Salam Aleykom. I am Aysha and I live with my family in Afghanistan where it has been war since 1994. I am a student in a government school. The war has gone too far and every person I know fears death. Even the kids know what a suicide attack is. They know what a gun is and how to use it.
This matter causes a lot of pressure on citizens of Afghanistan, and on me. Stress and depression is everywhere. Even though I am old enough not to be afraid, I fear dark and loud sounds.
One day I realized how much my fear was controlling me because I was afraid of my environment and was worrying something bad will happen. I wondered if I would survive the day. Will I die? Will I come back home alive? I was thinking about whether to run away and if I could find a way to trust someone. I had lost hope.
That morning I went to school and after about an hour, one of my classmates came and sat beside me and said to me, “Do you mind if I ask you a question?”
I responded, “Sure, go on.”
“You and I both are stuck in ‘Why’.”
I said, “Why we are stuck in why?”
She said, “Don’t you ask yourself why we suffer or why we are afraid of the dark, why don’t we have peace and many other whys.”
I turned to her and asked: “You understand. You know how I feel. Are you lost like I am?”
She said, “Yes, and you see all the girls around us are jumping and playing and talking and having fun. They too are lost like us. But you should be brave” and, as she pointed to my head and my heart, she said, “not just in here, but also in here.”
“We are Afghanistan’s girls. We are braver then the bravest. We are the survivors of war and we will bring peace to this country. In here you should fight. You should live. Don’t let brutality inside you. There is light in every dark. There is morning after every night. There is peace after every war and there is rest after every tiredness. Sleep at night and work in morning. One day the sun will rise and you will be shining.”
I wondered what she meant. After school I went home and I wrote it in my notebook and thought about it. I asked myself why she would say that to me. But time showed me the way.
The Sixteen-Hour Attack
One day and one moment my life changed forever when the war arrived outside our school in Abdul Haq Square.
I was stuck in my school for three hours where we could do nothing but pray to Allah. I remember every second of it as I ran in fear. I remember all my classmates in the school hall with me as we took each other’s hands and asked for forgiveness and apologized and wondered if we would see our parents again. I closed my eyes and said, “Mother, father, please forgive me.” I understood then how we are braver then the brave.
When the school gates opened we ran to our houses. When I reached the door of my home I stopped for a minute and thought, “ I am alive.” I kissed my home gate and went inside.
My parents were very worried. My mother and sister hugged me and cried. I sat beside them. The attack lasted sixteen hours. At night in my bed I could hear the firings and the voices. And then I learned that there is a morning after every night.
I decided I could be like a peasant and pass my problems like a dream that never happened. Life is something we learn. We make mistakes. We face problems, but we learn from it. When I woke at sunrise everything was normal. Like every other day I ate my breakfast. I talked and laughed with my family.
Like other mornings I went to school and met my friends, who also were like the sun, up after a dark night and ready to study for a better future.
We students of Afghanistan are like the butterflies. We are very small, but we fly and are colorful. We are like ants because we are small, but we can carry a huge load, bigger than our size. We share our writings and talk about our dreams and what we want in the future. We are classmates and best friends.
Every day on my way to school I have my uniform with a white scarf that is the symbol of peace for a better, brighter future.
A bullet-ridden minibus abandoned near the building occupied by insurgents in Kabul on Sept. 13, 2011. Picture: AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq.