I was 11 years old; it was a spring day and the rain had washed off the trees. Everything was amazing. But I felt apprehensive. My brother had a hard discussion with my dad in the morning. Though I was too young to follow it all, I understood that someone told my father my brother was having an affair. I still remember my father yelling: “Don’t you know that I love my daughter-in-law like my own daughter? If you or anybody else in the world tries to harm her, I swear to Allah I will kill him, whoever he is, even if he is my own son.”
“Trust me, Pa, it is not true, it’s a rumor, I don’t have any idea what you are talking about,” my brother said.
My dad said: “Go and resolve the issue. Otherwise you are not my son anymore. I hate irresponsible men. A father trusted you and let his daughter marry you. You were negligent and don’t even know her rights. She is the mother of your child. How would you teach your daughter to be honest? Go, leave my house. I hate having a son like you. You can return to this house only under one condition: bring proof of your innocence and convince your wife.”
My brother came downstairs and said to my sister-in-law, “Let’s go from this house. I don’t want to live in this house anymore. My father insulted me; let’s go.”
She said, “Sorry, this is my house and I want stay with my father-in-law whom I love like my own father. You can go anywhere you want. I will stay with my family.”
With an irritated expression, my brother closed the door and went toward his father-in-law’s house. The atmosphere in our house was horrible. I couldn’t stay inside. I took my books and went outside. This was something new in our life: angry, loud talk, swearing, an unfriendly atmosphere.
My parents’ marriage and lifestyle were amazing. They were each other’s close friend. My parents had three sons and five daughters. We lived in one big house. One of my sisters got married and left the house. Two of my brothers were married. My oldest brother had one daughter and his wife was pregnant; my second brother had two sons. Unlike other Afghan families, in our family, our father was so friendly with us. He was proud of his daughters. He always tried to create fun inside the family by going on picnics, playing cards, playing musical instruments, singing, cooking, inviting famous singers to our house and giving big parties, etc. He was a dream-father. In Afghanistan, this is rare. Fathers are the boss of the family and behave seriously. They think if they smile and play with kids, then no one will obey them. To be frank, I don’t understand this behavior.
Late that afternoon, as the sky was getting dark, I was studying my schoolbooks in the backyard when I heard my brother’s voice. I ran toward him but he didn’t seem very happy. His father-in-law told him, “Let’s go. I will talk to your dad. Everything will be fine; don’t worry.” They walked toward my father’s room. After a while, I heard them laughing. Everyone said: “Thank God, from now on everything will be fine.” But still, though I couldn’t understand why, I felt a part of my heart was stinging, and I continued to have bad feelings.
I heard other guests arriving and within a few minutes, our house was full of guests. Everyone looked happy. They were preparing salads and other foods. My sister played music. The sounds of music, dinner preparation, loud talk, and the scent of food were all together signs of happiness. Still, I was not so optimistic. I wanted to talk to someone, but my mom was busy and delighted and didn’t pay attention to my sadness. When I recognized that everyone was laughing, I tried to be positive.
I finished my studies and went to my father’s room where the guests were sitting. They were talking, laughing, playing cards. Everyone was happy. The adults were in my father’s room, and the kids were in another room. I wanted to stay with my parents, because I still wanted to convince myself that everything was fine.
The party went wonderfully. My father’s friends and their wives along with their sons and daughters left the house one by one. Our housemaids cleaned the house and others went to bed. Finally, just my mother was sitting with my uncle and two guests who came from Bagram and had to spend the night.
My concerned mind didn’t allow me to sleep. I walked toward the window. It was dark outside. Suddenly I saw cars at our gate and gunmen running toward our house. I saw a few of them climbing the walls and some were jumping into our front yard. I couldn’t believe it. I decided to go to my father’s bedroom to tell him. When I opened the door to his quarters, I saw two armed men entering his bedroom. I was shocked. I didn’t know what to do. I entered his quarters. My heart was beating fast; even I could hear it beating. My hands were cold. Still, some power was pushing me forward. Slowly I moved toward the bedroom. The door was open. I saw the two armed men standing beside his bed. One removed the blanket from his face, holding the gun in his other hand. The other had a machine gun. Suddenly, my father woke up. I will on no account and by no means ever forget his anxious look and worried face. Then his expression changed as if he knew what was going on. Of course he knew it. He removed the blanket slowly and took his Qaraqul hat and he was looking for something else. Maybe his pen or his eyeglasses? No one was talking. The gunmen seemed nervous. My father’s strong voice said: “Let’s go.”
I remember my father’s friends and other powerful people told him that he should go to Pakistan with his family because the pro-Communist government was arresting powerful and famous people. “Definitely they are going to arrest you,” friends told my father. I still remember my father’s answer: “What have I done wrong? I’ve just worked hard for my country and my people. I will never go to Pakistan. I will stay in my motherland. If I get in trouble, I will seek help from my own people, not from strangers.”
My father walked out the door and the gunmen followed, keeping their guns pointed at him. When he saw me, he put his hand on my head and said: “Don’t worry. Go to bed. It is too late.” I stared at him without answering. He started walking down the stairs. When he disappeared from my eyes, I followed him. I didn’t know that they had surrounded the entire house and were in each room. Two other guards were standing in front of our sitting room where my mother had been with the guests. When I reached the room, I saw my entire family there. The gunmen had woken them up and put them in one room.
Everyone was staring at our beloved daddy. The powerful and kind father, the wonderful friend, an excellent husband and a strong personality. He knew at that moment: This is it, I am gone forever. That is why he stopped in front of the door, looked at everyone and said to my brothers, “My dear sons, the best soldiers can be the strength of the commanders, and the best sons are always a parent’s potency and assets. I am proud of your mother and sisters. Your mother helped me a lot, she raised wonderful kids, she was always my right hand. So take care of them, let them enjoy their life, support your sisters to finish their education. Dear sons and daughters: try to be honest partners and wonderful parents for your children. Raise educated children. Make them proud of you. Be strong. Never give up, and fight for your rights.”
A deathly silence covered the room. My father said, “Khodai e aman” (God bless you). He started walking strongly toward the door. I was looking at him—God, he was strong. For the last time, I saw his broad shoulders and his tall frame.
My father had hopes of leaving his three sons behind to take care of his wife and daughters. But once my father left, the guards turned to my brothers and the guests and said to all the men in the room, “Okay, let’s go, guys.” Again without replying, my two brothers, my uncle and our other guests from Bagram followed them. They didn’t say goodbye. They just left the room and followed the guards. I was again the one who trailed them to the gate. When they reached the gate, one guard said, “Take your car, too. Who has got the key?”
My older brother said “I have the key.” Then he asked the commander, “Why do you want my younger brother to go with us? He is only 14.”
The commander said in an ugly tone, “Oh really? I thought he might be 18. Okay, fine, fine, don’t go with us. You are a child.”
Can you imagine? They took all the men with them. They put them in jail. We never saw them again. When we asked the government, they said, “We don’t have any idea where they are,” or gave other stupid answers. The bloody government didn’t give him time to raise me and my younger sister. He didn’t get a chance to see how his two small girls went to school and brought wonderful report cards with high marks, how they became highly qualified women. When my sister and I got our results of our university admittance exams, she was accepted to the Faculty of Medicine and I to the Faculty of Law and Political Science. We couldn’t stop our tears. We didn’t have our father beside us to share the wonderful news. He knew the value of education more than anyone else in the world.
My dear and lovely father, my wonderful papa. We didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye to each other. I didn’t hold his warm hands. Why didn’t I do that? Why? Because at that time, I didn’t know I would never see him again. I want to write more and more about my father and how he was amazing, but these naive tears won’t allow me to write. I can’t see my computer screen. My fingers are ice cold. I can’t move them. Let me cry, my dear friends. Life is more complicated than we thought.