Greetings from my deepest heart, from all my cells, and from my soul to you.
I am so excited I am writing this letter that my heart is beating and my eyes are full of tears. I don’t know what to write first, what words could convey my love and how much I miss you, miss you, miss you….
First, I will write from my childhood’s sweetest time, the days when my heart and soul were a beautiful garden and you were my gardener. You supported me as a girl and daughter. When Mom forced me to wash the hands of family members for meals, you ignored her and said, “No, everybody must wash their own hands. My daughter is the queen of our house.”
In your greatest decisions, you often looked to me with your eyes full of appreciation. One day you asked, “My daughter, your mother and I are going to buy a new floor for the living room. Which one is your favorite?” Or, with an angelic voice, you asked, “I am going to talk at an international conference. What should I wear?” I was small but I felt big when you asked me such questions. I felt that I was someone important in my house.
When I made dinner you came into the kitchen. Your smile was the spice of my cooking. You helped me, but at the table when everybody licked their fingers and said food was so tasty, you replied, “My daughter is the best cook,” and you winked at me. You provided me everything I needed. You gave me the gift of Hangama’s songs. You bought me a greenish dress and said it was the color of my hopes! During that time, I hardly knew the meaning of need. But when you went to the heavens, I understood the meaning of loss.
I remember how you supported my education; you said only knowledge will recover our sick society! You encouraged me to become a leader who will speak to millions of people and say, “Nobody will give us Afghan women our rights. We must struggle and we must take our rights!” Your words shone like stars in my heart. You bought books for me and taught me to respect myself, love myself as a woman, and never give up, even when life is difficult. You, my angel father, taught me that I’m not only an Afghan woman, I belong to the world. You taught me to respect humanity because we are all created to love and there must be no hate in our hearts.
You empowered me when you said, “If I die, I am sure you will find your way, my wise daughter.” I am so very thankful for your kindness—a gift that now, since I lost you, feels like a dream.
My Dearest Father:
When I see a father who loves his daughter, when I see a brother struggle for his sister to earn a scholarship and study abroad, when I see a husband love his wife, I remember you. But when I see a father lock the door of the house to prevent his daughter from going to school, when I see a brother force his sister into marriage, when I see a husband kill his pregnant wife, I hate men. I really hate those Afghan men.
I remember when I wore my burqa and you didn’t like it so you bought flowers to put in my hair. I said that the burqa hides the flowers, but you said, “No matter. When you take the burqa off, you will smell the flowers.”
My Dearest Father:
After many difficulties, I have become an educated Afghan woman. I studied hard—but Dad, who really cares about my education? I’ve been told that my salary is shameful because women should stay home to raise children. I’ve been told that we cannot work outside the home because free, independent women might influence Afghan girls.
After you left, everything changed and my life seemed destroyed. I had only two friends: pain and tears. Ask God. He will tell you what my life was like without you. I was treated like an animal. I was told a donkey was better than me because it could work harder. I was not allowed to talk aloud or wear my favorite clothes. I was beaten hard when the next-door neighbor heard my voice, when the strange male guest saw my shoes in the hall, when my clothes were hung outside in the yard. My rights were imprisoned in a place full of ignorance and torture.
You taught me not to complain about life’s ups and downs. Please don’t blame me when I now complain. How can I sit silent? How, how, how?
My Dearest Father:
I was like a king with you—and what happens when a king loses his kingdom?
I know how you would respond: “You are not a child now. You are a grown woman.” But let me tell you, Dad, I still need your support and kindness.
Yes, I am a mother now and I know how it feels when my child cries and wants me to hold him; every morning and every night, I pray for the souls of all parents. It might be crazy, but I still need you like my child needs me. I need to call you, talk with you, and put my head in your lap.
I search and search and I can feel that you are not in this world. Father, please come in my dreams. There I can talk to you aloud and ask you how to find myself again. I will ask you for heaven’s address, for the address of someone just like you! Promise to come tonight.
I love you.
A Nameless Afghan Woman
Photo: REUTERS/Insiya Syed