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The Day Thousands of Dreams Shattered

By February 8, 2023Refugee Voices

The 15 August 2021 was a very dark day. It destroyed humanity and the lives and aspirations of people in Afghanistan. It was the day the Taliban took over Kabul. 

Many questions rushed to my mind: Where was I? What was I doing? What happened to me that day And how did I get home? What difficulties did I go through? 

Before the Taliban’s takeover, people in Afghanistan had a relatively comfortable and peaceful life, especially those who worked and supported their families. Still, with the arrival of the Taliban, everything changed.  

I, Monira Wahdat, was an English teacher at Marshal Fahim University, one of the largest  military universities in Afghanistan. I taught English to Afghanistan’s National Army soldiers. On that fateful day, I went to work, unaware that the Taliban had advanced toward Kabul, but that day was different. Fewer students showed up to the class, and those who were in class were distracted.  

They had lost their spirit and motivation because of the news that the were Taliban advancing, soldiers were losing their valuable lives, and province after the province was falling. 

My students were disappointed and distressed. They wondered how I could teach them with enthusiasm and passion despite the increasing danger. They asked me: “How is your life going, Ma’am? Are you not afraid of these conditions?”  

My answer was, “no one can escape death. It is better to study as by studying, we can progress and have a bright future”. I wanted to say something else but I bit my tongue. I could not dare to tell my students the truth. I was a teacher and had to lead a class rather than demotivate them. 

A teacher should be able to calm the minds of others, stand by the students in good and bad situations, and keep inspiring them. During the class, we could hear heartbreaking sounds of explosions and shootings. Finally, at nine in the morning, the head of the department dismissed all classes. Only a few of us teachers had shown up anyway.  

Some had left classes due to fear and panic, and some had gone to fight back, but I was discussing privately with some of my students how to take back the fallen provinces of Afghanistan and push back the Taliban. 

We never anticipated that the Taliban could take over Kabul. I told my students to go to their houses and wished them a good day. I went to the second floor of the department where I, the head of the department, and two of my colleagues were watching the news. “The Taliban took control of neighbouring provinces of Kabul and are planning to enter the capital.”  

I was scared and shocked, and my eyes were fixed on the TV, watching back-to-back breaking news every minute. The head of the department told me: “You’re still not afraid of the Taliban because my colleagues always called you a brave woman.” I was the only woman who worked and taught English to soldiers and cadets.  

Everyone heard that the situation in Kabul was unstable, and the roads were closed. One of my first thoughts was that the Taliban would come here as it was a military university. I asked myself how they would treat me. They have horrible track records of violence against women, especially those like me working for the government and  the military, which filled me with terror and fear.  

“Will they kill me?” I was silently talking to myself. It did not take long for the Taliban to enter Kabul. “It’s not too late! be strong Monira Wahdat. You are strong.” 

I was still at the university. My family was worried sick and kept calling me every minute to ensure I was safe. The sound of gunfire in the background made them more agitated, and I had to calm them. “It’s a military exercise at the university for the cadets to practice shooting,” I told them.  

That day was doomsday. People were terrified and running around. I called one of my colleagues to find out about the situation in the city. He was appointed as a platoon commander in Darulaman, Kabul city. “The situation is terrible, and after a few hours Kabul will fall,” he said. Hearing that made me dizzy. I was losing my mind. My hopes, ambitions and goals were dashed as my beautiful city was about to fall into the hands of bad people. 

My colleague urged me to get out of the university and go home. I asked him why he was not doing the same, and he said: “I am a soldier, and the military field commanders are preparing for war. I have to stand strong to support soldiers.” We were good friends. I begged him to leave. He asked me to take his computer, which contained important documents. 

 The atmosphere of the university was sombre. The sound of shells, planes and bombs made it worse. All employees, military and civilian workers and several students were running towards the universitys’ gate. I tried to withdraw some cash from the nearby bank, but it was almost impossible because of the panic. At last, I left the university, and the roads were blocked.  

I tried to get a taxi. On a typical day, the taxi fare was 60 Afghanis, but that day drivers demanded 500 to 1000 Afghanis because the road leading to our home was completely blocked. I had to take another route home or look for an alternative option. All routes to my own house and my father’s house were blocked, so I had to choose the next best option.  

So, I called my university classmate as her house was close to the university. But then, I thought to myself: what if I die? I won’t get a chance to see my loved ones for the last time. In such a situation, every minute counts. Also, I had my colleague’s important documents, so I let my classmate know I was no longer going there.  

There was no taxi, so I walked home with a heavy computer. I was scared and angry. All of our dreams and lives were vanishing in front of our eyes. I had walked a long way until I couldn’t walk anymore and was too tired and hungry. My feet were swelling, and whenever my husband or parents called to know about my whereabouts concerning my safety, I kept telling them I was fine and I needed to stay strong for them for myself.  

That day, Kabul was like a martyr, drowned in blood, his voice was silenced, and he had a sad and hopeless face, and everyone was running away in every direction. 

On the way home, I reached a part of the city where a face-to-face firing exchange between the Taliban and military forces. I hid in an alley behind a big rock. I had to leave and continue my walk once the situation became less extreme. I stayed hidden for an hour. Finally, I got a chance to carry on. I could hear the voices of the Taliban, their white flags and Pashto songs (Tarana) from a far distance. When a part of the road was opened, a stranger gave me a lift for a part of the way. It was getting dark, fatigue and hunger had reached their peak. I couldn’t take any step further. I had another hour’s distance till home. My husband had left home to find me and to bring me home. He ran and hugged me when he saw me from a distance.  

On that day, I walked for eight hours with a heavy package in my hand. When I entered the house, I saw many people, his relatives. They had to escape for their lives. Their faces filled with disappointment and sadness. They said the Taliban took Kabul. I was only listening to their words without saying anything. I broke from inside.  

I received a call from a colleague: “Taliban martyred teacher Noor Ahmad,” he said. I was shocked, I screamed, and the phone fell from my hand. I cried a lot. Teacher Noor Ahmad was a young, worthy, talented man of good character. I was in absolute disbelief. Later, I called teacher Noor Ahmad’s phone several times, but he didn’t answer, so I called his brother, and he confirmed.  

I had to see my parents. We left the house to walk to the road and get a taxi when the Taliban shot directly above us and threw a bomb. My husband held my hand tightly and ran to an alley. It was very dark at night. We could hear the voices of the Taliban, who were looking for us. We had a difficult situation and stayed for a couple of hours until the Taliban left. Later, we rode in a taxi with many difficulties and went to my parents’ house. There I saw my mother’s sad face. She was crying because of me and beautiful Kabul. She hugged me and kissed my face. She was happy to see me. We had a very dark and bad night. After that day and night, we haven’t had a happy and good night and day. Unfortunately, we lost everything.