Posted By: Ana, working on human rights issues in Afghanistan
“Are you able to understand my pain?”
I hid my eyes for a second, and then looked up at the woman I was talking to. I think she is in her fifties; her face burned by the sun, full of wrinkles; her eyes were searching every corner of my soul. “I am not a mother, and I would never understand the pain of losing two sons.” She gave me another penetrating look: “Can a person on a horse understand what it means to walk on foot? Who really cares what happened to my life?” She came to visit a program one of my colleagues is running. But I hijacked her attention because I was curious about the life in Kabul during the wars.
She lost several people to so called “collateral damage” during the time of factional violence in Kabul. The entire city was divided. To go to work, or get supplies the people had to sneak around like thieves from house to house, from an alley to an alley. She says that sometimes it looked like a rain of bullets falling from the sky, and nothing could stop it. One morning two of her four sons went out to fetch some flour for the house. Noon came and went, the evening came, the sons never came back. On a random day her brother was passing by a checkpoint when a rocket landed there. Another night of fighting another rocket hit near by their compound. Shrapnel took her son-in-law while he was reading along with two little girls from their compound.
The family decided to flee, leaving everything behind. They stayed in Pakistan for ten years. The children had a chance to go to school while she and her husband worked. They’ve built a house. Then the Transitional Government called all the Afghans to comeback; they were promised their houses, their livelihoods, and their homeland back. She is living in Kabul now, but she says Pakistan was better. They never got what they were promised – no jobs, no place to live, and no chances to educate their children. Her husband passed away a year ago, but they are hanging on. Her two other sons are working.
I catch myself irritated, thinking, “what’s the big deal, everyone in this country lost a family member, at least she has two other sons to help her.” And then mentally slap myself: “how dare me to think this?” She looked at me as if reading my thoughts; pondered for a moment; then said: “Are you able to understand my pain?” I wished I could do something other than listen.