Kabul’s Bloody Era; In Qamargul’s Absence, The House was Dark

Tick-tock, tick-tock…the hour-hand plays with the minute-hand on the small wall clock. The sound of the clock ticking was annoying to her. She turns to the side and stares at the wall clock. Maybe the tiredness and thirst of Ramadan bothered her or maybe her motherly heart knew something. She had not yet managed to close her eyes and fall asleep. Boom! Pieces of plaster fall from the ceiling on her head, and the four walls of the house tremble like her body. The window by the gate breaks and falls on Qamargul’s books. For the second and third time comes the sound of explosions.

Her red headscarf falls from her head to the ground and her heart is torn apart. She gets up and walks to the roof to hear the sound clearly. The clock shows the time to be 4:27 PM. She is Qamargul’s mother. She walks barefoot and reaches the roof. The smoke is high from the mountainside. Panic-stricken parents run from the streets and inform each other about the suicide attack on Sayed Ul-Shuhada School.

Her body becomes weak and her legs give out. She holds her head firmly in her hands. It is as if the city spins around her but she managers to call her son. Then she greets her daughters who had come from university. But Qamargul, in the house, has neither a mobile phone nor they know of her whereabouts. She pulls her headscarf over her head. She can still hear the laughter of Qamargul, she can still feel the kisses she had given to his mother’s cheeks before she went to school, and she can still feel her hands on the gate lock and walks the twenty-meter-long road. The same road that Qamargul used to cross daily. The same road that Qamargul weaved thousands of dreams with. Dirty alleys that are mostly occupied by one- and two-story houses on either side of it. The wall of that alley witnessed the jokes, laughter and dreams of Qamargul.

It was a few minutes past 4:27 PM. Qamargul’s mother did not feel the stone and the hard ground, and although she sometimes fell to the ground and tried to force herself to walk, it was as if her steps did not move forward and she was getting pulled back. Her clothes were soiled and tears were rolling down her cheeks impatiently. This is the story of Afghan mothers, not just the story of Qamargul’s mother. This is the story of hundreds of mothers in this land, hundreds of mothers in this city. Mothers of this land see their children’s smiles for the last time, they look into their children’s eyes as if experiencing the last light of the sun, or they see their last steps as if they will never return. Here are the mothers of heroes, here are the mothers of painters trying to paint their wounds a different color. The mothers of this city are waiting by the grave for their children to smile.

These are the unspoken feelings of a mother. As she recounted her memories, she shed tears and clasped her hands, as if she needed someone to ease her grief and relieve her.

Qamargul’s mother barely made it to the main road that day and saw her eldest daughter coming towards her anxiously in the middle of the road. They walked to school with each other’s help. The streets were crowded and all the people rushed to the school. Shouts, cries, and the anxiety of parents had stirred the city.

When they get close to the school, they see that the whole city is gathered in this place. They see that the girls in black uniforms are lying on all sides and the mothers are walking among the girls to find their beloved children. Qamargul’s mother is nailed in place and cannot take a step. She is afraid that Qamargul is not alive, she is afraid that her daughter is burned to ashes, she is afraid that she will only take her books home.

Qamargul’s brother, Habibaullah, walks from his workplace to school when he hears the sound of the explosion. When he gets close to school, he sees no sign of Qamargul. Many of her sister’s classmates had been taken to hospitals, and some were no longer alive. The lifeless bodies were also removed from the ground and taken to a hospital.

Habibaullah finds a pair of shoes, a school textbook and two of her sister’s books that were intact. The rest of her books were burned. His mother and sister also go home when they do not hear about Qamargul. His mother looks at every girl on the way, she feels they might be her daughter, but none of them was Qamargul.

Habibaullah brings home Qamargul’s belongings and goes to the hospitals with a few others to find his sister. Qamargul (Qamar meaning moon) was the moon of her house.

At 7 pm, two and a half hours after the incident, Qamargul is found at Imam Zaman Barchi Hospital. This is the story of a brother, a man of this city. Or the story of all the men of this sad city.

When Habibaullah was talking about that day, exactly 33 days had passed, but the memory of Qamargul was still burning in his heart and the dripping of his tears seemed to be the only thing that calmed him.

Qamargul is brought home, not in the light of day, but in the darkness of night. Her burnt body is brought. When his mother sees her daughter’s face, she screams and says, “This is not my Qamargul.” Qamargul was beautiful, she had big black eyes, her hair was long and she always wore it on her back, but this Qamargul was burnt and her face was not distinguishable. She had no hair and her beautiful eyes were closed. A few hours after 4:27, Qamargul is taken from the house and bathed in the mosque. Her brother recognized her body from her wristwatch, which was ticking at the same time, and from the pen in her hand. Qamargul was taken away that night and her place was left empty next to her books.

It had been 33 days since that evening and hundreds of minutes had passed since I went to their house. Their yard was decorated with apple and apricot trees, and the two-room cement house was full of Qamargul memories. The house was in a terrible silence. A silence you could not run away from. In front of the entrance gate was Qamargul’s study schedule: one-hour for history, two-hour for math.

Books that had not been opened for days and pens that no one had picked up to play with or write about the geography of their country. A geography that was bloody for her. She wrote on the front of her geography book: A skirt of flowers for you. It must be asked whether this city and this land really gave her flowers or blood in response. Her English notebook was full of sentences in past tense. The past tense meaning nothing. Maybe she knew that everything would be just a past and a memory. Her beautiful handwriting became just a memento.

Qamargul Naseri was in twelfth grade of school. She was the topper of her class. She had just finished her English lessons. She had only one year left to go to university. “She studied a lot,” said her mother. “Sometimes I would tell her to study less, she would hug my neck and say that ‘other mothers encourage to read more, you say read less.’ She studied to enter university.”

The small room of the house belonged to Qamargul. She studied there alone and worked day and night to achieve her goal and enter university. She locked herself in that room and wanted to start building her world from that small room.

Qamargul and according to his mother Qamar, was the last child of the family. She lost his father a few years ago. Qamargul studied until the sixth grade in Bamyan and then continued in Kabul. Her house was quiet but there was no peace in it. In Qamargul’s absence, the house was dark.