The Fading Heartbeats of Kabul

By: Behnia

For a long time now, Kabul City’s pulse has been beating slowly under the weight of Taliban militants. This group has not only captured and held hostage the city’s inhabitants but also imprisoned the spirit of the place. Despair, faded colors, and a suffocating atmosphere of terror have descended upon the soul of the city, leaving it gasping for life. The ticking of clocks solemnly announces the end of yet another day to the weary people. As the sun prepares to set, it summons its rays one by one, painting the Kabul sky in hues of indigo and dark orange. The faint chirping of birds returning to their nests barely registers amidst the harsh clamor that fills the days, but their songs offer solace to humans, a gentle reminder of the world beyond the chaos.

As evening falls, children once again venture out of their homes, fueled by the exhilaration that the night brings. Their shouts and screams echo through the streets as they reenact scenes from Hollywood and Bollywood films, each child assuming the role of a film star. These streets have been the lifeblood of the community for years, holding the hopes and dreams of countless hearts. Yet, at the end of these streets, lies a gateway to vast and treacherous highways. On the other side, life beats with a slower rhythm, and the burdens of existence are cut even more profoundly. It’s a place few wish to tread, a realm where footsteps are confined to these very streets, allowing them to witness the unbridled vibrance of carefree children, even in the face of darkness.

As the sun sets and eerie silence blankets the gates and walls, a creeping sense of fear takes hold. The joyful voices of children fade, replaced by the rhythmic, delicate chirping of crickets, signaling the arrival of the night. Every now and then, this cherished nocturnal serenity, treasured by the land’s inhabitants for years, is shattered by the reverberation of loud sounds. They echo from the vehicles of the ruling forces or the piercing gunfire of the Taliban. The haunting chants of the Taliban pierce the stillness, sending shivers down the spines of the war-weary people, causing their exhausted hearts to race time and again.

For a prolonged period, the residents of this capital have been deprived of tranquility both day and night. The silence of the night is shattered by the clamor of vehicles and intermittent gunfire from the ruling militants. In broad daylight, without regard for those who step outside in search of sustenance, Taliban militants, armed with swift vehicles, ruthlessly run over pedestrians. These days, pedestrians navigate the streets with the utmost caution, their hearts laden with trepidation, fearful of being crushed under the wheels of the once government-owned vehicles, now under the possession of the Taliban.

In the western part of Kabul, the road known as “Chihil Mehtra” has become a grim witness to a series of tragic incidents involving Taliban vehicles mercilessly mowing down both children and adults. Over the past few months, this stretch of road has been stained with the blood of numerous residents from the surrounding area.

Living in a house beside the main road, Marziya, a 37-year-old woman, has become a firsthand witness to the horrifying bloodshed that has claimed the lives of countless locals, even one of her own kin. Deeply troubled by these heart-wrenching incidents, she has taken measures to limit her family’s daily excursions. Marziya confides, “In the aftermath of these events, I’ve gone as far as locking the gate to our courtyard to ensure my children remain indoors. The Taliban vehicles roar past here each day, reckless and fast, having caused the deaths of numerous individuals in this very spot.”

In the streets of Kabul, the relentless speed and blaring honks of the Taliban ranger vehicles have transformed into an agonizing nightmare for the city’s inhabitants. Each reverberating sound serves as a haunting reminder of the brutal demise of their fellow citizen. With each passing day, Marziya finds herself subjected to the bone-chilling echoes of yet another tragedy, anxiously anticipating the arrival of devastating news. The looming fear grips her heart, for she dreads that the next casualty of the Taliban ranger vehicles may be someone she holds dear.

In order to shield her loved ones from the cruel destiny that awaits her, she relinquishes her daily obligations and becomes a constant presence in her children’s journey from home to school and vice versa. With determination, she declares, “Every single day, I cast aside my tasks and accompany my boys to school in the morning, returning at noon to collect them. Once safely home, I escort my daughter to school, and when evening descends, I reunite with her and bring her back home by my side.”

Having witnessed these harrowing incidents, her responsibility now entails vigilance from the rooftop of her house and constant visits to the gate, ensuring her children and husband are not engulfed by the Taliban’s vehicles. Determined to alleviate her anxieties, she contemplates methods to liberate herself from these relentless concerns.

For the residents of this area, this road has transformed into a festering wound, where Marziya and others have tragically witnessed the loss of over 8 lives in accidents caused by Taliban rangers running them over. In the aftermath of these incidents involving their own members, the Taliban issued warnings to eyewitnesses and grieving relatives, urging them to keep the matter concealed from outsiders. Recounting a haunting episode, Marziya shares, “A few months ago, a teenage girl was struck by a ranger, but they forbade anyone from capturing the scene. We were warned not to make it a media spectacle.”

Marziya mourns not only her own plight but also the dire circumstances faced by others in her community who are unable to voice their grievances against the oppressive rule of the Taliban or seek justice for their slain family members. Even when a Taliban ranger caused the tragic death of someone known to Marziya, their family refrained from filing a complaint out of fear of Taliban detention and torture. The Taliban, attempting to appease them, offered blood money in exchange for their silence. Despairingly, Marziya questions, “To whom shall we turn to voice our complaints? Who will come to our aid? In this forsaken land, there is no one to hear the pleas of the powerless.”

Ever since the collapse of the republic regime and the ascendance of the Taliban, the inhabitants of this area have endured ceaseless harassment, arbitrary arrests, and inexplicable killings at the hands of Taliban members. The oppressive grip of this group has gradually suffocated not only the people but also the entire region. The walls and streets silently bear witness to countless harrowing moments and the desperate struggles of those seeking to escape and secure their survival.

The weariness of living under the constant presence of the Taliban’s flag weighs not only on the residents of western Kabul but also on most of the capital’s inhabitants. Fear and terror permeate their existence, urging them to escape from the very land they call home. Departing from their homeland is a formidable undertaking, yet they are driven by the inexorable need to evade the clutches of hunger and the specter of arbitrary detention and brutal torture at the hands of the Taliban. The allure of safety and the chance for a life free from constant dread propel them toward the uncertain journey ahead.

Day by day, the roads and alleys of Kabul witness the exodus of its inhabitants, leaving behind a dwindling community that bears the weight of these aberrations. They endure, clinging to the hope of a bright dawn when the radiant beams of freedom will pierce through the shadows that shroud their lives. In the face of these hardships, their spirit perseveres, yearning for the promise of brighter days to come.