The Narration of the Fall
Writer: Zahra Tarshi
It was October 27, 2021, and the second flight of Kam Air Airlines to Abu Dhabi, among the family members, only I was eligible to travel to the UAE. I had to leave home for Kabul airport at 4 in the morning. It was dark. I had not slept all night and I was thinking that according to the Taliban rule, whether they will allow me to fly or not because I was not accompanied by a mahram on this trip. The night before the flight I went to my father’s house to say goodbye, but I could not speak. I thought to myself that this might be the last time I came to my father’s home. For every woman, years after her marriage, her father’s home is her first foothold and safest place in the world. I did not know how to say goodbye to my parents. Although I was always on business trips, I always hoped to return home. But this time everything was different. I felt grief in my throat but I did not let anyone see my tears. I did not dare to say goodbye. I just said, father, mother, pray for your daughter as always. Just this!
All my belongings were limited to a few pairs of clothes and my suitcase did not weigh up to seven kilos. Can life be packed in a suitcase? It was 4 a.m. Zoha and Mehrsa were asleep. I did not want to wake them up. Because I did not know what to say to them. Sometimes it’s hard to answer children’s questions. I was even worried about hugging them tightly and waking them up with the sound of my involuntary crying. I just hugged their blankets and cried with all my might. For myself, I spent years trying to make bases of life. I fell down. I stood up again and continued. I wished when my children grew up, they would never remember their childhood. I did not know what would happen and whether my trip would be successful or not! But I knew I had to do something and not have to witness my gradual death every day. I did not know how many days, weeks, or months I could not see my children. I had not gone yet, I missed them. For a mother, even the thought of being away from her young children is horrible. But now this bitter impression has become a forced reality and I had no choice but to leave. Sometimes life has no choice but to be strong. I had no choice but to be strong.
Our house in Kabul was close to the Passport Office. The long line of women caught my attention. There were no men in the queue, and it was clear that the queue belonged only to female passport applicants. That is, what time did these women come to the passport office that at 4 in the morning, the queue has become so long? Many of them may have spent all night in the queue. Many of them had small children who slept in their mother’s arms. Everyone was standing on their feet and holding their documents.
We arrived at the airport. The search was not like in the past. Most search devices were inactive. The number of employees was much lower than before. I knew the majority of the airport staff because of my many business trips. They looked as if I saw them a few years ago not a few months ago. They looked like youths became old in a few months. Armed fighters of the Taliban were walking among them. The first and last time I talked to a Taliban fighter was there at the airport. He asked me in Pashto why you are leaving? Why are you leaving your homeland? I replied in my mother tongue, “I will be back one day.” It was not just a word. Today, this sentence is the greatest wish of my heart. We went through the inspection process. It was time to check the fingerprint and the output seal. I did not have any political activity in my career. I was a member of the leadership board of the Afghan Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the founder of a kindergarten called Khane Khorshid based on the Montessori International Method. The kindergarten has no interest to continue like me.
However, before starting my business, I was an employee of an American company for a long time, as well as an employee of the Department of Parliamentary Affairs. I was scared when I put my finger on the biometric. Not for myself that in those moments only the faces of my family remind me. I put my finger on the device. A Taliban fighter was standing behind the airport clerk, looking intently at the computer screen. I thought to myself that naturally, all my accidents would appear on the computer screen. The airport staff noticed my concern. He did not say a word or shake his head.
He just looked at me and tried to assure me with his gaze that this soldier is not literate enough to read the content on the screen. That look really calmed me down. I still pray to God to take care of that kind employee. The truth is that understanding does not even need to be explained. Anyone who wants to understand you will understand without even talking for hours and this was the last beautiful picture I remember of Kabul. Kabul airport was severely damaged. The shop windows in the waiting room were all broken and their belongings were destroyed.
The wave of despair and sadness was spread on the door and the wall of the hall. You could see some worry, stress, and grief on the faces of the passengers. Now maybe Zoha and Mehrsa had woken up and they must have asked their mother from their father. The day before, in order not to be shocked by my absence, I explained the matter to them, and they were happy. “Mother, I only bring my kite,” said Zoha. Mehrsa asks if there is a playground where we want to go? Do you let us go to the park again? Because after the Taliban came to my city, I could not even allow my daughters to go out of the block. I did not want them to be faced with such horrible faces at this age, as a child. Everything was going so hard. Apparently, life in this land had completely stopped since August 15, and finally, it was time to fly. As the plane made its way to the Runway, I saw Taliban fighters sitting on the floor on pieces of carpet, with Kalashnikovs on their shoulders, holding green tea glasses and talking hard and watching the planes, as if they had just arrived at the amusement park. This time I did not feel safe even in the sky of my country. The moment we finally arrived in Abu Dhabi. The inspection situation at Kabul airport was probably reported to Abu Dhabi, so on the contrary, it always took more than two hours to check our luggage. After leaving Abu Dhabi Airport, I took a bus from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. How tired I was. I felt like I was carrying 32 years of life on my shoulders. It was night when I arrived in Dubai. Every time I came to Dubai, the first thing I liked; was walking in its streets. Without anyone even noticing what you are wearing. Without knowing where you are going at all. Go for a walk, read a poem to yourself and enjoy watching passers-by. But this time I had no desire except for full-time office work in the hotel room and I just wanted silence and peace. I considered myself a mourner of a loss called homeland. The next day, I went to the visa office for the first time, and they told me very clearly that we would not issue visas to Afghan citizens at all. By hearing this my knees became weak. I did not want them to see my weakness. We, the women of Afghanistan, have been broken many times but we never bent our knees and no one helped us except ourselves. I wanted to cry. I do not consider crying to be a weakness. Crying is a sign of the health of the human soul and emotion. I just asked why? The answer I heard was as heavy as the answer to the bitter truth of our destiny. “Because you do not have a government,” he said bluntly, and asked me again, “Do you have one?”
I did not have an answer to this question. I am not a weak woman. Always problems and limitations of life have motivated me to try harder. I have always sincerely owed the successes of my life to the problems of life. But this time it was different. This time was not about me. When I thought about the future of Zoha and Mehrsa in that country, I felt bad. I wish I did not make them hopeful. What should I say to them now? I had no answer for that Emirati official. I went back and sat in the waiting hall. Where they could no longer see me. My cell phone rang. It was a government number. I replied. He said: I am the same person who spoke to you a few minutes ago; Do you work in Dubai? I said: Yes. I have been traveling to Dubai for work. I have residential visa since 2018, I am not a tourist. He said: Can you come back again? When I returned, he got up. He was an Emirati Arab. “I’m sorry I didn’t speak well,” he said. I said you told the truth; I did not have an answer for that reason. He said: “I have instructed my staff to complete all the steps of obtaining the residence of your family members, which usually take 20 working days until this evening, and you should go to the Afghan Consulate in Dubai to get the Birth of Certificate.” I wondered if there was still a consulate. He said: Yes. We still recognize the previous government. I quickly went to the consulate. When I got there, I thought I had entered small Afghanistan. Ashraf Ghani’s photo was removed from the walls, and the red, green, and black flag was placed on all the tables, and on all the walls was a photo of Ahmad Shah Massoud. My whole being had become an inner hatred. It made me feel at home here. The behavior of the consular staff was very good. They did my job quickly and I got my husband and children to stay within three working days. I went to the street that night. I do not know how many hours I walked. I just walked and talked to my god. I complained about him just like a friend. I complained. I told him about my pain. I know he knew, but I missed a long conversation with the best friend in my life. I thanked him. Because he always holds me tightly in his arms. My God is not like their God. My God is a friend. He hears you whenever you want. He listens to you. He is not like their god. He does not lose his friendship with me for a few meters more fabric around his head. No, my God, he is not like their God at all.
Before coming to the UAE, I had packed all my belongings and furniture. I thought to myself that after we left, no one would bother to collect these items. Even though I did not know if I could get a residence permit or not! But because I believed that whatever you think in life will happen to you. For this reason, not only did I think about “I can” and “It will happen”, but I also acted on it.
let’s move on. I’m sure life of all of us have changed after the regime change at every level and in every situation, we were in, and we all have a lot of unspoken things to write about. Because there is no trust in historians. Unfortunately, our real history is always oral.
Let’s write so that our future generations will know what the reality of our time was like.
Today is March 8th. World Women Solidarity Day. Being a woman used to be difficult in Afghanistan, but now being a woman in my country is horrible. I wrote all this until one day if Zoha and Mehrsa grew up and read my writings know that their mother, like many other women in this land, never gave up on the difficulties of life. Where they were not strong, they pretended to be strong to continue. Many times we did not feel good. Many times they killed our motivation and efforts. But we continued, and that’s important is to continue. Maybe the times did not help us even one percent, but we tried to build with one hundred percent.
To me, they are both heroic women who take to the streets to demand women’s rights and shout for freedom, as well as women who did their best to save the lives of their families. I apologize; Those who chant, we are rooted in the soil. Their thoughts are still intact. We are human. We are not bean seeds whose roots are underground. We are human beings and our roots are in our spiritual and intellectual belongings. Congratulations on March 8 to all free women in Afghanistan. The same women who have so far prevented the Taliban from being recognized by their presence and voice. These are the women who have no weapon but will.
March 8 means that no man is allowed to manipulate a woman. That is, no woman belongs to anyone but herself. March 8 means the participation of women in all political, economic, cultural, social, sports, and artistic fields. Celebrate this day and long live the memory of Afghan women who stood up for their rights at the cost of their lives.
Translated by: Ali Rezaei