2012 ISV Magazine Scholarship Finalist: Hamid Durrani

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After a continued civil war since 1978, now finally the miserable country and its innocent people are in the hand of the most extremist foreign terrorists (Taliban) in the cooperation with some of the country’s own betrayers.

Extremism is at its peak: Veils for women and beards for men have been enforced by the Taliban regime by now. There is no law and order at any level throughout the country. People, who weren’t ready to give up their freedom and couldn’t stand the cruelty, just like the Alami’s family had no other choice but to get out of the country and take refuge in the neighbouring countries and leave everything behind.

The militants have already entered the capital city so there are few government strongholds left in the country. Whenever there is a ceasefire from both sides (Government and Extremes) for a while, most of the people take the chance to get away from the warhead areas.

1992: Extremism is at its peak: Veils for women and beards for men have been enforced by the Taliban regime.

The year is 1992, summer has not started yet, and a person can still see the mountains inside Kabul city covered with snow. It’s probably around four o’ clock in the cold afternoon. The crossfire has just stopped for a while and it has made a complete pin-drop silence in the whole city of Kabul at the moment. It seems like there is nobody in this part of the world anymore, the cold wind of the red evening is blowing the last leaves of the trees in the narrow streets of the “Shaarenav” Town which used to be very beautiful a few months back. The wind is continuously banging the backyard door of Mrs. Alami’s residence. Mrs. Alami is standing in front of her door with her head down and her mind lost in deep and countless thoughts. For a moment she thinks she is not made for this challenge, she feels like the whole world is on her weak shoulders. Her hand unconsciously goes to the door handle and she opens the living room door again, to look at her house one last time, her eyes grappled by the smile of her murdered husband in the family picture which hangs just opposite the doorway in the living room: a perfect happy family photo. He had graduated from West Germany back in the 1970s and served as a mathematics professor at the Kabul University for several years. He turned out to be one of the victims of the war and lost his life. She dries out her tears, closes the door, and says to herself “God! I worked all my life and built this house and this life for my kids! To leave it just like this someday?”  She can’t stop her tears. She hugs her eldest child, who is almost eight-years-old. He is the only hope of her life, she thinks as long as she is with her kids she is protected and still has the whole world with her.

She closes the doors, takes her backpack, and wears the long blue veil for the first time in her life. Since now she is totally enveloped from head to toe with the veil, her youngest daughter who’s has just turned one-year-old a few weeks back, gives a strange look to her mother because she can hardly recognize her anymore. The mother grabs her in her arms and says, “It’s me, your mother, don’t be afraid.” She holds the hand of her youngest son and asks the eldest one to take the hands of his two young sisters. “Am I going to get my treat then?” replies the boy. Mrs. Alami tries to ignore him and says, “Sure you will, but you also have to follow me faster and walk close by my side when we go out.”

When she steps out of the main gate of her house along with her kids, she feels like her steps are being jammed and she has no energy to move further! She holds her step and looks back at the house cries back and says, “It is not fair God! Let’s go my loved ones.

As she passes by her neighbours she sees some of them are still in their houses in a hope that there might be another chance. Or maybe they have decided to stay back and face the upcoming years of misery, hunger, and cruel rule of the Taliban regime.

Mrs. Alami along with her five orphans are the only people walking through the terrified, narrow, and abandoned local streets during the sundown making their way out to the main road.  As they reach the main road, it is dead silence and empty out there. She can no longer see the sun, it’s lost behind the White Mountains and the sky has turned red. The cold wind is blowing and a person can even hear the sound of the dust being dragged on the surface of the road by the wind. There are cars and bicycles laying on the middle and sides of the road cars with the doors open and no sign of human beings around. It looks like a strange and unknown city now. The atmosphere is filled with gun powder smoke, and there is one unexploded rocket of about three feet in size lying in the middle of the main road. The terrified mother acts to remain strong, but her kids are crying. She asks her oldest son “Stop crying, you are a brave boy! Guard both of your sisters, hold their hands, don’t let go, and don’t you move from your position either.” She grabs her youngest girl and holds her youngest boy from the arm and crosses the main street because she hasn’t seen a sign of any movement for quite a while now. She reaches the other side of the road and sees the sign of a car with one headlight on, coming from far down the wrong side of the road. She goes in the middle of the road and gestures impatiently to the driver to stop the car. The vehicle stops. Luckily it’s a taxi driver who is also heading to his home taking the opportunity of the ceasefire.

My mother is my hero. I am influenced by her courage and her bravery.

Mrs. Alami meekly says, “I am alone with my five orphans. Please take us to the International Bus Station. My kids are standing alone and crying on the other side of the road, please, please.” The cab driver is looking at her as if he either has a hearing problem or she is speaking a language which he doesn’t understand! It looks like he had a nightmare and he is so scared too. After seconds of pause he speaks and says, “Hurry up!” After another few seconds of pause with a shaking voice he says, “And we cannot go through the west side of the city. It has turned into a battle field. Leave these two in the car, go and bring the other three of your kids. I won’t drive on that side of the road, I can’t risk that rocket laying there.

Mrs. Alami doesn’t trust the driver to leave these two kids with him. She gets both her kids and says to the man politely, “Please don’t leave us here. I will bring them here as fast as I can.” She crosses the street back holding both the youngsters in her arms. She is terrified, tired, and depressed, but she tries not to lose hope and tries to stay brave. She takes her youngest girl on her shoulders this time, the youngest boy under her right arm, and tells her oldest son, “Take both your sisters’ hands and walk closely by me, but be fast and brave because we need to reach the car.” The boy looks into her mother’s eyes through the holes of her veil, shows her the confidence and responsibility by his expression, cleans his tears and gives his mom a hug, making her feel strong enough to face any upcoming horrible moment. He follows his mother with his two sisters.

When they cross the street and sit in the taxi the rocket firing begins from the east mountain targeting the Kabul fortress which is the government’s last military base located in the west side of the capital city. Everybody in the car is scared and horrified.  The kids are crying as if someone has snatched their favourite toy or as if they are with a dental surgeon. Mrs. Alami is crying and holding all her kids in her arms covering them. She says to the driver, “Are we going to live? Could you drive fast and get us safely out of here?”

The driver looks into her eyes and finds no words to reply. All he could say at this moment with a mumbling and scared voice is, “I also want to see my kids. They are waiting for me at home and I want to live to see them again.

My mother is my hero; I am influenced by her courage, and her bravery. Whatever I am today, where ever I am today, it is because of my mother. 

Hamid Duranni is from Afghanistan. He is a freshman at Idaho State University studying political science. His essay was one of the top 10 finalists for the International Student Voice Magazine scholarship sponsored by International Student Protection. 

View the winner and the 10 finalists.

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