Impact of 9/11 on Afghanistan by Atiqullah Rahimi, Afghanistan

It was second week of September 2001, I remember clearly that day. The wind was blowing fast and I could see the plastic bags dancing in sky alongside the dust in Quetta, Pakistan.

I was  an 8 year old refugee kid who just left  home, I remember I was wearing a light green Afghani dress and headed toward the ground where we used to play, other boys were already there playing. Ahmad,Zubair, and I agreed to play marbles; I drew a circle on the dusty ground and drew another line which divided the circle into two equal parts, each of us put 5 marbles across the middle line of the circle.I got out my king milky marble to hit the other marbles with it, we played until it got dark. Both my pockets were filled with old and new marbles, I shined my milky marble which looked just like a little planet. When I got home, I found my elder brother watching the news, and it was about Afghanistan. Ahamd Shah Masud; the commander of the north allies was assassinated by two Arab terrorists linked to Al-Qaida who introduced themselves as journalists and placed the bomb inside of their cameras. Commander Masud and the north allies were the only active resisting force fighting against the Taliban regime.

Only two days after commander Massud’s assassination on 9/11,  the AL-Qaeda terrorist group hit the World Trade Center in New York. It was very tragic. I watched on TV people  jumping and hitting the ground from that very high building. My elder brother predicted something serious was going to happen to Afghanistan.

After 9/11, things happened very fast in Afghanistan, and BBC Persian radio was on our home all the time- day and night. My  mom did not leave it, not even for a moment. They were reporting that USA ships have arrived to Karachi Harbor of Pakistan and soon airstrikes will begin.  Our family was in danger, what if they bomb Kabul and kill my dad who was kept as a prisoner inside Taliban central prison for his suspected political activities against them?

My mom was very nervous all the time and fainted most of the nights. My sister and elder brother were taking care of her every day. I soon got used to my mom’s situation and couldn’t cry anymore, instead it was troubling and made me more silent for being helpless to awake her. BBC reported that the Taliban regime has fallen down, that a temporary government was established, and Hamid Karzai was elected president.  We also received a letter from dad that he is fine and out of prison, mom recognized his handwriting and we were all very happy.

Winter shortly arrived and mom was no longer sick, she was even happy again. I was enjoying seeing her smiling and I even found the courage to ask her again to enroll me in school.This time she didn’t say that she could not afford but kissed me and promised that we will soon leave for Kabul and when we reach there, she will find work and then we will enroll you in a good school.

I declared the news to my friends that soon I will go to school like they do and I will wear a blue school uniform. I will also have books with colored pictures on them which they do not have here. I said with confidence to my friends “We are leaving for Kabul as soon as the weather gets warmer.”

As spring arrived my uncle called my mom from Moscow and asked us to pack for Kabul.We packed up everything we owned and said goodbye to our neighbors and in the very early morning my elder brother and I were in the back of a red pickup Toyota laying on top of our luggage. Mom with our younger brother, sister and another refugee family was inside the car and from there we said goodbye to the black soil of Baluchistan.

Mid-way of our travels, we had a break to the UNHCR office where we met an old family friend named Hafifa; she was working with UNHCR and assured us that everything is fine in Kabul and things have changed. UNHCR gave us food, juice, and biscuits which made me even more than happy!

Following our journey we entered Qandahar city, which was Capital of Taliban just months before but when we arrived there was no sign of them anymore. People played songs in restaurants. We even had around 80 video cassettes of films and songs in our luggage which during the Taliban regime it was banned strictly.

We stayed in Kandahar for a night and the next morning started our journey toward Kabul with a white Super Custom Toyota, which had enough place for everyone. It was a long journey and near Qazni city, my mom showed me a dusty way diverted from the main road and said this road goes straight to your homeland high in the mountains.

Finally, we reached Kabul and found that the city was turned to the ground, everything was destroyed, and there were signs of bullets in all ruined walls of buildings lined in two sides of streets. Crossing all of those gloomy scenes, we met our dad in front of his office. I remember my parent’s first exchanged sentences, dad told mom “So you are not wearing burqa anymore?” My mom replied “but you still have your beard? The Talibans are gone – be brave and shave it.” That was a sweet moment for us.

It was the beginning of a new life for all of us and everything started to change rapidly with the help of the USA and other international allies. Soon I went to school and with hardships but with hope and skipping two grades based on academic talent, I finished school and entered college and now I am working for a research organization.

This is my story and is relatively similar to millions of other Afghan young men and women of my generation. A single international event changed our  life. Everyone knows that our biggest treasure is this young generation which make up majority of our 300,000 security forces who are in front line of fights with terrorism. Terrorism is not only a threat to us but is a threat for all other regions of the world, young bureaucrats, media activists and people from all other sectors. We are a young generation that carry a very heavy burden here. We work hard here to make ourselves compatible with current fast world developments that we are often left behind in, with limited sources to make this country, Afghanistan, a better place for younger and next generation.

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