She was just 9 years old. She didn’t know whether she was a Shia or a Sunni Muslim. She even didn’t know which ethnic group she belonged to. All she knew that she had small sparkling eyes, fair complexion and a small cute nose. She also knew that she was living in Afghanistan but she didn’t know how vulnerable she was being a Hazara Shia girl.
In her native village Dhamordha, Jaghori District, Afghanistan she walked freely. She used to go to her school alone without fear of being stopped. She was studying in year 4. She loved her school and her class teacher. Perhaps she wanted to be a school teacher. She was the second daughter but she always considered herself the eldest child in the family. She didn’t like playing with dolls because it would make her feel younger. And she never wanted that something should make her feel smaller. She wanted to grow fast—faster than a bamboo tree. She seemed to be in a rush to get bigger as soon as possible. Sometimes she would secretly wear her mother’s dress and put her makeup on her tiny cute face but she didn’t know that makeup would rather make her look younger of her age.
One day, she told her father to buy her some bigger dress.
“Why?” her father asked.
“Because, it will help me grow faster,” she said looking up at her father.
“Who told you?” her father asked.
“My class fellow wears her elder sister’s dress,” she said confidently. “She was smaller than me last year but now she is nearly of my height.”
“But you don’t look good in big dresses,” her father said.
“I’ll not wear it outside. Just inside at home,” she explained.
“Why don’t you wear your elder sister’s dress? It’s…”
“No, I can’t because she’s nearly of my height,” she snapped.
“OK,” said her father. “I’ll buy you in a few days.”
“Thank you father,” she quickly grabbed her father’s right hand, brought it up to her mouth and kissed it. Her father kissed her forehead. She was a dad’s girl therefore, her father couldn’t say no to her.
After a few days, one day, her father asked Shurkria if she would like to go to Pakistan to see her grandmother and her uncle.
“Yes, I’d love to see my grandmother, uncle and his children,” she walked up to her father, sat close to him and spread her arms around his shoulders. “But what’ll happen to my school?”
“I’ll talk to your school tomorrow,” he said.
“When I’m going, father?” she asked. “…and are you going with me?” she asked another question.
“I’ll tell you tomorrow,” her father said.
The next day, her father told her that she would go with Ali’s mother, their old neighbour and family friend. But he promised to see her in Quetta City, Pakistan in a few days and they would come back home together.
After a couple of days, early morning, her father took her to the bus station near main bazaar of Dhamordha village, kissed her forehead and made her sit in a small van next to Ali’s mother who was going to Pakistan for medical treatment.
“Don’t forget to ring me from Qandahar,” her father reminded her through the window of the van.
“Yes, father. I will,” she promised.
In the meantime, the driver, squeezed in five more customers in a van and then drove off. Ramazan, her father waved off to say goodbye to her daughter.
The van moved off slowly from the main bazaar. The driver told the passengers that he wouldn’t take risk to go to Rasna but instead he’d prefer to go to Guwar, Shajoi, Kalat, Qandahar and then to Pakistan. Hopefully in the evening, we’d arrive in Quetta City.
Shukria’s father came back home and told his wife to remind him to ring to the driver to talk to her daughter after five hours.
“OK. I will,” his wife said and got busy in the kitchen.
After five hours, Ramazan pressed few buttons on his mobile to ring to the driver but he didn’t get any respond.
“Are you ringing to the driver?” asked his wife.
“Yes, I am but it seems to have some signal problem,” he replied. “I think, they haven’t arrived yet in Qandahar. I’ll ring after half an hour.”
After 40 minutes, Ramazan started ringing again but again no respond. He rang after 20 minutes but the driver’s mobile seemed to have been not working.
“Can you go to the bus station and ask other drivers. They might have some information,” his wife suggested.
He rushed to the bus station and met few van and bus drivers but none of them had any information. He came back home and started ringing but it didn’t work.
It was in the evening, when he heard his mobile ringing. He quickly answered the ring. Someone on other side of the phone was telling him that all seven van passengers had been kidnapped by unknown armed men. It could be Taliban or may be any other armed group.
Ramazan didn’t believe his ears. He didn’t tell his wife. He rushed to the bus station to confirm the news. Some drivers told him but they were not sure which van.
In the evening, he rang to his brother in Quetta City, Pakistan. His brother told him that he was in the bus station in Quetta City waiting for the van but he didn’t see the driver, Shukria and other passengers from the area.
It was getting dark and Ramazan was getting worried. He didn’t know, where to go or who to talk to? He was continuously ringing to the driver, but his mobile seemed to have switched off. His brother in Pakistan suggested him to go to the nearby Police Station to get help. But he was not sure, whether Police could help him.
It was on the social media, when the abduction news emerged. Later on, the national television confirmed the news of the seven passengers’ abduction including two women and a minor girl.
Family members and neighbours started coming Ramazan’s home. His wife fell unconscious, when she heard the news. People around were comforting them and giving them support. Ramazan’s lips were quivering. His throat was dried and bitter. His legs were shaking. He was walking here and there like a dead soul. He wanted to talk but didn’t know what to say. He never found himself so helpless. He wanted to cry but perhaps his tears had dried up.
The following day, community elders visited his home and promised to make all possible efforts to bring her daughter and six other hostages back home. He was assured not to lose his heart. Ramazan felt a sign of hope and thanked community elders for their support.
He continuously prayed to God to look after his Shukria and reminded of how he thanked Him for being given a beautiful daughter.
After nearly one month in abduction, on 8th of November 2015, a group of Pashtoon elders from Guwar, District Zabul, Afghanistan brought seven dead bodies wrapped in coffins in Shajoi Hospital. The news of the seven dead bodies spread like a fire in the area and then to Dhamurdha village. People rushed to Shajoi Hospital to find their loved ones. Ramazan also hurried to the hospital. Among the dead bodies, there was also a tiny body wrapped in a white coffin. He couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw her beautiful daughter lying dead. He held her body up and pressed her against his chest and screamed loudly. The tears started rolling down on his cheeks like a tap water.
His family members grabbed him of his shoulders to support him while the hospital staff started removing the dead bodies on the ambulance to take them to the native village.
Later on, the doctor said that all victims’ throats had either been cut by a metal wire or a kite string coated glass. United Nations, Afghan Government and US have condemned the killings. Many Afghans termed it a religious and race motivated killing by unknown armed men.
When she was born her father named her Shukria, which means ‘thanks or thank you’. Being so happy at her birth, Ramazan must have thanked God for giving him a lovely daughter. Now, his Shukria has gone, many wonder what’s left him to thank God.
The writer lives in Cardiff City, UK and tweets at toyounasat. For more stories, please click on his blog www.myounas.com