We never stood still
New <i>Commons</i> columnist Fatima, on the campus of SIT/World Learning in Brattleboro in February.

We never stood still

‘This was the scariest day, the worst I have ever known in my life. As I was going back home, the streets were completely crowded. It was noon. The sunshine was very bright and piercing. We heard gunfire.’

BRATTLEBORO — Before my life began, I was already an immigrant.

My family emigrated in 1996, during the time of the first government of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Day by day, the political, social, and economic situations - all the parts of the society that touched on our lives - were getting worse.

As a result, lots of families couldn't live in Afghanistan anymore. My family was among them.

My mom, one month pregnant with me, immigrated to Iran.

* * *

When my mom tells the story of when we immigrated to Iran, she describes how some families lost their children during the dangerous trip, guided by smugglers told people to run without stopping when night fell.

“Everyone was just running,” she says. “When they wanted to stop, they were left behind.”

Even now, it's not clear what happened to those children. My mom says that their mothers were just crying and shouting. She always says that this was a sad chapter - a bad chapter - in the story of her life.

“That time I was thanking god for you being in my belly because your older brother and sister were also with me, and I couldn't carry three of you in my arms,” she says.

My family arrived in Iran, where they settled in Tehran. Eight months later, I was born.

* * *

Our life was going better, and everything was beautiful. But five years after we came to Iran, my uncles forced my father to leave Iran and come back home as a result of an ongoing financial dispute. (For 20 years, they have been arguing without any result.) My mom never wanted to go back, but my father forced her to.

So we went back to Afghanistan with no money and feeling hopeless. We were homeless for two years. We lived in a tent.

Despite our economic problems, my mom tried to see that my brother, sister, and I would get an education.

When I was 6 years old, my mom decided that I needed an education. She was always worrying about her two daughters' futures because most of the girls near our house did not go to school.

But my mom encouraged us to continue, and we never stood still.

I completed 12 years of school and graduated from high school in 2016 with the highest rank in my class (97 out of 100).

* * *

At the end of the year, I passed the Kancor examination (a university entrance exam), and I enrolled in the communication and journalism department at Kabul University, Afghanistan's famous public university.

When I was a sophomore, in 2018, I was hired as an intern at a renowned private radio station broadcasting to all provinces in the country.

I was so happy to connect with experienced people who helped me improve my speaking and writing skills in the field of broadcast journalism.

In 2020, I was among students from each class given the opportunity - thanks to our faculty's department head, a kind and talented woman - to work for three months in the press section of a government agency, an experience that taught me about social complexities and let me get to know some activists.

And then we had to face the big global problem of COVID-19.

The ministry of higher education closed twice - for six months the first time, and for four months the second time. We were falling behind in our education.

In July 2021, when the Covid numbers decreased, we started to study again. I also started my first formal job as an investigative reporter. But after just a month, the Taliban attacked Kabul on Aug. 15, 2021, and the situation was completely shocking.

This was the scariest day, the worst I have ever known in my life. As I was going back home, the streets were completely crowded. It was noon. The sunshine was very bright and piercing. We heard gunfire.

All the people were running scared, leaving their jobs to go home. I was one of them.

* * *

All offices and educational institutions closed immediately - again. It was my last semester, and I couldn't even receive my bachelor's degree. We all remained in our homes for four months without any activity.

Most people, especially women, lost their jobs. Girls couldn't go to school. Public officials couldn't do their jobs anymore. The Taliban made their jobs dangerous.

Bad things happened, and we couldn't do anything except to watch this bad movie of our people's fate. It was very hard for people who had jobs out in public. They had no money, no food, no job, and no security.

Even famous people couldn't go out at night alone because it had become common for the Taliban to kill people randomly.

* * *

The situation was very dangerous, especially for journalists, because they were always publishing the news of the Taliban's crimes.

One of the scarier stories was about girls being abducted by some groups of Taliban, who then married them to new members of their groups. If the girls refused their illegal and frightening actions and confronted their captors, they would kill the other members of the girl's family.

At the present time, conditions in Afghanistan are very serious for women journalists, and I am among that group. I am lucky to have gotten out of the country, but I'm always worrying about my family of 10.

I worry about my husband, who wasn't allowed to evacuate with me. The day after our wedding, I left without my husband, and he is now in Afghanistan among the problems.

I don't know what will happen if I can't find ways to aid them.

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