When I was born I did not cry. I weighed about three kilograms and the doctors kept me in a glass-encased machine for a week, examined me, and took blood tests. They gave me injections in my head and arms. After a week I grew thinner and weaker. My father saw this and decided to bring me home, hoping I would become healthy. At home I gained weight and after some months I was fine. I had curly golden hair and white skin.

I was the fifth child in my family. I was ten years younger than my eldest sister who always took care of me. She played with me, brushed my hair and made a pony tail, and sang me to sleep. She was very kind. She helped my mother to care for all the kids in the family.

I was about five years old when my sister got married. It was during the Taliban regime, and my parents had to marry off my sister at a young age. If the Taliban discovered a young girl, especially a beautiful one, they would kidnap her and force her into marriage. It was quite difficult for us. It wasn’t safe and my parents were afraid of losing their daughter.

My parents and siblings wept at my sister’s wedding. I was still in a world of childhood and didn’t know much about the real world. I cried on her wedding night because she was not there to sing me to sleep. It was difficult, but I got used to being without my sister.

We lived in a suburb and we did not have electricity, clean water, or shops nearby. My father was a carpenter. He would bring wood from his workshop so my mother could make bread in a muddy stove. At first, my mother wasn’t very good at making bread because she wasn’t accustomed to using a primitive oven. Sometimes the oven would collapse: the paste that kept it together—a mixture of flour, water, and yoghurt—would fall apart, and everything baking inside would fall into the charcoal and wood. It was a difficult and dangerous way to make bread. I never went near that stove, but I saw the scars on my mother’s hand.

My father’s income was not enough for all of us. We had a dog we kept for security and we would feed him bread that fell onto the coals. I remember one day when my youngest brother and I were very hungry and had nothing to eat. I asked my mom for food and she told us to wait until my father came home from work. We couldn’t wait. I got some of the burnt bread and a glass of water, sat near my brother, and began to eat. My brother was two years older than me.

“You don’t want to eat?” I asked him.

“No, I don’t like that bread. It’s too hard to eat,” he replied.

“But if you dunk the bread in the water it will be soft,” I said. “Yum! It is delicious.”

Then he took a bit of bread and tried it. I knew that he didn’t like it but he had to eat it because there was nothing else.

When my mom saw us she caressed us and said, “Don’t worry. Your father will bring food tonight.”

My mom is very kind. Sometimes she would give her own food to us and not eat any herself.

“But Mom! What about the dog? What will he eat?” I asked. She pointed to some remaining burnt bread. I put a piece on the dog’s plate and he ate it. Like us, the dog knew he had no choice. 

Our situation grew worse. Eventually, my father had to close his shop because he had no customers. We decided to emigrate to Iran.

By Rahela

Photo: Spozhmai Atash