They were dark and difficult days, everywhere covered by the darkness of cruelty in the land in which everyone is captive, in the government in which everyone is poor, in the time when everyone trusted in God. In this time a child was born. An innocent child, unaware of land, government, and time.
The child was born in the ruined land, to an impoverished home, but with motherly love. She was named Zahra. Zahra means shine or lighting. That child was me. I am Zahra, a child who was weak, but grew to become strong, a child who was unaware, but became aware, who was speechless, but became a strong speaker, who was calm and quiet but became nomadic, who was nothing, but became everything.
From the first moment of my life when a spirit breathed in my body, my mother was with me. My mother, who gave me life, taught me to be her assistant and one day to become her pride.
When I was born under a government of cruelty and corruption, she taught me how to help. She taught me that to be strong I could not give in to the effects of a cruel environment and cruel people. She told me to stand against cruelty, corruption, and injustice and to defend the rights of those who are oppressed.
When I entered childhood she taught me to walk, and then she taught me to stand against difficulties. She taught me to stand up after every fall, to not allow past defeats to capture me, but to capture them instead.
She taught me to speak with her sweet speeches. She taught me to raise my voice for the rights of the oppressed against cruelty and corruption. She told me to never take guns and weapons but instead, raise my voice to take my rights in the right way.
When I turned seven, she took my hand and took me to school and said: “The only weapons a successful person needs are knowledge and education. You have to use this powerful weapon and shoot down cruelty and lawlessness. You must be equipped with knowledge; it is as strong as military equipment—you must acquire it until you can assist those who are captives of this government and time. Learn education to be proud of your mother. Be a person who I am proud to call my daughter. Be a person who helps her people. Be independent, not a captive and colonized.”
When I learned to read and write, she told me: “Raise your pen to write the emancipation letter of this cruel government’s slaves who are sitting behind the closed doors of freedom. Be the person who creates the biggest demonstration for freedom in the history of Afghanistan.”
When I was hungry she gave me her food and taught me that you have to face many problems, tolerate many difficulties, but water down people with the water of peace.
When I was tired of life she took my hands and said: “No, this life is not for being tired, but this life is the chance for refreshing the flowers of this garden. Now is the time to save and protect yourself and your environment from drying up. This life is a spring for blooming after passing a difficult winter. We have a big supply of experience from war and its results, so let’s use from this supply and save the life of the next generation.”
My mother, who had the greatest role in my growing and awakening, gave me the power to be strong. I was born during the Taliban government and ever since then, living in a peaceful world has been my ambition.
Now that I am older and educated, it is time to stand up for the wishes of my mother, stand against cruelty and colonialism, and stand against those men who stood against peace. I have to study to save my country from the biggest enemy, which is illiteracy, and to help it stand on its feet. I have to raise my pen to write the emancipation letter and I have to become fresh to announce the spring.
I have to become a person who can say proudly to my mother: “I am the small Zahra, who was nothing, but from your existence becomes everything.”
By Zahra T., age 17
Photo: Mette Bastholm/Helmand PRT/Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Department for International Development