Kandahar Fire

In the hottest summer of Kandahar, my family, including my uncles and grandparents, used to sit every evening in the yard chatting and eating dinner together. One night we were busy having dinner when an enormous explosion occurred in the neighboring house of one of the important warlords. “I saw the home next to ours burning,” Mom said. Everyone started running to survive, because a portion of our house was also catching fire, with part a wall falling in the yard.

My uncle was hit on the back by pieces of fire. He was breathing the last moments of his life when my father, other uncles and grandpa rushed around him. Everyone was crying, shouting and calling, “Uncle, please wake up,” but it was too late!

But where was two-and-a-half-year-old Zarghoona? She was in the yard crying deeply in pain, her face bleeding. I am that girl, Zarghoona. I was later taken to Pakistan for treatment when the doctors in Kandahar disappointedly discharged me from the hospital. But it was too late to recover my eye.

For a while, I couldn’t remember whether I was born blind or got blinded. As I matured, I began to ask my parents, “why didn’t you hold me when you were walking away to survive, so it wouldn’t have happened to me?” They said nothing, only looked at me, quietly dropping tears.

I considered myself an incomplete person. I used to study hard but never dared to answer any of the questions asked by the teacher. I wanted to participate in school programs, to come up on the stage dancing, singing, or presenting a speech, but someone was calling me from inside: “Hey Zarghoona, Can you do this? No you can’t do it.” And I frequently suffered with pain in my eye.

I remember once crying deeply in my prayers and asking Almighty Allah: “O Allah I am tired of facing failures in my life due to this disability, it stops me every moment to step ahead toward success. It’s better to die once rather than dying every day. O Allah, if you want me to be happy then please take my life away. I don’t want to be alive any more, I want to die.”

In 2001, the collapse of Taliban regime brought a ray of hope for a bright future along with socio-economical development in the lives of vulnerable and despaired Afghans. Millions of those Afghans, who had been suffering as refugees in Pakistan and Iran for more than two decades, started returning to their homeland, participating in the reconstruction of Afghanistan as one united nation. Likewise my family, which had been away from Afghanistan for twelve years, decided to return to our homeland.

When we returned to Kandahar, it was a heart-shaking situation for me seeing Afghans living in devastated shelters and in starvation, suffering from a series of hazardous communicable diseases. I saw girls going to school every day afraid of being blown up on the way by a suicide bombing, hiding book bags in their burqas away from the vicious view of those who were against women’s education.

It was unbelievable meeting a 13-year-old girl, one of our relatives, who was recently married to a 45-year-old rich guy who was the owner of poppy fields and already had two other wives. Even though Sharifa was younger than most of her step-children, she seemed to agree with her life, accepting it as her destiny and a practice of her culture.
I couldn’t stop crying seeing my friend who was going to be married in a week, but unfortunately her dreams never came true when her fiancé and his brother were killed in a bomb explosion in the provincial office in Kandahar.

I couldn’t believe my eyes seeing a girl who got shot on her way to work, and no one tried to help her, instead saying abusively: “Oh, she got killed because she was working with foreigners.”

I forgot my own pain and disappointments upon seeing a girl who was congenitally disabled in both legs and had stayed home for last 12 years.

Finally, I stopped dreaming about myself when I saw the situation of other girls and women in the ferocious environment of Kandahar. I started wishing to be able to help those innocent women rather than thinking and caring about myself. Life can be so beautiful and meaningful if we think positively and try our best to resolve our problems. Some aspects of life are really tough to tolerate but not impossible to find ways for a solution. We can make life difficult or wonderful for ourselves, and Allah always helps those who help themselves.

By Zarghoona


  1. This piece is both heartbreaking and inspiring. How horrible that you had such a terrible injury from such an early age. But how wonderful that because of it you have become stronger and more sympathetic to the plight of the people around you. The fact that you are now finding beauty and meaning in your world by thinking positively is a great gift — to yourself and others. I applaud your inner strength. You are an inspiration to me. You did a great job of writing besides!

  2. Stacy Aab says:

    Thank you for sharing this. You write about your experiences in such a powerful way. Your spirit really shines through. Keep writing, Zarghoona. Proud of you over here!

  3. Victoria says:

    It’s great that you’ve been able to take something terrible that’s happened to you & find the positive in it & use it to help other women. Keep up the good work & keep writing! We love to hear your stories & appreciate your courage!

  4. This story is really inspiring. It’s awful to have had something terrible like this happen, but you’re obviously a really strong person to look at others and want to help them with their problems. You did a wonderful job and keep writing!

  5. Dominic D. says:

    Zarghoona, you have such a powerful story. It is important to never give up hope, because, you are right, life can be so beautiful even if there are tragedies we must overcome. I agree that we can decide whether our life will be wonderful or difficult, and I hope more people will be able to read your story. It is very inspiring.

  6. Laurie M says:

    Wow Zarghoona, that was very powerful. You remind us of how it should be to be human. We should care for each other. You have made me want to try harder to do this. You have courage girl!

  7. Jill Charters says:

    Human nature at it’s best. You spoke your mind and let your heart out. Keep up the good essays. It is interesting to learn about your culture and about my own. I think we all have this in common. This makes me think about my family more. You do have courage. Don’t ever loose hope and stay strong.

  8. Talia C says:

    Zarghoona, it’s wonderful having the opportunity to get to have a small glimpse into your life: the external and internal battles, the hardships, but more importantly your flourishing positivity that you have been able to muster. It’s truly inspirational to read such a beautifully enlightening story that stems from such an dark time. Continue to have faith, stay strong, and see the beauty that makes up a bright life and person, even when others are dulled around you.
    “Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” -Helen Keller

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