One day I had a bad feeling that something was wrong and I didn’t want to go to my office, but I went anyway. There I saw three people waiting for me, a woman and two men. I knew only one of them, a male colleague with whom I had once traveled to Panjshir Province for work. I apologized for making them wait, but wondered why they were there.
One of the men said they were waiting because they wanted to take me to Char Asiab. I had no idea where that was. “I can’t go without telling my family,” I said. They said it would be quick, but still I had to let my family know. I called my mother. She did not want me to go and said I didn’t have permission. However, they insisted I visit their project centers to write success stories, so I had no choice. I called my mother again to tell her I was going. She was very upset, but she could not help it.
On the way, I asked my colleagues about Char Asiab. They said it was a district of Kabul about seven miles south of the city. It took us two hours to get to the city of Char Asiab. It didn’t feel like it was part of Kabul Province because people dressed, walked, and talked differently. There was no downtown, only a few homes scattered around. Some were empty and half-broken. There were no livable homes. My male colleague in the front seat ordered us to cover properly for the sake of everyone’s security. I was shocked to hear this, because I thought we were still in a part of Kabul, where it wasn’t an issue.
We females had to cover ourselves with only our eyes showing. We visited tailoring centers, where I found girls of different ages trying to learn to support their families. Most were not going to school because their families didn’t permit this. We visited other centers that specialized in carpentry skills, motorcycle repair skills, bead work, and other such work. We interviewed women and took pictures. Everyone had problems to share, but we didn’t have any solutions for their problems.
When we were in the car going towards our last destination before returning to Kabul, my male colleague in the front seat, said: “Everyone keep looking around to make sure there are no Talib.”
“Talib? Why Talib?” I was shocked. “Isn’t this part of Kabul? How come there are Taliban here?”
He said they had been stopped three times in the past by cars full of Taliban, and there was the chance it would happen again. Everyone was scared and cautious. The woman with me in the back seat was mumbling some words of the Qur’an. I didn’t know what was going on. Where were we heading? I was scared about what would happen if the Taliban found out I am a college student in New York. Would they kill me?
Then we passed the area where there was a risk of meeting the Taliban. We uncovered our faces and thanked God. But it was not over. A car covered with mud was behind us. The men in the front seat shouted at us, saying: “Cover your faces. Here comes the Taliban.” We covered our faces immediately and they ordered us not to look back. The driver slowed and finally stopped, since the Taliban’s car stopped in front of ours. My colleague and the driver went out to talk to them. I could see three men coming out of the white Corolla in front of us. Two Talibs were wearing white long shirts and the other wore black. They all had turbans and long beards. I couldn’t really see properly, since my face was covered with a thick black scarf. I wore a big hijab and looked like a married woman.
After 15 minutes, the driver and my colleagues came back. One of them smiled and smiled and looked back at us, saying that we were safe. The other woman asked, “Were they really Talibs?”
“Yes, they were Taliban and we told them we have a pregnant woman in the car and we are taking her to a midwife in the nearby village,” was the reply.
I knew he meant me and I laughed to myself. The other woman is very slim and I am a chubby girl. Everyone in the car started laughing. My male colleague said the Taliban were not going to check to see if I really was pregnant.
“We’re not going to the other center,” he said. “Instead we are going to have our late lunch at one of the houses in the village because the Taliban might be following us. The son of this family works with us. Therefore, it’s safer to be here for at least an hour or two.” We stayed for an hour and a half and then traveled back to Kabul.
People think the Taliban are only in southern provinces of Afghanistan, but they are wrong. I saw Taliban near Kabul in June. It was shocking to see and hear them so close to the capital. I never thought I would be left alive if caught by the Taliban. But I was, and I am very thankful it is over.