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Eid has no meaning while my children are hungry

This narrative was told to Zan Times via telephone: 

When I was leaving the house in the morning, my daughter came to me and asked, “Are you going begging again? Didn’t you say that I will not go begging during Eid? You were supposed to buy me a new dress and celebrate Eid like everyone else.” I could not look at her. She is a child and cannot make sense of this unjust world. When you are a mother and you don’t have food and clothes for your children and you don’t have the right to work, your pride will be broken. 

I told my daughter, “Yes, I said that I would buy clothes, but today, if I go to people’s houses, they have bought new clothes for their children and they might give away old clothes.” Some people also use dried fruit and sweets. I’m going to get you some.” I had not finished talking with her when I heard a noise. I heard the screams and cries of my granddaughter. My eldest daughter’s son was fighting with my youngest son. When I went to them, one of them was saying that this is my bread and the other was saying that this is my bread. This was not the first time I saw these two fighting over a piece of bread. 

I got upset, pulled my veil down over my face and left the house. Most of the days, the bread I find by begging is not enough for my children and my daughter.  

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I am 38 years old. Before the Taliban came to power, I worked as a cleaner in a government office and received a monthly salary of 7,000 afghani, which was enough to pay for my household expenses. I am the sole breadwinner of my family of 14 people. Three years ago, my husband was paralyzed in one arm and one leg due to high blood pressure and is unable to work. When I was on duty and had money, I was able to get treatment for him and his health has improved, but now he is not even able to speak. My husband was a day labourer before his illness. He used to earn 300 to 400 afghani daily, and our life was good then. 

I have given birth to 10 children. My two eldest daughters are married. My other eight children are with me. My eldest daughter’s husband went to Iran in search of work, but now there is no news of him. No matter how much we searched for him and sent messages everywhere, no one had seen him. My daughter was forced to come and live in my house with her three children. I have to find food for all of them. I pay a monthly rent of 1,500 afghani. I am three months behind paying my rent.  

Every morning, I go begging with my eight-year-old granddaughter. From morning until night we walk from shop to shop in Sheberghan city. Sometimes I get 150 or 180 afghani. I pay 40 afghani for a rickshaw from my house to the city centre. With the rest of the money, I buy bread and sometimes I buy some milk for my one-year-old grandson so that, when I come to the city to beg, his sister will give him the milk. But on the days when I can’t buy milk, he is given only bread and there have been days when he cries the whole day. 

My son is complaining a lot these days that some neighbour’s boy bought new clothes for Eid, so I should buy clothes for him. I can’t afford it. I can’t buy anything for my grandchildren. My daughter sometimes cries about the disappearance of her husband. She is worried about raising her three children and being a burden on her parents? 

My daughter is sad and cries, saying that she couldn’t buy anything for her children this Eid and she doesn’t want to celebrate Eid because there is no news about her husband, either. I say, “Don’t cry, none of us have Eid and you are not alone.” 

My husband moves around with difficulty. I can’t get medicine for him. I hope he stays alive. If something happens to him, no one will even rent a place to us. Where should I go with these young children? I would be better off if I had a job. 

The Taliban took everything from me and now they arrest beggar women, as if we are committing a crime. We are poor, begging to find bread for our children. They took all the happiness from us and planted pain in our chests. 

*Mahtab Safi is the pseudonym of a Zan Times journalist in Afghanistan. 

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