I write because I want to be the voice of those who have always been marginalized. I write because I have witnessed events that are not narrated anywhere. This is my way of revealing what I have heard, seen, and lived. My aim is to convey the bitter taste of belonging to a minority whose interests and existence are not recognized by the dominant discourse. As a female homosexual living under a misogynist group, I consider it my duty to write about corners of society that have been intentionally left unexplored and turned into forbidden domains. I write because it is the only way out of mourning, oppression, and suppression.
The Taliban came a few months after “she” left. Now, three hundred and eighty days have passed since the darkness spread everywhere. All my existence has been swallowed up by destruction: my city, my friends, my university, my job, my love, my country, my memories, my hope, my dreams, my future, and my present. For a year, I have stood on top of a pile of dirt staring at the ashes of my dreams. I’m still in shock. I think everything I hear and see is a nightmare that I see while awake.
I want a sledgehammer to fall on me and get me out of this damn nightmare. Accepting now and this moment is unpleasant for me. In the last year, I have been suffering constant disgust. I hate the Taliban! I hate these killers! I am disgusted with them and their rotten thinking that has dehumanized me and all my peers. I am disgusted with those who imprisoned us in the corners of the houses.
The Taliban’s crimes extend beyond their slaughters, massacres, and mullah-kangaroo-courts. They have placed both people and their hopes in the hands of death squads at the same time. The Taliban are criminals because they have assaulted my hometown, the safe haven of my dreams and generation. They have taken away from me and us the possibility of living in the present. I have been permanently banished to the past. I have been exiled to the days when I believed that blue was the warmest colour and that I was the most chosen woman on earth.
During this past year, I have reviewed everything that has happened to us a thousand times. I am so lost in myself that I rarely leave the house. I have lost all my self-confidence ever since “she” left and the Taliban have conquered everyone and everywhere. There was a time in my life when I was a beautiful, passionate, active, and ambitious young woman, who thought the ground beneath her feet was sturdy and solid. Now, I have been standing on a fault. Every knock on the door and every sudden sound shakes me to the core. My father says that these are signs of paranoia and melancholy. He says, “Living in the shadow of constant fear may make people feel anxious and delusional so that they cannot distinguish between reality and fantasy.” He assures me every time that he would find a way to save me. In response, I get more scared and self-absorbed.
In truth, I have been estranged from all the male members of my family since the Taliban came to power. Somewhere, deep inside, I am scared of them. I stay away from my father, who is my most logical, kindest and most stable support for me. A voice in my head says, “If he also knows that there is a colourful butterfly flying in my heart, won’t he also be an accomplice of the Taliban for burying it?”
If he knows that my body and soul are free from all restrictions, won’t he become my jailer and guard? If the father finds out that his only daughter is not going to be the property of any man, will he still love me? Wouldn’t he be trapped into the Taliban’s blind hatred toward women? However, I understand that his main concern is being able to support me and shield me from Taliban attacks. But if he ever knows my secret, won’t he become my enemy?
In secret, I am also afraid of him. However, my father says, “Fear is the most natural response of the brain to danger, and this instinct has been the main reason for the survival of the human race.” I merely keep silent and shake my head. I don’t tell him that sometimes I am also afraid of him.
I’m not saying that every one of my fears are real. All the horrible news I hear is real. I know that outside this four-walled chamber, there is a bloodbath and madness. I am terrified of two current scary realities, inside and outside the house. I am afraid of seeing the faces of men with guns in their hands and turban on their heads who do not understand my language. I am in awe of God’s soldiers who are unlike any men I know. They have nothing in common with my brother, father, or male classmates at my university. I am afraid of their whips and weapons and their staring eyes. The hatred floating in their voice, movements, and presence dries up the blood in my veins. I, like thousands of other women, fear the Taliban to the core of bone.
This fear has grounded me and kept me at home. I no longer have any motivation to be in society. When I remember what they have done to me, my people, my land, my city, and my memories, my heart is empty of all comforts and desires. When I look at their angry faces and swollen veins, I can smell the malodor of blood and violence. Blood smells like death. A smell like rotting stalks and rusty iron. The Taliban are murderers, and this fact makes me enraged.
Every time when I crawl into the corner of my room, I pull the curtain of the only window in the room and seek refuge from this darkness to another darkness. I close my eyes and think of the silent eyes of all the victims, the dead, the displaced and the survivors of the Taliban attack. Sometimes, I can hear the screams of women, mothers and girls. These days, with news of shootings and killings spreading from mouth to mouth, my father has banned listening to the radio and watching TV at home. He says that we must protect the rest of our mental health against this amount of disaster! What a vain hope!
I will, however, pen a few lines for you if my constant anxiety about hearing disaster news permits. Sometimes I feel paralyzed. I feel a burning in my heart and I cry loudly. It has been a year since I became a refugee. My last refuge is my father’s house. This is the last refuge for women like me who have been exiled behind the walls of their fathers,’ husbands, or brothers’ houses. As for me, I find peace only behind the high, clay walls of this old building, under its gabled roof, in the heart of Kabul. The short and false peace I know is tied to a strand of hair. If someone knows the story of my forbidden love, I will lose my life.
As I compose these lines, the stillness around me tells me that night has fallen and the city lies in the arms of oblivion. Now, the night has spread its broad and black skirt over the wounded body of my city and the nightmare of my awakening has begun. For a year, I have had nightmares every day until midnight while still awake.
Anousha is the pen name of a lesbian writer who lives in Afghanistan.