I’m Zainab from Uzbekistan. I was born on July 24th, 1991. It’s the same date (but another year) when Amelia Mary Earhart was born. She was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Well, she ended up disappearing which could have been my fate as well.
If you’re reading my letter, it’s only because I was the chosen one to experience lull after a storm.
Well, here’s my journey from the beginning,
When my ammi was pregnant with me, she was instructed to kill the child if it was a girl.
It was a dark monsoon evening, thunderstorms kept all the evil eyes indoors which usually wandered at this peak hour. My abbu didn’t want a girl child because it would eventually get our family killed trying to protect her from these monsters that have recently emerged in this once-a-peaceful-country of ours. Rahim mamu wrapped me in a towel and ran as fast as he could, to my nanu’s house right after I was born. My abbu wanted me to be killed but when ammi denied, she was beaten up and was left alone. Since then, ammi and mamu have been taking care of me. Rahim mamu is a professor at Tashkent University. He brings books for me to read and is my storyteller. We have a little world of ours. Allah has always been the ray of hope in my life. If there’s something I believe in, then that’s this omnipotent being, my saviour, the almighty.
Today, we heard a deafening blast outside our house. They were the bad men from Taleban. A man had a long metal stick in his hand which made loud noises. These metal sticks made people bleed and then they fell on the ground. Rahim mamu covered my mouth, lifted me and ran inside our house. He switched off the lights and asked me to stay shut. Ammi was so scared her face turned pale. Once the noises muffled, mamu switched on the lights and showed me a so’m. He said, ‘Zainab, there are two sides of this so’m. Similarly, there are two types of people. People like you, me and Huzuz (ammi) the good ones, the people Allah will always favour and on the other hand, people from Taleban who shall receive the wrath of Jahannum. The metal stick you just saw is called a ‘gun’ and they kill people with it. These people who die are innocent and are on our side of the so’m. These people go to heaven.’
I began dreaming about lands beyond this country where we need not fear these bad guys from Taleban. All these countries in these novels and stories where women hold important offices in the government, ride bikes, embark on expeditions, discover something ground-breaking or to the very basic, live a normal life.
I am now 8 years old. My mamu’s son and other boys go to school but I can’t for I’m a girl. My cousin’s name is Aziz. After he comes back home, he teaches me whatever is taught to him that day. One day when I had just started for the market with Aziz and Rahim mamu, a car across the street exploded. We all ran to our house. Rahim mamu asked us to stay inside while he went to confirm what had happened. Mamu returned teary-eyed that the United Nations has come to tackle Taleban. Allah had listened to all our prayers. Now we would live in a country which we had always dreamt of. I would now go to school!
While this was happening, airplanes from the UN flew over us. These planes airdropped pamphlets that asked the civilians to relocate to the refugee camps because our area would be attacked. Mamu insisted on leaving the area and we decided to start for the refugee camp at night, quietly, so that the bad guys don’t notice our movement.
When we started, we saw that these bad guys attacked houses and took away women with them. It was pathetic. I wanted all these women to be free. This scene distracted me and I tumbled on some ballast and fell. Those bad guys noticed us. They started firing and ran towards us. We ran as fast as we could. Ammi and Rahim mamu carried me in their arms in turns and then Aziz held my hand while I was running. We kept running even though our legs were bleeding. With every stride, we were getting closer to our way out, to a different world, I had Allah’s strength. I always was connected to Allah and every force in nature wanted us to be free.
When you notice, Rahim and Aziz are other names of Allah and Huzuz which means a lady of great fortune always surrounded me. Every memory of ours resonated through my mind while running. We kept running until we saw barbed wires and intense white light. We finally reached the refugee camp. We were finally there. All of us started crying. We hugged each other because the bad men weren’t around anymore.
We were then relocated to another country.
It’s different here. Girls go to school. Boys and girls play together. There are no bad men from Taleban here. Even today, mamu tells us stories before we sleep, just the way it used to be. The memories do haunt me at times. I feel I should’ve done something for those women. I should’ve fought the bad men myself. Every time I pray to Allah I ask him to help other Zainabs out there just the way he did for me.
Always be thankful for whatever you have, life could’ve been worse.
May Allah give love and light to everyone, always.