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44: From home to fearful streets

Fawzia Ihsan
Resuming daily life after violent incidents has become a tense but necessary routine for residents of Kabul and other cities.
26.05.2013  |  Kabul
Violent incidents punctuate the determination of most Afghans to maintain normal daily life. (Photo: Basir Seerat). Main photo: A guard mans the gate of a compound in Kabul. (By Rohullah Rahimi)
Violent incidents punctuate the determination of most Afghans to maintain normal daily life. (Photo: Basir Seerat). Main photo: A guard mans the gate of a compound in Kabul. (By Rohullah Rahimi)

It is 8 am and I am getting ready to go to the office. My mother looks at me anxiously and asks, “Is it possible that you don’t go in? I don’t think everything is right today”

I already know what she means by this. She is still fearful of the previous day’s suicide attack by the Taliban on premises of the UN-affiliated International Organization for Migration. 

The shooting stopped before midnight, but not for my mother, who must contain her anxiety for me every time I go out in the city.

In recent years she, like all Kabulis, has witness how these ever more frequent attacks are killing and injuring men, women and children here, just as they are across the country. Indeed, much of her 53 years of life has been overshadowed by violence that wracked Afghanistan in successive periods.

And all the time she says it is not hard for her if she dies in such an attack, but she could never bear to see any of her children harmed.

The time is ticking by. She still doesn’t want me to go, but nor does she try to forbid it. I try to offer some words of comfort, knowing she will be fearful all day until she sees me again.  

“Mother, please mother don’t worry so much, I am not the only woman in the country who must go to work in such a situation. I am one of millions who have to go out and work for their livelihood.”

Inwardly it occurs to me that many who have died violent deaths were not even safe at home. But what are we to do?

“Mother, such attacks are a daily occurrence now, but should I stay at home all the time? Are we even safe here? This is our daily life, so just pray for me and my brothers,” I say, adamant that I must not be scared into staying indoors, giving up my work, being frozen into inaction by the perpetrators of this violence. Life must go on.  

There is fear in people's eyes, fear for their children, husbands, wives, friends

I say good bye and hear her pray for me ten times in quick succession: "Dar panayee Khoda bashi " - God bless you and wish you a safe return.

On the street the city is on its way to work, as if nothing had happened the day before. But as I get closer to people I see the same fear in their eyes that I had seen a few minutes ago in my home. Fear perhaps not for themselves, but for their children, husbands, wives, friends.

Meanwhile the streets are teeming with security forces, and police are busy stopping and searching cars, inspecting licenses and questioning drivers.

When one comes to search my taxi, the driver reluctantly pulls out his license as he asks pointedly of the officer, “Where were you when the attackers were entering the city? All you are doing now is creating more problems for the people and nothing else.”

“Don’t talk so much and just give me your license,” replies the policeman.

When I reach the office and look at my Facebook page, I am confronted with newly posted photos of police and insurgents killed and injured in this latest attack. These graphic images cause a fresh surge of anxiety within me, that these scenes may be repeated again today,  tomorrow, the day after.

And then like my colleagues I turn to the day’s tasks, just as millions more people do across Kabul and our troubled country.