Devastating Poverty; “Mom, Aren’t You Going to Work Tomorrow?”

By: Sara Sirat

I am a mother who has faced many challenges in life. My beloved father, a military officer, was killed by the Taliban in Helmand province, and I experienced the most painful time of my life as we were not allowed to visit his body. My little sister and I were left feeling cold and speechless. My mother was always patient and tried to be strong for us, encouraging us to behave appropriately. She was like a bodyguard, always present and watching over us. I went to university to study English Literature, and while I was there I could not wait to graduate and start working to help my mother and sister in their time of need.

I was feeling down during winter school holidays because I enjoyed summer and wanted to finish my studies quickly. Little did I know that I would soon face many hardships; I had no idea that my life would become so difficult. Eventually, I graduated from university and was ecstatic. My mother and sister were also delighted. We all wished my father was there to witness my graduation day, as we knew he would have been so proud.

Afterwards, I took my time to get ready for work: I wrote my resume and looked for a job. Despite receiving many marriage proposals, I put my goal of finding a job first. I wanted to earn money and help my family, but my mother would talk to me at night, saying: “My dear, I understand what you are trying to do, but you know the circumstances. You must get married. Assist me if you want, but let me fulfill my duty by getting you married.” I couldn’t sleep for nights. At times, I thought my mother was right because she was a widow with two unmarried daughters.

My mother was right to give up her dreams in order to raise us, ensuring that we never felt the lack of anyone else. She was a true queen and I knew she cared about me. The next morning, I told her that I would marry someone who was supportive of my career. That same day, a family whose son had an economics degree and worked in a bank came to offer their marriage proposal, which I accepted. I then began working as a translator for a foreign organization and felt my life was taking shape, thanking God. I soon became engaged to Arash, a good man with big dreams like my own. Six months later, we got married in a hotel and I was experiencing the happiest days of my life, being able to both take care of my home and pursue my job.

I received a call from my husband’s sister one day. Her voice sounded sad and trembling, which I had never heard before. I took my day off and went home, thinking that my mother-in-law had been diagnosed with heart disease. When I arrived, my little mother hugged me, but I was still unaware of what had happened. They told me that Arash had been killed in an explosion, leaving me speechless and reminded of my father’s death. I fainted and when I regained consciousness, I was in the hospital with my hands full of blood and serum injected in them. I wanted to take off all the serum lines and kill myself, but the nurses and doctors stopped me. One of the doctors then advised me to take care of my child, to which I asked “What child?”, not knowing that I was pregnant, which only added to my pain.

The difficult times had left a deep impact on my heart. I became increasingly thin and frail. I eventually lost track of time. Eventually, my son Mohammad was born, whom I had promised Arash I would raise. He is now three years old. I used the salary I earned from the organization I worked for to support my mother and Arash’s family. I also tried to leave Afghanistan twice by going to the Kabul Airport during the August chaos, but my name was not on the list, so I was unable to depart. I continued to go to work as usual, wearing the hijab mandated by the Taliban.
I am filled with sorrow because the Taliban have taken away women’s right to work. I am overwhelmed with grief and do not know how to provide for my husband’s family and my own. After they killed my father and husband, is this not enough? We will surely starve now. My son Mohammad asked me, “Mom, aren’t you going to work today?” To which I replied, “No, son. No work from now on.” I am heartbroken for my innocent child. I have no idea what to do and cannot even think of a solution for the many Afghan women who are facing the same difficulty.