Escape from Kabul
salam bros n sis, i would like you to read my story.
Escape from Kabul
I am writing this from the safety of my flat ..., a very long way from my home in Kabul and a long time after my dramatic and frightening journey which I am going to tell you about, through the pages of the diary I kept, during those turbulent years.
In the late 1980s I was a student at the University of Science just married to my childhood sweetheart, Eshag who was in the military school just like his father, uncles and grandfather before him! Things couldn’t have been better, until one frightening night when Eshag and my brother Aref were arrested, just for being in the military. This was a terrible three months, not knowing if I would ever see them again. Imagine my relief when they were released. At that point, that was the worst thing that had ever happened to me, but there was worse to come...
My life was a dream: playing with my dog Jimmy; eating breakfast in the garden, to the sound of birdsong and the smell of flowers. The hardest choice I had to make was what to wear that day! My mornings changed drastically when the war came. I now ate indoors, to avoid the sound of gunfire and the smell of blood. I felt so alone, as my friends and colleagues fled Afghanistan – about a million people, holding their babies and screaming as they ran. We knew that we too would have to leave.
I had never wanted lots of money, but I now have great respect for it, because without money we could not have afforded to pay for our escape. We had to give a forger all our money for fake passports and pay a fee to strangers who said they would arrange our escape. Who do you trust? What do you pack? I had watched enough spy films to know to hide some money in my shoes and clothes. Leaving my things was not so hard, but leaving Jimmy was heartbreaking. He could not have survived the journey that was ahead of us and would have given us away with his barking. Luckily, our butcher’s dog had just died and he offered to take Jimmy. At least we knew he would eat well.
I had never been out of Afghanistan before and never imagined that it would be in the middle of the night, like thieves. My heart sounded louder than the gunfire as we ran towards the truck that would take us across the border with Pakistan. We lay on the floor of the vegetable truck, covered by rough blankets smelling of old cabbage. Every time we stopped, my heart stopped too. We could hear soldiers talking to our driver. Maybe he was giving them some of our money to let us through. I so wanted to tell Eshag how I was feeling, but we had to be so quiet. I think I squeezed his hand even harder than ten years later when we had our first child.
The terrible night passed and sunrise brought new hope and less fear. We were on our way! We drove through India and even found time to take a picture outside the Taj Mahal to remember our escape. We then arrived at the entrance to the Czechoslovakian forest, and the driver told us to get out.
It was so cold and we had never walked in snow before. Our shoes were too thin, and in some parts, the snow came up to our waist, but we had to go on. We started to run faster and faster and then Eshag fell. I could hear him call, but could hardly see him, buried in the snow as the light faded. I ran back and found him. I pulled him to his feet but he was shaking with cold and his hands were blue, so I blew on them! To this day, the feeling has not returned to his fingertips.
We knew we had to reach a petrol station near the German border, where the forger would give us our passports, but he never came. I had money in my shoes to call him, but there was no phone. We saw a small house next to the petrol station and knocked on the door. A lady came out and we showed her our money and signed to her that we wanted to phone. She wouldn’t let us in, but took the number from us. When we saw and heard the sirens, we realized that she had called the police. We were so sure the police would send us back, so we lied to them saying that we were visiting relatives nearby, but had got lost. Luckily, they didn’t ask for our passports, but drove us back to the border. We called the forger again, and this time he answered. He must have been so scared that we would tell the police what he was doing, that he offered to drive us all the way to Hamburg.
He came for us in a small taxi and imagine our delight when we saw my brother Aref sitting in the back with a big grin on his face. He had also traveled in the same truck as us and guess what he had found under the blanket? I had always been a bit forgetful, but this time I had forgotten my bag with my jewelry sewn into the lining! Luckily Aref was the next person in that truck. My relief didn’t last long as we saw and heard another siren coming towards us. The police must have got suspicious. It passed us, but didn’t stop and then we realized that it was only a snow plough. This was a real adventure.
We all stopped for a while and fell asleep in the back of the taxi. We were woken by the driver screaming and pulling at us to get out. We were really scared until we understood that he only wanted us to help him push the car – the engine had frozen in the cold. We ran along with the car until it started again, then we all jumped in, except me. I was stuck in the door and couldn’t get in or out! My bag, which I hadn’t dared let go of again, was wedged against the door frame. The driver ran round and shoved me in with his foot like I was a football!
We arrived in Hamburg at 6.00 in the morning and the driver let us out and drove away like the wind – he was scared of being caught smuggling people. My science training was useful in that cold city as I was able to ask in English. “How can I buy a ticket to Frankfurt.” When we got to the station, we realized we only had enough money for two tickets so we had to hide Aref from the inspector. We cleaned off our long journey and changed out of our thin clothes in the train toilet. As we sat back in the train, we saw a policeman coming towards us. We quickly shut our eyes and pretended to be asleep, just putting the ticket between our knees. The ‘policeman’ was only a ticket inspector and he was too polite to wake us so he never realized that we only had two tickets.
When we arrived, my cousin Rashid picked us up from the train station and drove us to his house. It was so lovely to be safe in a real home again, and we stayed in Germany for two years where I had my two daughters, ... AND ... My son Ebrahim was born in London seven years ago and I am watching him now, playing in front of me, in my flat ... as I write this story of my escape from Kabul.