Having Freedom But Still Not Free

I remember the flames from the first bomb that hit the ground on Oct. 7, 2001. The city of Mazar, Afghanistan was changing from summer to winter. The yellow leaves were falling down and covering the dirt streets of my neighborhood.

My family and I were at my cousin’s wedding, which had no music or the regular atmosphere of a wedding. People were not singing, dancing or celebrating because the Taliban prohibited everything that could make people happy. The city had no electricity, which only made things worse.

I remember the women were in one room and the men in another. The women talked about their kids, family and household issues, or gossiped about some their other friends.

The men were talking about how Al-Qaida hit the World Trade Center buildings and what the U.S. would do about it. Some of the men said the U.S could do nothing to get rid of the Taliban. They were everywhere and it would be very hard to get rid of them. Our whole country had been fighting against them for seven years already, but they made people afraid with threats of torture. Nobody would have thought of doing anything to make them angry.

I was playing a game called Pot Pota Kan (hide and seek) with my brother. I hid in a small storage room where my uncle had his old and heavy Chinese bicycle hanging from the ceiling. I accidentally touched the bike and it fell down.

When it hit the ground, the floor started shaking and my ears started hurting as the vibration of a loud explosion went through the air. At first, I thought it was the fallen bike which made the noise, so I continued to hide. Then I heard the women and children start screaming.

Mothers were telling their kids to hide and saying prayers: “Lailaha Ellalah, Mohammad Rasooll Allah,” which means there is no God except God and Mohammad is His messenger, and “Khair Khodawandah,” God bless us.

Hearing this prayer in such a situation made me scared, because it reminded me of my grandmother saying it when the Russian jets bombed the village. At that point I gave up on hiding from my brother and ran up the stairs to find out what was going on.

When I went outside it was almost bright as day, even though it was night time. People were saying, “Look to the south, look to the south, that’s where the bombs hit!” I looked and saw a bright fire coming out of the ground. People were saying, “That’s where the Taliban’s big base is!”

Everyone was worried. You could see the fear of another civil war in their eyes, the same fear as the first time the Taliban took control over Mazar City. I was not as worried as everyone else around me because I was thinking that someone is coming to get rid of the Taliban so I’ll be able to watch movies not hiding in the basement, but unafraid in our living room. I hated the Taliban for prohibiting television and video games.

No one was able to go to bed due to the heavy bombing that night. Every 10 minutes a bomb shook the ground, and we thought no one would survive.

The next day America announced the War Against Terrorism. My dad was telling my uncle about how the Americans were using high-tech laser-controlled bombs that only targeted Taliban military bases. When I went to town to see if there was anything left after the bombs hit, I saw that nothing was changed, which made me trust the Pentagon’s words. After ten days of precision bombing, the U.S gained the support of my people by proving that they were not targeting civilians.

It took only 15 days of bombing for the Taliban to realize they had no place in Afghanistan to hide, and made them think of finding safe haven for themselves. So they ran south, to Pakistan.

Afghan people were impressed by the power of the U.S. military. To us, it was impossible to even think of getting rid of the Taliban regime. But now the streets in my neighborhood were covered by white snow. It looked like the whole environment was cleaned and the people found a new hope of having a free country.

When I went outside in the cold air my breath turned to fog. The air I was breathing was so pure I thought even my exhalations would make it dirty, and so I didn’t want to breathe. I was so happy because now I could dress like my favorite Hollywood star, Chris Tucker, from “Rush Hour.” That was the meaning of freedom to me then.

But I was only 17 years old and had grown up in a country closed off from the rest of the world. Almost the whole country was na’ve like this, believing that in seven years Afghanistan would be free like Europe. I’m 24 now, studying in the United States and enjoying real freedom, which my people back home are still far away from. It may take seven centuries for Afghanistan to be like Europe.

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