Life amidst War

By Sonita Yaqobi
Sonita Yaqobi 's stories
Life amidst war

What you are reading is a collection of my reflections, written during moments of solitude. They document a typical day at a Quranic center, a focal point for educational and cultural activities held twice a month. Women of various ages, including mothers, young adults, and teenagers, played an active role in these gatherings.

These programs were wholeheartedly embraced as enriching and enjoyable experiences, offering a unique opportunity for women to engage with a diverse group of individuals and enhance their understanding of religious matters. Among the participants, the teenagers held a special affection for these events, as they provided a rare and cherished form of entertainment for girls in Afghanistan.

On a crisp autumn day, when the weather had turned colder, we convened for a program as per our regular schedule. It fell upon me, as usual, to deliver a speech. I willingly shouldered this responsibility, always eager to contribute. Speaking before an audience was a source of joy, allowing me to convey my thoughts as I wished. Everything seemed to align perfectly, and despite feeling the weight of nervousness, I was excited to address the gathering.

As the opening moments of the program drew near, my heartbeat quickened. A sense of impending unease enveloped me, casting a shadow over my anticipation. Surveying the numerous attendees, including some sisters standing in the corridor, I managed a smile tinged with anxiety. Yet, a peculiar sensation gnawed at my heart.

An official in charge of the event summoned me and conveyed distressing news: ‘You must cancel the program. A recent decree by the Islamic Emirate (Taliban) mandates the closure of all centers where women participate in such programs until further notice. Our Quranic center may also face closure.’ My earlier premonitions were validated by her words. A deep sorrow gripped my heart.

I implored them to allow us to proceed with the event. We engaged in a discussion, during which I passionately explained our expectations. Alas, what we had feared and hoped would not materialize had come to pass—new rules restricting women’s activities had been enacted, thus signaling an end to events like these. Thankfully, we managed to conclude our event.

Amidst the crowd, I felt profoundly alone, my thoughts consumed within my private world. The difficulty lay in conveying to these devoted individuals, gathered in this sacred place to connect with the word of God and a revered figure, that the Islamic Emirate forbade women’s participation in these events meant to nourish our weary hearts.

I concluded my address with a prayer, requesting blessings from the audience and all present. As I bid them farewell, shock and disbelief colored their expressions. They could not fathom the possibility of reliving such trying circumstances.

Suddenly, our center’s manager spoke: ‘My noble and chaste sisters! I apologize for this, given recent events. We will be without this program for some time. God willing, we will reconvene and continue our lessons.’

At 3:49 AM, I stood before the library door, surveying the neatly arranged books on the shelves. This very library had been a labor of love for my religious sisters and me, a testament to our collective dedication and perseverance.

We decided to relocate the books to a safer location. One of my sisters and I transported the books. As I did, my cellphone rang amidst the tears and lamentations of my colleagues and friends. They cried out, ‘Why has this happened? Did we act against the teachings?’ I was at a loss for words.

I recited hopeful verses and comforting words to assuage their emotions. Despite my own turmoil, I sought solace in reciting the Holy Quran, for it was the only balm for my aching heart. When I opened the Quran, my eyes fell upon this verse: ‘And We do not know that your chest is narrow, they say to us, praise the lord and do the prostrations, and worship the lord, even if you are in good hands.’

It was as if fate had guided me to this verse, and suddenly, my anger surged. I began to cry, allowing the tears to cleanse my soul. These verses fortified me, and to this day, my sisters and friends remain unaware of the wellspring of my strength during times of adversity. He alone is my support and guardian.

I am grateful to God Almighty for accepting me as His servant, for embracing Islam as my religion, and for choosing Muhammad Mustafa (peace be upon him) as my prophet and exemplar. I yearn for a day when everyone can coexist in peace, enjoying the freedom to think and believe.”

28 October, 2023