By Noor Wali Sayeed Shinwari
"I don't know what happiness is," says Qalam Gul who lost both legs and one hand in the civil war. A testimony*
From the remote area of Rod Khana in Nangarhar, Gul remembers the exact moment shrapnel changed his life forever. "It was 8 O'clock in the morning. I was having breakfast along with my sisters and brothers. There was bombing day and night. A rocket slammed into our house. I thought the sky had fallen. When I came around people were carrying me on a bed like I was being carried for a funeral," he recounts.
Wanting to keep him safe his father had sent him away to Pakistan during the years of fighting between the Soviet-backed government and the US-sponsored mujahedin. When he returned home in 1993 he was 18 and the mujahedin were battling each other for the control of Kabul. The whole country was divided between warring factions. "The mujahedin were saving themselves but the poor nation was destroyed," he says.
Photo: Killid Group
Now in his late 30s, Gul has never married. "I became a victim of the revolution. I have neither healed nor died," he says.
The rocket that brought down his house killed his mother and three brothers while a sister was seriously wounded. His father and one brother were out of the house at the time.Gul's wounds were deep, and the flesh was hanging out. He was carried on a mule to Torkham, the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and from there, in an ambulance, to a hospital run by Germans in Peshawar.
He says he stayed five Eids in the hospital. "There were times when I begged the doctors to inject poison into me to end my suffering," he recalls. "I was operated on many times. But I survived. The angel of death did not come for me."
Two years later when he returned to his rebuilt home, he was informed about the deaths in his family. "No one dies of sorrow otherwise I would be dead," he says, sadly. "My lovely mother and brothers had been sacrificed. My sister was disabled like me."
Gul was fitted with prosthetic limbs. "Artificial limbs were very heavy at that time. It was difficult to stand or sit. Eventually they gave me 16 days training," he says. Now he walks long distances, and can carry loads of 10 kgs. "I have worn out eight pairs of artificial limbs. If I walk a long distance my legs start to bleed again," he adds.
Without the prosthetics, Gul is "like a dead man". "I am in charge of the disabled in the whole district (Rod Khana), but I cannot do much. My father has to plough the field although he is very old. I feel like crying because I cannot assist him," he can't stop talking.
Are disabled people socially accepted? "People hate the disabled," he says. Once a person taunted me saying that if god was so kind why would he make you disabled. "The wounds of revolution have healed but the wound of this taunt will remain till the end in my heart."
According to Gul, his younger brother is the only compassionate person he knows. "I call him Karzai because he is the king of my heart. He is my caretaker; he helps me with my artificial legs. When I am walking alone he follows me like a thief to make sure I don't fall anywhere. He provides me with tea and food. Because of concern for me he is not willing to go to school but I force him."
Originally published on Nov. 19, 2012