Growing up in a male dominated and violent society, my father was the only man who helped me to believe that not all men are like the ones who harass, insult, and kill women.
My father taught me how to become a responsible, honest, and humble person. He supported my education and choices and he always persuades me to achieve my goals.
To honor my father, I would like to share his life story here in his own words.
“I was born in a green and beautiful village in 1944. My father was the village’s master, so we were almost rich and had lots of lands and gardens, most of which came from my grandparents.
“During my childhood there were no vaccines for diseases such as smallpox, chickenpox, or measles. These diseases killed many children. From eight or ten children in a family, only three or four could survive. And in that time we did not have doctors. My father had a very sad death. There were people who had not studied medicine at all, yet they treated patients. One of these doctors was injecting medicine into my father. He died, even though he was not very sick.”
My father told me how the world is completely different from when he grew up. Because there was no electricity when he was young his family used simple but smoky lamps called “mouse lights” fueled with mando oil on a cotton wick. To make the oil, camels and oxen pulled around a big stone using strong rope so the pressure squeezed out the oil.
My father continued: “We did not have cars. We used animals for transportation. We made fires for cooking food because we did not have gas. Most of the time we exchanged things for goods. If we wanted to buy one kilo of sugar, we paid a few kilos of wheat.
“My school was good. Many of my teachers were women and my English teacher was from England. I was a good student, especially in mathematics. I remember a very difficult geometry exam. Only one student passed and it was me. During the examinations, I went to our garden to study. Once villagers said to my father not to let me to study too much or I would become crazy.
“After graduating from high school, I wanted to leave the country and go to college, but my father’s death prevented this. My eldest brother left the family and went to the city to get remarried. He did not like his first wife because she had been chosen by my mother and she was older than he.
“My mother told me: ‘If you leave home, who will take care of your brother, sister and sister-in-law?’ In that moment it was very difficult for me to decide. College was waiting for me. My dream was to become a doctor but I sacrificed my dreams for my family. I started to teach in the country and opened a shop during the afternoon.
“After a while my mother decided I should get married. She told me she would find the most beautiful girl, and she was right. The first time that I met your mother, she was only fourteen years old and very beautiful, but skinny. We were engaged for four months.
“Even though she was living in the city, I tried to see her two or three times per week. I will never forget when I met your mom for the first time. When I went to the room, I saw that she had one leg. I was surprised that she had only one leg.
“But I remembered that people say ‘when you meet your wife or husband for the first time and tread on her or his foot, you will be the head and master of the family.’ I went and pushed her and tread on her foot.”
My father went on to tell me about some of the other events when he was younger, like the big local weddings with all the dancing and traditions. Here is what he said:
“Three days before the wedding, we invited all our relatives and neighbors. We had several parties such as henna bandan. One day before our wedding, the bridegroom’s family went to the bride’s home with country music and a horse covered with a green shawl and a woman as bridesmaid.
“The bridegroom was on another horse. They walked through the country’s alleys with dancers and country musicians in front. They went to the bridegroom’s house, where they prepared a lunch of meat soup, salad, and homemade bread. Every three people shared one big bowl, dipping the bread into the bowl. At the end they divided the meat between them. Women and men did not celebrate together.
“When I look back, I see that many things happened to my life and it surprises me that I am alive. After the coup d’état in 1979, people started to hate the government. Unknown people started to kill teachers.
“One day I was at school when two people came and took me with them. I knew they would kill me. I had two children and your mother was pregnant. They covered my eyes and tied my hands and took me to a garden and put me in a hole. I thought I would be killed. But there were some people in the garden and one of them knew me. He went to the village and told the villagers I was in danger and then the village people came and told the killers: ‘We want our teacher.’ They saved my life.
“We had to leave our village when the war started in 1979. In the city, we lived with my father-in-law until I could buy a piece of land and build a house, which we are still living in.
“Another time during the Taliban regime, I was working as a clerk because the Taliban did not let me teach mathematics.
“The Taliban put me in jail for one week because my son was listening to music. It was the same year when the Taliban started to put headmasters in jail without any reason. My nephew was a leader. No one wanted to help him. But I brought him home and hid him. If the Taliban knew that, they would have killed both of us.”
My father said that the most important thing that ever happened to him was when the president of Afghanistan, Dr. Najibullah, named him as one of best six teachers in the city. He was given a scholarship to go to Russia, but he didn’t go.
“I do not know if I did something very special during my lifetime,” he said. “But as a good teacher, I educated lots of students who have become doctors, engineers, teachers, lawyers. Now I am very happy. I am so proud of my children. I will not be worried when I die, because I am sure that all my children can take care of themselves.”
U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Sarah R. Webb