My daughter’s red scarf

By Maryam Nimrozi 

She wiped her tears and, with a lump in her throat, asks: “Which pains will be cured by my words? Will my dear daughter be alive if I tell her story?” The lump squeezes her throat harder. Tears roll down her cheeks. She stares at a corner of the room and whispers, “Oh, my daughter! My beloved daughter was buried under tons of soil. What can I do with the pain of not having her?” 

The teacher squeezes the woman’s hands gently and asks kindly, “Maybe a bit of your sadness will be relieved. What happened?” The woman sighs deeply and begins to share her story. 

 HER STORY 

I lost my husband 10 years ago when our son was still an infant. Living in a remote province, I didn’t know what to do with three young daughters and a baby. I had no other supporters. For several years, I had worked as a police officer after completing a training course.  

After becoming a widow, I returned to the same job as a policewoman in Nimruz province. To me, that job was honest service to my country and my people, and I was proud of it. Then Nimruz fell to the Taliban in the summer of 2021. There was panic everywhere. Iran’s border is open, they said. A large number of soldiers quickly fled to Iran quickly. With no man to accompany me, and my children, aged 16, 14, 12 and 10, we were unable to escape.  

In order to protect my children, I decided to flee to one of the nearby villages. As we were about to leave, I saw Taliban soldiers roaming in the alley. We had no choice but to return home to a neighbourhood where many knew I was a policeman. Some neighbours were ill-wishers whom I feared would expose me to the Taliban. I thought to myself, “I had served honestly. No one was harmed by me.” My hope was that my neighbours wouldn’t inform the Taliban, so that I could stay hidden in the house for a few days before finding a way out of the city.  

At 9 a.m. on the fourth day of hiding, someone knocked on the door. Carefully stepping behind the door, I asked, “Who are you? Who are you looking for?” They were Taliban soldiers. Angrily knocking again, one of them yelled, “Open the door! We are Islamic Emirate officers for an inspection.”  

I felt terrified. I had no idea what to do. The men were banging on the door and shouting angrily. As soon as I opened the door, seven Taliban soldiers entered our home. They turned the whole house upside down. They knew I was a policewoman, perhaps informed by locals.  

During the inspection, I noticed that the Taliban were staring at my 16-year-old daughter during the inspection. A shiver ran down my spine. Angrily, they asked me where I had hidden my weapon. The more I insisted I didn’t have a weapon at home, the louder they shouted. Finally, after finding no weapons in the house, their commander, still staring at my daughter, said, “We take booty from the families of soldiers. Your daughter is the booty of your house. You should marry her to the mujahedeen. This is the custom of jihad.” 

“My daughter is too young. She still doesn’t know the meaning of life,” I said, shaking and struggled to hide my daughter behind me. The Taliban commander replied, “It’s not a request, it’s an order. Prepare the girl for tomorrow. We’re returning for marriage.”  

My daughter was frozen in place in fear and tears streamed down her face from her beautiful eyes. It was as if she had been electrocuted. Despite my fear, I stayed firm and hugged my adorable daughter. I tried to comfort her. I promised not to let this happen. I put on my chador and headed to the mullah’s house. I also went to the neighbourhood elder. I appealed to them and asked for help. They said they were powerless against the armed merciless Taliban.  

I have only one brother, who was living in Kunduz at that time. I called him to ask that he come and pick us up. He said that he would come tomorrow. “Brother, it’s going to be late,” I pleaded. “I’ve been warned! They are taking my daughter!” My brother said to be patient, “Nothing would happen!”  

My daughter was restless and impatient because of the terror of the Taliban. Since she couldn’t sleep, she walked around the house all night. All my attempts to calm her down were ineffective.  

As Azaan (a call for prayer) echoed from the mosque, we prayed together. We were both exhausted. I fell asleep next to my younger children. My daughter also lay down next to me.  

When I awoke when the sun rose, my daughter was not there. There was no sign of her inside the house. As I walked to the yard, I called her name worriedly. The door to the outdoor toilet was closed. I realized that she was there. I called to her, “Dear, are you here?” I didn’t hear an answer. I waited but it took a long time. Once again, I called her name. There was no response. It worried me.  

The lock on the toilet door was loose. It opened with a touch of pressure. I pushed the door a little more and said, “My sweetheart, what are you doing, darling?” I saw my daughter’s red scarf tied to the window. After I fully opened the door and entered the toilet, I saw that my daughter had hung herself from the window frame. I shouted and rushed to her. I tried to lift my daughter’s lifeless body from the window with all my strength. Taliban terror caused my daughter to kill herself.  

Neighbours heard me and came to help. But it was too late. My precious daughter with all her hopes and dreams is buried beneath tons of soil. I will never forgive the Taliban.  

Maryam Nimrozi is a former policewoman.   

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