My name is Nekbakht and I was one of the victims of the school terror attacks in Kabul, Afghanistan on March 8th, 2021. I was only 18 years old when they took away my innocent soul. That Saturday, I went to school with the hope of a brighter tomorrow. My mother would always say that education is the way towards freedom and it is the only way I could make a better life for myself and my siblings. I used to think that just because I was born into poverty, it doesn’t mean I have to spend my whole life this way. Little did I know, my passion for education would lead me towards my death.
My and I sisters came out of our school one afternoon, clenching our Arabic and Mathematics textbooks, laughing about something we now don’t remember until we heard a deafening sound. In a fleeting moment, I fell to the ground. Muffled screams and shrieks covered the streets of my lovely city Kabul, Afghanistan, as blood splattered on the ground like acid rain. I breathed heavily, trying to regain consciousness. Staring blankly at the horrid scenes in front of me. Pain engulfed every inch of my body, like the weight of a thousand bricks. A sharp pain coursed through my head. The memories of my past came rolling back into my mind, like a movie from the 70s.
I remembered my first day of school, and the afternoons my mother would help me get ready for school. I remembered the days filled with joy and the days filled with gratitude. With warm tears rolling down my cheeks, my lips tilted slightly as I remembered my mother’s smile. A bittersweet feeling engulfed my heart as I reminisced the moments spent with my loved ones. Oh, how I scolded my siblings to complete their homework! How hopeful was I! Little did I know, life would take a twisting turn and everything I’ve ever loved and known would be snatched away from me in the blink of an eye. Moments passed by, as I heard another explosion, and then another. The screams continued, and the dead bodies did not stop falling.
Beside me, above me, all around me, were dead bodies of girls and boys. Some I recognized, some I did not. My voice came out like a muffled cry when I spotted my classmate struggling to breathe. Her hijab laid on the floor as she gasped for air. I wish I could’ve helped her, but I am only human.
In that grief-stricken moment, as I watched strangers and friends fall onto the floor, blood covering every inch of their body, the only thought that ran through my mind was, “Is my passion for education a sin?”
All I wanted was to have a better life for myself. Hope made its home in my heart as I went to sleep every day affirming myself that if things aren’t good today, tomorrow everything will be okay. A numbing sensation coursed through my body as I struggled to keep my eyes open. My hazy vision gazed at the skies of Afghanistan. The skies that once used to be clear blue, but now filled with smoke as grey as dunes.
Is it a sin to be Hazara in Afghanistan? Is it a sin to be a woman wanting to pursue her education for the sake of wanting a better life for herself?
My sisters before me were murdered in the name of honor, just because they dared to learn how to read and write. A basic necessity that every human being should know. They took away our lives, not knowing they were taking away the future of Afghanistan. So many of us could’ve become doctors, engineers, lawyers, or entrepreneurs. But now our families will bury our frail bodies six feet underground, as they mourn the loss of the innocent.
However, as my soul departs from this world tonight and the gruesome shrieks around me get consistently louder, I am content deep down knowing that no matter how many of us you kill, more of us will rise. My sisters of Afghanistan might not be safe in this community, but they are definitely not afraid to let go of their education. Many more will come after me, many more shall rise.
Many more shall dare to educate themselves and break the shackles of these terror attacks. Many more sisters shall go to school and come out as educated women who can positively impact their community so that the girls of tomorrow would not be afraid to pursue their education and dreams. So many of us will go on to become doctors, engineers, lawyers, writers, and poets. The more you shoot us down, like a phoenix, we shall rise.
Education is not a sin. Attaining a degree is not a sin. Chasing your passions and dreams are not sins. But yes, terrorism is a sin. Killing innocent women and the vulnerable Hazaras of Afghanistan is a sin. Bombing schools is a sin. And taking away what’s rightfully ours is a sin.
God is never blind to our tears, nor is he blind to the terror we fear. Surely, the help of God is near. I might be gone today, but my legacy shall live on in the hearts of my sisters and brothers who survived. My innocent soul has never felt the pain of heartache. Yet, the ringing sensation of the explosion coursed throughout my entire body, like a million daggers stabbing my lower back and head.
Tonight, as the world celebrates Eid, my family shall be mourning the loss of a daughter they loved dearly. My eyes drifted into nothingness as I let out a despondent sigh, and wondered, “why does the world hate us for who we are? Why is being Shia Hazara in Afghanistan a crime? So much, that even my life is worth more than the hatred they carry in their filthy hearts?”
Isn’t my life worth more than their hatred? I wondered.