A friend of mine contacted me after a long nine-month wait to let me know that my daughter’s fingerprinting appointment was scheduled for March 10, 2023, just two days away. Urging me to act quickly, my friend asked me to make my way to Kabul as soon as possible. Overwhelmed with happiness, I began my trip without delay and arrived in Kabul after 48 hours of travel.
Accompanied by my cousin (son of my paternal aunt), I arrived at the passport office at four o’clock in the morning. Despite my hopes of being the first in line, I was met with the sight of hundreds of women who had already gathered ahead of me. As the morning wore on, even more women arrived and joined the queue that snaked its way through the alley. We stood there, waiting patiently, but the passport office was supposed to open its doors at nine o’clock. Throughout the wait, some women attempted to cut the line using deceitful tactics, and if they were unsuccessful, they would form a second queue.
The Taliban militants resorted to using stun batons to establish order among the crowds, despite their own role in contributing to the chaos. A woman in a burqa holding a child was ushered to the front of the line by a militant, who had brought along three or four young children. Having arrived early in the morning and endured hours of waiting, we all expressed our displeasure at the line-jumping, stating that we were determined not to be replaced by latecomers. In response to the commotion, a militant barked, “Shut up, o siasar! Don’t Talk!” Despite the protests of hundreds of women who had queued for hours, the woman with the children was allowed to proceed to the front of the line.
As the Passport Office commenced its operations, we slowly began to enter the building. Suddenly, a high-pitched shriek emanated from the entrance gate, where a distraught young woman was frantically searching for her missing phone. She was at a loss as to who might have stolen it from her.
As the document collectors arrived and collected the necessary documents, we went to a bench in the large hall and awaited our turn. The officials called out names one by one over the loudspeaker, but would not hesitate to berate and insult any women who appeared restless or stood too close to the men’s queue, or whose children were making noise.
My daughter’s name was finally announced and I received the payment slip. I realized I had forgotten to bring the required money and entrusted it to my cousin to prevent it from getting lost. Despite my frantic pleas, the Taliban guards refused to let my cousin enter the building. I struggled to extricate myself from the crowd of people and managed to bring my cousin inside the building, begging profusely to the guards who did not understand my language, nor I theirs. Once I had retrieved the money, I stood in line at the bank to pay it and obtain the necessary bank receipt.
As the last person in line, my daughter’s condition deteriorated. She was suffering from diarrhea and vomiting. Despite my appeals, I was denied entry to the bank by the woman responsible for managing the queue. She displayed a callous attitude, saying: “Everyone has problems, everyone is sick, stay where you are, Khala!”
Unable to bear the situation any longer, we left the passport office at noon. I entrusted my cousin with the payment slip and rushed my severely malnourished and dehydrated daughter to the hospital. That night, we sought refuge at a friend’s house, and by the next day, my daughter’s condition had improved slightly.
My cousin had gone to the “Da Afghanistan Bank” branch in Khushal Khan, paid the money, and obtained a bank receipt.
The following day, I returned to the passport office, arriving at eleven in the morning. The fingerprinting queue was over a thousand people long, and the hot weather made conditions unbearable. Chaos reigned, as people failed to maintain proper queues, leading to shouting matches and even physical confrontations.
An hour-long closure of the office for employee prayer and lunch exacerbated my hunger pangs. It was impossible to leave there for lunch and return, and it was only a few moments before street vendors appeared, hawking food items. I purchased a burger made of ice-cold chips and bread to keep me going.
As the fingerprinting process resumed, we all patiently lined up. However, my peaceful wait was disrupted when a young woman in a black hijab brazenly shoved me aside and took her place in front of me. I protested, but she simply averted her gaze and hurled an insult at me, “You people are ugly, and that is why you are being maltreated. You really deserve this.”
To my dismay, she then proceeded to usher in other women who were her relatives, leaving the rest of us powerless and voiceless. Though I was fuming with anger, I felt helpless in the face of such blatant unfairness.
As we inched forward in the queue, only ten women were permitted to enter the office for fingerprinting every time the gate opened. However, amidst the chaos and noise, the women often engaged in a heated competition that prompted the Taliban to resort to curses and violent measures to maintain control.
Around 03:00 o’clock in the afternoon, my daughter’s condition had worsened. I desperately pleaded with the woman in charge for assistance. Seeing angiocath in my daughter’s hand, she granted me permission to enter the fingerprinting office.
Finally, at 4:30 p.m., my daughter’s fingerprinting was completed, and I left the office with a sigh of relief. However, the ordeal was far from over. Despite my scheduled appointment to collect my daughter’s passport from the post office on March 15, 2023, I am now a week past the due date and have visited the post office four times, yet I have been unable to obtain the passport.