Editor’s note: On Sunday, May 29, 2011, the Taliban launched an attack in the western province of Herat, killing and injuring dozens of people. According to news reports, three explosions were heard around the city, one from a suicide bomber. In this piece our writer reports on one mother’s experience searching for her children after the attack.
It was a nice spring day when the explosions started. Sharifa, a young Afghan woman with three children, prepared breakfast, made tea, put a few loaves of bread on the table, and then went to wake up her children so they could eat and go to school. She bid them farewell by kissing each child—Ahmad, 12, and Shayma, 10—and touching them lovingly. Later, at home with 2-year-old Hamid, Sharifa washed the dishes, swept the rooms and cleaned the kitchen.
When she finished the chores she went to her workroom to sew. She was a tailor and sewed clothes to earn extra money because her husband worked in a factory job. Her one great wish was to find the best way to educate her children. She imagined her children would become important and famous people in the future. She had not been able to finish her own education, and she wanted her children to finish theirs.
Sharifa sat working at her sewing machine. She was happy because in only a short time her work had improved so much and she had gotten a lot of orders. She took the cloth and scissors to start her work. She was eager to finish the clothes.
“When I finish these three orders I can buy the toys my children liked,” she remembers thinking to herself.
A few days earlier Sharifa had gone to the supermarket and the children saw some toys they liked, but she hadn’t enough money to buy them. She was thinking about how glad her children would be with new toys when a powerful noise shattered her thoughts.
“It sounded like an explosion,” she though. She prayed for God’s mercy for the people and hoped no one had been injured.
The explosion woke her young daughter and as the child was crying Sharifa went to embrace her.
Minutes later Sharifa heard gun shots. She guessed it was a fight between police forces and the Taliban. This made her worry.
She looked at the clock and saw it was 11 a.m., the time for her children to come home from school. She thought how her children on their way home would have heard the explosion and the gun shots.
A few more minutes passed. “By this time my children’s studying time is usually finished and their schools are closed. I wish nothing bad has happened to them,” Sharifa thought.
The children’s lateness and the continuing gunfire were too much to bear. She got her burqa, took her young daughter by the hand, and went out of her home. She went to the children’s schools, which were far away. First, she went to the girl’s school, called Mahjoba-Heravy High School. It was closed. The boy’s school, Jami High School, was behind the girl’s school. It was closed. An employee told her the students had left several minutes earlier.
Now she was very worried. She was crying as she began running to the hospital. The streets were not crowded. There was more gunfire and as she got closer to the hospital the street became very crowded with people, ambulances, and police cars traveling toward the hospital. Most of them were carrying injured people.
When she got to the hospital it was filled with many injured people and the people who had carried them in. The smell of blood was everywhere. People were crying. They were waiting in a room and sitting on the floors.
Sharifa tried to find her children. She looked in the rooms filled with injured people. She saw two children, whose bodies were wrapped in Bndazh, the cloth doctors use to wrap injuries.
Every part of her body felt weak. She put her hand against the wall so she would not fall, and went through the room towards that bed, feeling even weaker. She looked carefully: it was not a mistake. She just looked at the children, her son and her daughter, and cried quiet tears.
How could her noisy, stirring children be so quiet and motionless, as if they were sleeping. Her beloved children—injured. Now she had the responsibility to take care of them. This made her responsibilities even heavier than before.
This bomb explosion happened one week ago in Herat, killing nine and injuring 59 people. Not only Sharifa, but more than 40 mothers are mourning because their family members were injured or killed. In Afghanistan, mothers must bear these kinds of family problems. This kind creatures—the mothers—who bring happiness and good feelings to our lives, they are the ones who suffer most.
Photo by the author