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I survived a suicide attack

Samira Sadat
AT's Samira Sadat witnesses a deadly explosion while attending a play at a Kabul high school.
16.12.2014  |  Kabul
The performance lasted 20 minutes before the blast. Ironically, it explored the topic of trauma after explosions. (Photos: Samira Sadat)
The performance lasted 20 minutes before the blast. Ironically, it explored the topic of trauma after explosions. (Photos: Samira Sadat)

It was around 3:30 on a cold winter afternoon. I left my house in Kart-e-Say, in the west part of Kabul city, to attend an event at the Estiqlal high school. I met Meena – my friend – on the street and we hopped into a taxi headed downtown. On the way, we contacted our other friends to tell them to meet us at the school.

We faced minimum traffic on the way, which is rare for Kabul, and found ourselves crossing the large metal grey gate of the school much sooner than we had planned. We passed through the security screening after only a light search.

We headed for the hall, where a group of artists were scheduled to perform. We were among the first handful of people to arrive. We bought some snacks and met our friend Kabri, who had invited us to the show. Before going to the ticket kiosk, we peeped inside the hall and saw that the musicians of a local orchestra were testing their instruments. We bought six tickets. 

We returned to the hall and lined up by the entrance. Other spectators started coming in, including a group of six men in their traditional clothes and grey-and-white hats. I jokingly told my friends that they seemed to be from the Ministry of Religious Affairs and were there for inspection. One of the men, who had a cheap mobile phone with a camera, started taking pictures. 

The hall of the school has a large stage and the chairs surrounding the stage make it ideal as a performance venue. We found seats in the third row from the stage. Incidentally, the odd-looking men sat in the same row.Meena snapped some selfies with the group of the men in the background to have some mementos to laugh at after the show.

The show began as a German woman – whose name I've forgotten –introduced Heartbeat: Silence After the Explosion, a play depicting the mental condition of a survivor after a suicide attack. She invited everyone to leave all other thoughts behind and focus on the show.

It was an outstanding play, with actors performing at the front part of the stage, accompanied by musicians in the background. While most of the musicians were barely visible, a single light illuminated a foreign pianist with white hair.

The show was barely in its twentieth minute when there was a loud and terrifying blast. It was completely dark in the theater and I first thought the explosion was part of the show. I saw the old pianist running across the stage. Then something hard, a piece of concrete or wood from a chair, hit me in the face. Screams came from all directions. In my shock, I still thought it was all part of the show and even asked myself, “Why do they have to make the show so natural? Don't they have any regards for people’s safety?” 

Before the blast, Samira and her friends posed for selfies.

 The spectators in the front row were all on their feet and suddenly I heard my sister, Shaima.

 “Samira! Get up, that was a suicide attack!” she yelled.

I switched on the light on my cell phone. As I got up, I looked for the object that landed on my face. As I was exiting the row, I saw a body on the ground, exactly where the group of strange people were sitting. A piece of metal shrapnel had struck his neck and there was a puddle of blood.

 There was shouting and crying in the hall. Some were chanting “Allah-o-Akbar” (God is Great) and “Mohammad Rasul-al-allah” (Mohammad is the Prophet of God). The chanting made me fear another explosion was going to happen, but as terrified as that made me, I could not command my feet to run outside.

 My sister, Shaima, was dragging me as she forced her way out of the hall, which by now was not only dark, but also filled with smoke, dust and chaotic noises.

 I remember that I was shouting for my cousin, Maana, as we were pushing to make our way to the entrance and leave the hall. We finally got out, but once outside I could not find Maana, my best friend, with whom I played most of my childhood games. 

There were pieces of glass and metal everywhere. Many people were still trapped inside and broke windowpanes to get out of the hall.

 I was horror-stricken, but I was still shouting and looking for Maana. On my way outside, someone approached me and hugged me, asking in English “Are you okay?” I did not say anything and kept walking with my sister by my side.

 The scene outside of the hall was as terrifying as the one inside, with people running in all directions. We found our friend, Mariam, whose clothes were soaked in blood. Without saying anything to each other, we started walking towards the center of the city. There was no sign of our friends, Maana and Meena. When we reached Gulbahar shopping center, we found them both, crying by the roadside.

 We all hugged each other and cried.

 We took a taxi and went home.

 Yes, we all survived the attack, but many others did not.

The terrorists once again broke the silence in the city. Ironically, this time they broke the “silence after the explosion.” Since that night, my heart is sad and it cries endlessly.  It cries for my people, for my country and for myself.