Fleeing in Burqa 

© Suraya Dalil 10 December 2001

It is now three months from the 11th of September – a historical date for Americans as well as starting point for changes in my country Afghanistan. It was always a question for me and many other Afghans that how the horrible situation and sufferings in Afghanistan can come to an end? When I look at around me, I see each and every of us have been badly affected from conflict in the country in general and from the Taliban’s policy in particular. Millions of people, women and children have been victim of conflict, poverty, discrimination, and injustice. 

Did you know that Afghanistan was a country in this century, where girls were forbidden from going to school? Did you know that in Afghanistan women was not allowed to work outside their houses? It is not that this is part of our culture. We used to have female teachers, Doctors, engineers etc especially in the urban cities. 
My family and I were living in Mazar (north of Afghanistan) till Taliban captured the city in 1998. My family and I decided to leave the city. This was because first we are from minorities and knew Taliban would do a massacre of minorities. Secondly I was working (with the United Nation) and Taliban regime meant no female employment and therefore serious economic and social implications for me, and thirdly if we would stay we had to leave in an extremely threatened/violent situation. 

We were twelve family members who left our home toward Pakistan the neighboring country. We came across north to south of the country toward the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. We had to cross the frontline – we did so… There were more than 100 children, women and men, all escaping from Mazar, crossing the frontline. 
The frontline seemed quite but busy (with many passengers) on that sunny morning. We had to walk for three hours to cross the mountains. I was on a donkey as well as my mother and my mother in low. We reached a point where it was the middle of the frontline, where the journey with donkeys was over and started to move forward by foot (this was the starting point of Taliban area). Suddenly, exchange of fire started. It become intense within few minutes and rockets exchanges started. We did not know where to go. We had a hill a head of us and had to climb. I was with my mother and mother in low. We lost the rest of the family members including my three years old daughter who was with her aunt. It was summer and weather was hot. With burqa on us we started running. It was a dessert. We, three, were among few other passengers (mainly women and children) running to get distance from the center of the frontline. Finally, we reached a place where we saw local people. 
It took us hours to find the rest of the family including my child in that area. We found a car and made our journey to Jalalabad (city near the border). It took us around six hours to reach the city. Another painful event was waiting for us there. 
Taliban arrested my husband and my father. They were put in jail and we (women and children) were taken to a guesthouse. Our queries on why they do so, have no answer. The untold answer was that we are non-Taliban and non-Pashton (ethnic group). The rest of us including two children spent six days in a room – in an isolated building, days and night praying for our men to be released. They were finally released from jail, after we pay some money. Then smugglers made possible our way to cross the Taliban checkpoints and go to Pakistan.

This was achieved because we had money to pay. Around 5 thousand of people were killed in Mazar when we left and tens of people were killed or injured in the frontline.


Second History:

I have an aunt who used to work for Govt. for many years. She has two children; a son and a daughter. Her husband was killed 15 years back. She made whatever possible to raise her children in the best possible way. Her children were going to school. She was economically self-sufficient. This was continued for her and her family till 1992, when Mujahiddin came to Kabul and internal fighting in the city started. In 1993, her 16 years old son went to Iran to work and find money for them. He started working in a small factory – a heavy and risky job for a child- away from his family. The situation gets deteriorated from Sept. 1996, when Taliban captured Kabul. A painful history started for women, children and all civilians. Women were banned form employment and girls were banned form education. My aunt’s 11 years old daughter could not go to school anymore. Struggles for survival became more difficult.

She was registered as a widow and therefore received food rations from international aid community. This covered their survival needs to food.

The daughter was growing up and was at risk, risk of forced marriage, trafficking etc. She finally decided to marry her 15 years old daughter with her cousin, in order to safe her daughter’s life from being targeted by Taliban.

Time pass on… My aunt has serious psychological problem. She like millions of Afghans was victim of war and in particular Taliban who made the situation worst for her. She suffered more than anyone else in our family because she is a widow and poor. Will her daughter go through the same discriminatory-based suffers too?


Suraya Dalil is Afghan and she lives in Islamabad Pakistan.


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