When I was a child, my father enrolled me at the local school. After a few months, I didn’t want to go any longer. I was only six, and school made me depressed. The teachers were mean to us when we made mistakes. They would hit us. So I quit going to school.

When my father found out he bought me gifts and spoke with my teacher, but I refused to go back to school. After that, he didn’t talk to me for one week until finally he sat down with me and explained that God created good and bad people in this world and not everyone’s behavior is how we would like it. He told me that if I did not go to school I would regret it. My peers would become successful and I would have to stay home due to being illiterate and no one would want me.

He said there is nothing more important than education. He cited the holy Qu’ran and said that God and our prophet Mohammed loved educated people. Our prophet told us, “Go and learn knowledge even if it is in the farthest place of the world.” He asked me to not give up because of little struggles along the way. This speech opened my eyes. I went back to school and since then I have worked hard at my studies.

When I was ten, I loved to draw. People said my drawings were beautiful and when my dad saw my sketchbook he was happy.  He told me, “I know my daughter will become very famous one day, and I will be proud of you.”

My father always brought me books to read. After I read one he would ask me to write down what I thought about the book. I began to read books on many different subjects. When he noticed that I had become interested in reading about women’s issues, he brought me books on women’s rights in Islam and other religions.

During the Taliban regime, I didn’t go to school and I read a lot and listened to the BBC broadcasts and debates about women’s issues. Whenever I had questions, I asked my dad. He always explained in detail and never tired of my questions.

One day, during the Taliban regime when I was thirteen, my father fell on the street while going to work and broke his leg. There were no doctors or hospitals. Finally my uncle and my younger brother, who was nine at the time, took him to Pakistan for treatment. He had several surgeries, but they did not help and all the medications caused damage to his heart and stomach. He was ill for several years. My brother took him to India for treatment, but last month he passed away. It was very agonizing for us.

I lost a close friend, the one who always encouraged me to study and read books and increase my knowledge. Even when my father was ill for a long time, he always encouraged me to be my best. Today, thanks to him, I write about challenges faced by Afghanistan’s women and children.

By Sitara

Photo: Anthony Bolante / The Image Arsenal