Memories of Home
Do you ever want to experience certain moments again? To go back and freeze time? Take in every detail and soak up every emotion, touch, and sight? When I run out of ideas to distract myself from the loneliness and pain, I always go back to the night I kissed my mom’s cheeks for the last time. The same night my dad told me that I will always be his brave daughter. When I saw my cat bouncing happily around my beloved nephews. That night, alone and scared, I would leave my family. Soon, I could only think about the eight-hour overnight bus ride ahead of me.
Who I Am
I am a 22-year-old Afghan woman. I was born in a refugee camp in Pakistan, and spent my early years there after my family had fled Afghanistan in the 1980s because of war. When we returned in 2008, we believed there would be mostly bright days ahead. Our country had the support of the international community. There was so much hope all around us.
My father was determined we would never experience the struggle of being refugees again. Little did he know that his daughter was destined to relive the miseries he’d gone through as a younger man. Our beloved Afghanistan would never be peaceful. Eleven years later, his daughter was a refugee once again. And after all of my family’s hard work to earn my education, I was heading towards a scarily uncertain future abroad. When I think of my father and my family, my heart screams at the injustice and suffering.
Always For My Family
My parents wanted me to be someone people would look up to. They wanted me to inspire girls to be strong and educated women. They taught me to always help others. So I devoted myself to studying hard and earning top grades in school. In 2017, I decided to study law at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) with a full scholarship awarded by the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan.
After graduation, I worked as a Research Assistant and Officer. In 2019, I got involved with a social-media project funded by NATO. The projects I led as a Research Officer were mainly intended to find evidence-based solutions to socioeconomic issues. As a social-media influencer with NATO, I was part of a team responsible for carrying out psychological warfare against the Taliban and ISIS through social-media platforms.
The Day My Life Changed Forever
In August of 2021, over the span of just a couple of weeks, my life turned into dust. I was an independent and happy person who worked hard, and I had hopes for my future. With the withdrawal by the Americans from Afghanistan, I lost it all. After I left my parents’ home that evening, I didn’t know that I would spend nights on dirty streets. I was surrounded by thousands of people, some with guns. Day after day, I tried and failed to get through the gates of airport, desperate to save myself from death.
What It Is Like to Be an Afghan Refugee
Being a refugee is one thing, but being an Afghan refugee is a different story altogether. The international community closed its borders to us. If we were lucky enough to leave, we still faced near-impossible obstacles on the path to asylum. I knew I had to try anyway; that’s why I went to the airport. I remember the days and nights I spent there. I witnessed kids dying from suffocation and women about to to deliver babies.
The Cruelty of the Taliban
While we were stuck at and around Kabul airport, the Taliban enjoyed torturing us and humiliating us in every way possible. They laughed and spit on us and called us slaves of foreigners. They lashed us with their whips like we were rocks that can’t feel the sting and the pain. Meanwhile, the international forces in the area were pushing us down the Abbey Gate — one of the access point to the airport — in muddy water, leaving us with little pride. I spent nights on a trashy road, not even having enough space to lay down. Sometimes, the kindness of strangers gave me hope. One night a family near the airport asked me to stay at their place, and they cooked me eggs. My nose and mouth were filled with dust, and I broke down in the middle of taking my first bite because I couldn’t swallow the food.
I also remember the terrorist attack on the airport, and how the stream of people at Abbey Gate became tainted with the blood and bones of hundreds. These are my latest memories of my country, but I am determined that they will not be my last.