Editor’s note: Afghan elections officials on October 6 wrapped up a three-week process of registering candidates for next April’s presidential vote. Twenty-seven people, including a prominent Islamist former warlord, submitted their candidacies.
“Today I am happy to announce that although I am a weak person, I have permission to be a servant of my people.”
Like a worried tree in the fall winds, all my body shook when I heard his words on the TV.
“I have respect for the rights of women because paradise is under the feet of mothers. A father has one right, but a mother has three rights. I will try to make life better for women as they wish.”
For a moment, I thought the words came from the mouth of an honest person, that my ears didn’t deceive me and I was hearing from a leader who is honest, who worked for the people and would abide by his promises.
But unfortunately I heard the words from Mr. Warlord—Abdul Rasoul Sayyaf—who is now a member of Parliament, but his group has been accused by human rights organizations of human rights violations during the civil war period.
Back then we lived in the east of Kabul. We had a house and a comfortable life. But Kabul, the city where I was born, was divided into many war zones, and each party controlled ten kilometers of the city. They fired rockets and bombs, killed innocent people, and destroyed the homes of thousands. Almost every family lost someone, but they couldn’t bury them in the cemetery, so the dead were buried in the houses or abandoned for dogs to eat. There was no chance to bury the dead while rockets rained from the sky.
From nowhere, a rocket hit our neighbor’s home and killed a woman with a one-month-old child. The rocket killed the entire family. When my parents, with the help of other neighbors, went to see if anyone was left alive, they heard the little child cry out.
We didn’t have milk for her. For two days and two nights we were underground and had no chance to get out because of the rockets. Our garden had an apple tree and all of us ate the apples but the baby could not and after three days she died. I remember the sound of her cries and the moment that we buried her in the destroyed living room of her house.
My father decided we would escape. He divided our family in three for safety and I went with my father. I was nine years old and we were to walk to a more secure part of Kabul.
Both sides of the road were full of sandbags with armed men standing guard. We were stopped over and over again, more than twenty-five times, and then one of the soldiers said, “You are not allowed to leave here. We are here to guard you, so go back home and if you die you will be a martyr or a shaheed, alive in Paradise after death!”
My father grabbed my hands very hard and told me not to look in the eyes of the men. He begged them to “leave me to help my daughter to a safe place. I will come back and stay at home, but now I can’t do it. Please, please help, I am with my child!”
The commander refused so we were stuck. Then a rocket came and all of us fell to the ground.
It seemed like there were pieces of hands and legs everywhere. My father had injuries to his hands and arms and was bleeding. I could see the bones in his arms. But we made it that day to a safer part of Kabul. My father said he was afraid they would take me hostage.
I still dream of those nights and days.
I was hopeful that democracy in our country would heal my pains. But things got worse when many of those warlords became Parliament members or received high positions in government.
Today, after a decade, again we go into the curtained rooms to vote for candidates, and I wonder, “Who will vote for these people?” How can such men deceive ordinary people a hundred times? Who will believe their promises and who will campaign for them?
I ask myself if I trust democracy any more: I want to see them in jail and in national or international courts.
But no, I see the reality that it is Afghan people who vote for them, who accept them as leaders and want them to act under their mask. I feel pity for my country. I lose hope. As a helpless woman I clench my teeth until I taste blood
I close my eyes and say “No, No, No.” Afghanistan can be a proud nation again if we all stand up against injustice and say enough is enough.
Photo: Abdul Rasul Sayyaf waves at his supporters on October 3, after registering his candidacy in next year’s presidential election. Rahmat Gul/AP