lives were, but at the same time, if given an opportunity to sit and chat, were would have discovered common threads.

    Should you ever see Sitara’s mother again, please tell her how very sorry all who read your story are about her suffering and great loss.

    Thank you for sharing the story because the world needs to know.

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