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Another time, two or three Mujahedins with guns appeared at our door asking for something to eat. We were very nice to them and treated them like our guests, but they were asking weird questions: “How big is your house? How many bedrooms? How many exits? Where is the roof access?” We did not have any idea why they were asking these things. About one month later, on a summer night, we were having a nice family picnic with a fancy lamb and fish barbecue dinner in our yard. Afterwards, everybody got ready for bed in the yard, which is where we used to sleep due to the hot weather in Qandahar.

I was laying down on my space, facing the dark sky full of beautiful stars and singing, “Anar gul dana dana dana dana…negar jan qar kada namyaya khana…” (Pomegranate seed, seed, seed, seed…my friend is mad that much and not coming to me). Suddenly, it seemed like big rocks were falling down into our yard from the roof. The same Mujahedins who had been welcomed as guests in our house had returned to rob us of our money and jewelry, which they had a habit of doing to rich people in Afghanistan. Later, I would come to realize that was how they made money for their survival. They captured all of us and put guns to our heads. Then they started collecting all the money and jewelry. We were pretty rich — my father had two bakeries plus some real estate — and the Mujahedins had found out about that.

I stared at the Mujahed who had a gun to my poor little dusty head and had a flashback of that terrible and wild murder I had seen in the street. One of them got thirsty and asked for a glass of water, and my sister-in law gave it to him. When he finished drinking the water, he tossed the empty glass onto our blankets so that it wouldn’t break, quite an ironic gesture of care. After wrapping up all of our valuables, the Mujahedins left, and we were all frozen in a long and deep silence; of course, we could not go to sleep at all that night. The next day, the police “investigated,” but without luck, as usual.

My parents then decided to leave Qandahar and move to Quetta, Pakistan, because our lives were at risk in Afghanistan. First, my father sent almost all of our household things and furniture, and then he grouped the family members into twos and sent each pair one at a time because it was not safe to send the whole family at once. I was in my father’s group. Early one chilly morning, when the fog and some stars were still in the sky, my father woke me up and made us get ready to leave quietly. I had tears in my eyes and started looking around the house, especially at the pomegranate tree in the middle of our yard, my favorite.

So, that early morning we started to leave Afghanistan to go to Quetta, Pakistan. On the way, we saw a dead body face down on the street, a bowl of yogurt near his body. His blood had mixed with the yogurt and turned it a yellow greenish color. His shoes and headcloth were thrown next to him. He was shot while buying yogurt. We crossed over that body and kept walking. I slowed down to look, but my father said, “Hurry up, keep walking fast!”

We finally got on the truck headed to the border town, Chaman, with three Pashtoon families. It got darker and darker, and suddenly, the truck stopped. Two Mujahedins got all the men out of the truck. I was terrified because my father had to get out too, and I thought they were going to kill him. The Mujahedins started searching the men and took their money, then sent them back to the truck. The truck continued on.

We had a quick stop in Chaman and then arrived in Quetta, Pakistan, after 30 minutes. When I arrived in Pakistan, I didn’t see much of a difference compared to Afghanistan. Men wore long robes, cloths wrapped around their heads, beards, and the same kinds of shoes. The women also dressed like women in Afghanistan. I had hoped Pakistan would be a completely different country, like America, but at least I didn’t see the Mujahedins, Khalqi soldiers, shooting, killing, or dead bodies on the streets.

It was the early ’80s, and we settled into our life in Pakistan. After a few months, less than a year, we heard that the same Mujahedins who had robbed us before went back again to our old house to rob us again. When they saw we were not there, they were really mad and asked the renter where we were. The renter didn’t really know anything about us because, for safety, we never told anybody about moving to Pakistan. So those Mujahedins tortured the father of that family and cut his throat at the base of our pomegranate tree to water it with his blood. When I heard this, I went into deep thought again about the horror of my past in Afghanistan. I thought, “If the Mujahedins had fought for Afghanistan against the Russians, then why were they so cruel to their people?” I never understood that.

In Quetta, my family registered me, my twin sister, and my older brother in a Persian (Iranian) school. My twin sister and I were in first grade, and my older brother was in fourth grade. After two years, for some reason, my older brother quit Persian school and was registered in Urdu (Pakistani) school with my other two youngest brothers. My twin sister kept failing at school the whole two years she was there, and then she dropped out and stayed home until she got married at the age of 14. I was an A and B student but had trouble getting along with other students. I was very hyper and energetic and often got into physical fights, and our school principal was always in contact with my parents.

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Comments

David Dodd June 17, 2009 @ 3:24 p.m.

This is a tremendous story. And yours is a tremendous life. May you have many opportunities to celebrate it.

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