A Brave Woman

Editor’s note: This is a true story told to the writer by a relative who is the mother of the children.

Today I want to write a story about a brave woman. It is a true story told to me by a woman who spent her youth in a country at war, in a world of pain and sorrow.

It was a cold winter day. The wind bit at the door and windows with intensity, and the cold came inside. The war between Russians and Afghans continued and no one knew if they would be alive from one minute to the next. Nothing was guaranteed.

It was difficult for people to accept this situation. No one could go outside. Men could not go out because the government would take them away to become soldiers. Women could not go out because it was shameful and they were afraid. Some people used the war as an excuse to do very bad things to women.

I was at home looking after my two children and crying. They were six months old and one year old. They were sick, but even now I don’t know why they were sick because I never had the chance to find out. I had only two choices then: to stay home, or go look for a doctor.

Both choices were dangerous. Neither my husband nor I could go outside. There was no one to take my two innocent children to the doctor, but I could not see my children suffer any longer so I took my burqa and ran to my father’s house with my children. The house was not far and when I got there, my father and mother were sitting in the house together.

They were shocked to find me outside their door, alone and with the children. I could not stop my tears. I told my mother my story and asked her to go with me to the doctor. But she said: “The situation is not good. I am sorry. I can’t.” My father’s response was the same.

My family was the only hope I had. I thought they would help me, but they could not do anything. I could not let my husband go with me either. In Afghanistan, a house without a male is like a house without a door. The government could seize the house.

We had only an old, gray donkey so I tied my children to my back and started to go to the city alone. It would take one hour to get there. I had my burqa on and my children were on my back underneath my burqa.

My husband just said, again and again: “Take care of yourself.” I could see changes in his voice and his face, but I did not think about them and I started toward the city. All the way I cried under my burqa. I was wet from the snow.

I was almost halfway to the city when a Russian soldier’s car approached. I had seen a lot of Russians and their cars in our village. Some smiled, but most seemed angry. I had to move out of the way. I felt so afraid. It was the first time I had come face to face with a Russian.

I changed my way and I thought this would be a good time to feed my children and rest for a minute. But I never had the chance to feed my children again. When I took my children from my back, they were both in the agony of death. I was so worried. I did not know what to do. My children were dying, but I could not do anything.

The eldest, Hassan, died first, and then Hussein. I picked up the dead bodies of my children and started to go home. When my husband saw the children, he cried. It was the first time I had seen my husband cry. We both cried.

After a while we told our relatives and we had a ceremony for our sons. Most of our relatives could not come, either because they had their own ceremonies to attend, or because of the war. Since that time, we have emigrated to Iran and—thank you, God—now all of my daughters and sons are brave. I am proud of all of them.

***

When people in my country talk about bravery and power, they automatically think of the men. But women are the strongest part of the society, the makers of the future.

By Zahra A.


Comments

  1. Zahra, my heart breaks at this sad sorry, but your final comment, about the great strength of women brings lightness to my heart, for you speak the truth.

  2. This story is very sad; my heart goes out to you. And I agree with you that women are the strongest part of society. I will keep you and all women who struggle in my heart and in my prayers.
    Love, Kathy

  3. Kelly C. says:

    Beautifully written, and heartbreaking, Zahra. I particularly like the line, “In Afghanistan, a house without a male is like a house without a door.” You show vividly how the mother had many choices — all bad ones.

  4. How terribly sad, Zahra. Thanks for telling the world this woman’s story.
    Love,
    Allyn

  5. Michele says:

    Zahra, Your writing is incredibly powerful, full of images and emotion. It’s heartbreaking, but informative and your story needs to be told. Your strength is evident in your words, not just because you are a woman, but a person full of life and experience that deserves to be heard. Bless you for your courage and determination to keep writing. It’s important. Thanks so much for posting.

    Michele

  6. Alaha Ahrar says:

    I really love reading these writings!

  7. amanullah manduzaishafi says:

    Great afghan mothers we proud of you

  8. This is an enormous slice of bitter sorrow, agony, loss. I could feel the weight of dying children on the brave back, beneath the burqa, wet with snow. As I sit in the moment listening to a woman decrying the difficulties of running for office, and gender gap in our politics, juxtaposed against this riveting story I am aware of the countless disparities concerning women in the world. But this woman on a gray donkey, safe now in Iran, provides much needed perspective. I am grateful for it.

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