Relatives and friends of young women killed by a suicide bomber at an education centre in Afghanistan last week write about their loved ones
A note written by Waheda, 18, who was killed in the attack, next to her portrait at her home in Kabul. In it she says: ‘I will shape my future as I want.’ She wrote that she should become a doctor in 2029, work in a hospital by 2030 and become a professional painter in 2031.’ Photograph: Ebrahim Noroozi/AP
Last week, a suicide bomber killed at least 53 people – mostly girls from the minority Hazara ethnic group – outside an education centre in Kabul. Here, relatives and friends of four young women who died remember their loved ones.
Omulbanin Asghari, 17 My sister had many dreams and would have made our country proud. My family and I are immensely proud of her for standing up as a woman who fought through many struggles as a young Hazara girl, from taking private classes when education was banned to preparing for university. She was taken away from us in the most brutal manner possible. We are broken, but determined to support her friends who survived this cowardly attack to achieve their dreams. As an educator, I will do everything I can to help them.
She was the baby of our family, the youngest of five, the kindest and most intelligent. She never lacked hope, she was always positive and determined. Her biggest life goal was to study political economy at Harvard University. She had planned for that in advance – improving her command of the English language and preparing for the Toefl test [Test of English as a Foreign Language for those applying to English-speaking universities]. In recent months, she studied day and night for the Konkor exams [Afghanistan’s university entrance test].
Over the years, she began watching a lot of motivational videos online and strengthened her will to succeed by reading books about revolutionaries such as Che Guevara and global leaders like Nelson Mandela. An avid reader with a thirst for knowledge, she read everything from books on economy to psychology. One thing few people knew about her is she was a foodie. Potato chips and Kabuli palaw (traditional Afghan pilaf) were her favourite dishes, and she loved barbecue.
She wished to leave a positive impact in the world, not only for her country but for the people of Afghanistan. Omulbanin always spoke of her intention to work towards the betterment of Afghan women. She wanted to dedicate her life to service. Her determination to defend the women of this country was so strong that she took taekwondo classes. It breaks my heart that she could have done so much good in this world.
All these aspirations came to a stop on the morning of 30 September when I rushed to the blast site and found her lifeless body on the ground. I had no words then and no more now.
By her brother, Mukhtar Modabber
What did she mean to me? She was my everything. My friend who spent every hour of the day for the past 18 months sitting by my side, sharing every moment of happiness, sadness and beyond. Waheda wasn’t just my best friend, she was like a mother to me. She saved me. She wanted to save many others and aspired to become a doctor. A rare mix, because she was as good at science as she was at mathematics. We spent hours studying for exams and talked at length about our dreams. We wanted to study at Kabul University. If I had to define her dreams in one word it would be “education”.
One of her most impressive qualities was her fierce loyalty. She would do everything to protect her friends and stand by them. Fierce, yet polite. A smile that was kind and honest – it made your day. She was beautiful.
When I’m asked about one of my most unforgettable memories of her, I can’t pick one. I am crying as I write this, but every moment we spent together is unforgettable. No matter what problem I went to her with, she would be willing to solve it. She wouldn’t leave you in the lurch. She always said, “Maryam, I am here, I will take care of it for you.”
She was here with me four days ago. I was running late on my way to the Kaaj Educational Center. I reached it a few minutes after the explosion. I searched for her, as many of our friends were on the ground. I finally found her lifeless body. Frozen, shocked and shivering, I didn’t leave her side until her father arrived. I sat beside her as I did all these past months.
I wish I hadn’t arrived late, I wish I was by her side
Since that day, her father and her entire family have not stopped crying. It’s difficult to put into words how broken they are. Her seven sisters and two brothers, who loved her very much can’t get over this tragedy. I visit them every day. I wish I hadn’t arrived late, I wish I was by her side. It is hard to move on, but I will continue to work towards our collective dreams. I want to tell the world, “I promise, we are wounded but we will continue.” For Waheda and for all my friends.
By her best friend, Maryam Shafaie
I remember Bahara’s mischief during childhood. We tried to hide new things from her because she was always such a curious kid, and as soon as she saw something new she would start taking it apart. Not just toys but random things lying around the house. Humour was one of her best traits. Bahara aspired to study computer science. She never wanted to leave Afghanistan. Her goal was to rebuild this nation and help her people. She was killed because she was a Hazara woman. An intelligent woman who was a great combination of playful, yet seriously determined.
She enjoyed studying and was a good student, but sometimes took some time off to watch Indian movies– although she wasn’t a big fan of Hollywood movies. Shah Rukh Khan and Tiger Shroff were her favourite Bollywood stars – one of her favourite movies was Khan’s Dilwale. She liked the simple things in life and was hoping to make a successful future.
She was just like any other young woman who wanted to fulfil her dreams and live a happy life I can’t forget the moment I heard about the blast. I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t want to believe it, even when I reached the hospital and found her. Why did God take her away from us? I am speechless. She was just like any other young woman who wanted to fulfil her dreams and live a happy life. To make us and this country proud. My family has lost my precious sister. My siblings and I need to gather strength to deal with this tragedy that we are yet to come to terms with.
Until then, I hope God helps all the families who lost their loved ones. We are in this together. By her brother, Zohair Yaqubi
Marzia Mohammadi, 16
In one of Marzia’s diary entries she made a list of all the things she wanted to do in life; her bucket list. Top of the list was to meet the renowned author Elif Shafak, followed by a visit to the Eiffel Tower and Paris and eating pizza in an Italian restaurant. Marzia Mohammadi, whose dreams including learning the guitar, travelling the world and writing a novel also wrote that she wanted to ride a bike while listening to music, walk late at night in the park, learn the guitar, travel the world and write a novel. These life goals reflect her vibrant personality, says her uncle, Zaher Modaqeq, who discovered her diary.
“She was different,” he says, at a loss for words to describe his niece who died in the suicide bombing on Friday. As the youngest sibling in an extended family, Marzia was an average student, more interested in the creative arts, Modaqeq says. But after the Taliban takeover, she was more determined than ever to complete her education and achieve her goals.
On 15 August, the day the Taliban returned to power, she wrote about people’s fears, the shock and disbelief of “girls like me”. “An entire day was wasted,” she wrote. On 24 August, she wrote: “I had a tiring day … I had some nightmares I can’t remember, but I was crying in my sleep and screaming. When I woke up, I had an uncomfortable feeling. I went to a corner and cried and felt better.” In the entries that followed, Marzia wrote about wanting to take the Konkor exams. Her family discovered that she had dreamed of becoming an architect, a career that combined her love of art with academia.
“She kept motivating herself every week, encouraging herself to study for longer. There are regular entries of her preparing for the weekly mock tests that took place at the Kaaj Educational Centre that was targeted. She would take the simulation tests every Friday and her scores gradually improved,” Modaqeq says.
An extract from Marzia’s diary, showing her bucket list. Photograph: Handout
In her last entry, on 30 September, she wrote: “Wow, bravo Marzia!”
Marzia’s diary reveals the world of a teenager who wanted to learn and explore the world. “I didn’t even know she used to keep such a diary,” Modaqeq says, the grief evident in his voice. “Some of her thoughts were so profound that I couldn’t believe they were expressed by such a young child.”
As told to Hikmat Noori
(c) The Guardian 2022