By Habibullah Sorosh
English Language Program
He has messy hair and a long beard, big eyes, and an angry face. He points his gun at me. He wants to shoot me, and he shouts loudly in Pashto, “Are you Habib Sorosh?” I deny it. He slaps me hard on the face, I’m shaking with fear, and he points his gun at me again and says, in a loud voice, “Say I’m Habib Sorosh.” My hands are shaking. I want to scream. He puts his hand on my mouth. It prevents me from screaming. I’m suffocating, gasping for breath, and with effort I can remove his rough hands from my mouth. He screams for the third time, “You have become an infidel, and you deserve to die.” He aims his gun at me and fires. I wake up screaming. My wife asks me, “Did you have the nightmare of the Taliban again?” I laugh, and I shake my head in agreement. She smiles at me and closes her eyes again.
I wipe the sweat from my brow and chin. I am looking at the clock. It is five o’clock in the morning. I want to write and turn on my laptop. I stare at the folder labeled “Policy Course on Playwriting.” Beautiful and unforgettable memories of Kabul University are imprinted in my mind. What a glorious name, “Kabul University,” which used to draw the biggest dreams for me. With a hungry stomach and the smallest facilities, I was flying in the imaginary sky in sync with the dreams. What plans and maps I drew for my future! What hardships, inequalities, discrimination, and bigotry I had experienced to reach the position of professor at Kabul University. Overcoming these problems increased the value of being a professor, and I vowed to fight decisively against the monsters of bigotry, jealousy, ethnocentrism, gender inequality, and ignorance.
I believe that Afghans’ fate is linked to homelessness, displacement, and emigration. Look at how quickly and unexpectedly the storm of events destroys and disintegrates the loving center of Afghan families and takes them away from the best supports of their existence. Moments of living together, laughing, serenity, and intimacy fade into memory, giving way to dreams, nostalgia, complications, and, finally, excruciating pain. Afghans, wherever they are, miss those who can’t be wanted and those who can’t be had. They can only miss them and long to meet them. Afghans may have brought their bodies to New York, Berlin, Paris, Sydney, and Tehran, but their souls are still full of smoke and gunpowder in the back alleys of Kabul, and their ears are still filled with screams and moans. Wherever Afghans go, they worry about the city where they have created memories for years and are waiting for the political situation of their country to improve. I miss Kabul University and my classroom. I miss playwriting lessons. I miss story writing and reading, and I miss discussions in the classroom with the extent of this strange city’s nostalgia.
I pick up my phone and call my friend, who was my colleague at Kabul University and now lives in Germany. He misses the university and feels homeless, but he expects the country’s political situation to improve. He sighs and says, “Damn me for leaving Afghanistan.” I tell him, “If you had stayed in Afghanistan, maybe the Taliban would have killed you.” He answers with a disappointed and a slowly rising tone, “The Taliban killed me once. Now the moments of waiting will gradually kill me.” I understand that the person waiting is always protesting. In the nights, the stars burn with pain, the clouds cry, the leaves tremble with fear, and the person waits for dawn with silent cries. My friend asks, “How are you living in America?” I tell him, “I am living contrary to my imagination.” He laughs and continues, “I don’t understand what you mean.” I explain to him that I used to think that it was very difficult to learn a language, study, work, and live abroad, but when I entered the United States of America, I was able to learn the language, work, research, and learn easily. The culture, mutual respect, humanity, sincerity, and honesty of these people teach me about humanity. He interrupts me again and says, “Germany is a beautiful place with kind people. I became fascinated by the culture of these people.” He laughs again and says, “But nowhere will we forget our own country, where we made lifelong memories.” We say goodbye together, and I check my Facebook and see that many of my friends have reported the explosion at the Kaj educational center in the Dasht Barchi area of Kabul. My hands are trembling. I try to look at the pictures of the dead and injured, but I can’t. A strange feeling has occurred to me, as if my existence is witnessing a bad event, as if I believe I am among the dead and injured and searching for one of my family members.
My phone rings, and I answer. It is my brother. Without greeting, I ask him, “What’s up? Did something happen to the family?” He answers in a broken tone, “Yes, Rahila, the daughter of our uncle, has been killed.” I can’t talk. I hang up my phone. I cry, and I curse the perpetrators of these suicide attacks who took our best friends and family away from us in these two decades. Rahila was the eldest child of a poor family of eight people. Her father is sick, and he has a disabled son at home who cannot afford to be treated. Her unfortunate mother does all the housework, from farming to cooking and providing food. Rahila’s mother bore all the hardships of the time alone with farming. She paid for Rahila’s course fee so that she could study for the university entrance exam and become a doctor and treat her brother. Regrettably, Rahila took her mother’s precious efforts and her dreams to the grave with her. The wishes of Rahila’s mother and Rahila’s wishes are sleeping forever in the heart of the cold soil. Her death is a painful wound that will never heal, and it is sucking the bone marrow of Rahila’s mother and father until they die. Rahila and her dreams burned down in one moment at Kaj Educational Center. What I’m writing isn’t a script, a dream, or an illusion. It’s real, a reality that defies human imagination, a reality that concepts are unable to express and the camera is ashamed to depict. The camera’s eyes are too innocent to bear and see this moral disaster and human sin, and by writing, I am also betraying the victims of this disaster. What is happening here (Dasht Barchi) cannot be “written.” My tears don’t allow me to write, and I whisper under my breath, “This is the fate of a Hazara family that pays a high price for knowledge.”
As a member of Rahila’s family, I mourn her absence. I am ashamed that Afghan girls see and endure so much abuse, humiliation, and insults from the patriarchal society of Afghanistan. One of these victims of violence and deprivation was Rahila, who had risen from the storm of war and gender inequality. Her education and knowledge were her love, a love that cost her dearly. She has been resting peacefully in the village cemetery.