We Forgot How to Wake Up From Nightmares, My Daughters

Tuesday 17 August 202102:20 pm

When I came back home today, their mother Rasha, tells me they have learned a new trick! Look, she says, as she puts them on their belly, their little arms pushing up their abdomens. They're supposed to hold this position for a few minutes to train their back muscles. Instead today they push their heavy heads to the side and roll over laughing. We don't manage to hold them up for more than a few seconds at a time.

In Afghanistan the news is that three quarters of the major cities have fallen to the Taliban. Even Mazar-e-Sharif, which held out until 9-11, the stronghold of the Northern Alliance, home of leaders like Ahmad Shah Masoud. All have fallen, but the Interior Minister is sure of the safety of Kabul! We will negotiate a new government that reflects the reality of today.

I hold my eldest on my legs. Putting my feet on the table in front of the couch allows me to lift her up. "Baaa-Baaa" I say. Slowly and clearly. She laughs at me. Look, don't laugh. I need you to say baba before you say mama, ok? Listen to me. It's the "bwwww" sound you make, with all the spit coming out. But make it a short. "B" with an "aaa". Even a sheep can say it, and that's a stupid sheep. Just say it once, then you have it. Repeat it and it's "Baba"! She laughs at her silly dad.

All major cities have fallen now. The Taliban are at the gates of Kabul. Its representatives are already inside, telling the foot soldiers to wait. There are stories of Taliban going from house to house to round up teenage girls and force them to marry soldiers. At schools and universities they've been sent away, pretty soon no woman is allowed to leave the house unattended by a man. Or work. Or show her face.

There are stories of Taliban going from house to house to round up teenage girls and force them to marry soldiers. At schools they've been sent away, pretty soon no woman is allowed to leave the house with a man. Or work. Or show her face.

They love their bath time. When she was a week old, my eldest, the sensitive one, hated being naked or to be put in water. Now she plays while her eyes dart around the bathroom and look for ours. When all the energy is gone, Rasha takes them out and dries them off, before combing their hair. Both my girls were born with luscious hair and the youngest kept hers. Not quite as dark as mine, more like the auburn/black my mother used to have before it went white.

Ashraf Ghani, the president, has fled the country. The soldiers pour in. There's no more talk of an Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. An Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will be announced. A new country, slightly younger than my babies, built on 1400 year old laws. I am as old as the Islamic Republic of Iran, which I left when I was three. Four decades later I see the bearded men of the revolution hold on to their vestiges of power with an iron fist. I am so glad my daughters were not born there.

Forty years from now my girls will watch the news about the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, wondering about women their age, perhaps grandmothers already, seeing so many generations born to be hidden and stuffed away. "Baba," one of them will ask, "did you expect them to stay for so long?" What can I answer? That if they managed to stay in Iran for so long, why would they want to leave Afghanistan? That the beautiful land of Afghanistan has a thousand valleys to hide and come back from? And the men, so pious, have so much space in their chest to hate women?

Forty years from now my girls will watch news about the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, wondering about women their age, perhaps grandmothers already. "Baba," one of them will ask, "Did you expect them to stay for so long”?

Instead I will answer. "Look, Azizam, the week that I tried to teach you to say Baba, I also wanted to teach you that nightmares last only until you remember to wake up. The night before Afghanistan fell I was watching the news of Lebanon imploding. I saw pictures of the black-outs and read the news of patients about to die in the hospitals. I counted how many friends I had there and ran out of fingers and toes. I went to sleep knowing I would wake up from this nightmare. Only to realize when I had woken up I was in another one. Not only was Lebanon still wiped off from the map, now Afghanistan was following too. You hadn't even learned to say your first words, and you had already witnessed two countries fall that I cared about. I had forgotten how to wake up from my nightmares. I think we all have."

Show the comments
Website by WhiteBeard