The Killid Group, November 30, 2013
A woman’s account of Jehadi warlords’ crimes: Overcoming Odds to Fight for Justice
The fighters of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar fired the rocket that came from the direction of Charsadda
The testimony of a plucky woman who has become the voice of disabled women and the families of martyrs.*
Deep sorrow has turned Shahfiqa Salehzai's hair grey.
In 1989 she was a married woman with three children. She worked in the development sector in a company called Yama. Her husband was a fighter pilot. Life couldn't have been better.
"We were a happy family. I had been married for 10 years. I had three children, the two older girls were nine and seven years old, and my son was the youngest," she says.
Then one day a rocket landed on their house in Kart-e-Naw in Kabul. "It was doomsday," she says. Shahfiqa and her children were at home. The fighters of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar fired the rocket that came from the direction of Charsadda, she believes.
When she regained consciousness she was in a hospital. "One of my legs wouldn't move. They operated on it 12 times, but the result was zero," she says.
Her son was also in the same hospital. Sometimes the staff would bring him to her, she says. "Each time I asked about my daughters they said they were injured, and in another hospital." Her husband visited her every evening. One day he stopped coming, she recalls. "When I asked the staff they told me his plane had crashed in Shindand airport in Herat. My husband was martyred."
Now only her mother visited her in hospital. "My heart was broken," she says. "But sorrow never kills anyone or I would be under the earth now," she adds.
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an infamous warlord responsible for many crimes against innocent Afghan people, especially during the civil war of 1992-1996. His rocket firing into Kabul city from its outskirts destroyed a major part of the city and killed thousands of innocent people.
For six months Shahfiqa remained in hospital. Night after night she would dream about her daughters - Feriba and Ghezal. The dreams haunted her but she lived in the hope of being reunited with them when she left the hospital. "Finally, my wounds were healed and the doctors said I could go back to my family. When I reached home no one said a word. It was my six-year-old niece who told me, 'Tomorrow I'll take you to the graves of Feriba and Ghezal'. I collapsed in a faint." The two girls had perished in the rocket attack.
The news of her daughters' death was the final blow for Shahfiqa. Unable to deal with the shock on her own - her son was too young to help his mother - she lost her mind, and was sent back to hospital.
Shahfiqa remembers the intense feeling of bitterness and despair. "I was insane. I could not relax. I would not let the doctors enter my room. Many times I tried to end my life. But they would tell me to get a grip on myself for the sake of my son. Who would look after him, they said!"
Luckily for Shahfiqa she got the best professional help to deal with her injuries and depression. When doctors in Afghanistan failed to put her back on her feet she was sent to Moscow. Doctors operated on her leg six times but to no avail, she says. "I was told that you are still young. If we amputate your leg it will be worse for you. I returned to my homeland 1993. I was disabled."
She said she had to make regular visits to the Kabul 400 Bed Hospital. On one such visit she was caught in another rocket attack by Hekmatyar's fighters. "I was on my way to the hospital when a rocket exploded next to me. My disabled leg was again badly injured. The doctors said it was hopeless … they cut my leg off," she says in deep anguish.
The operation was unsuccessful. Following recurring, unbearable pain in the amputated limb the chief surgeon informed her that she would need to be operated on again. "They operated three more times," she says. "A total of 21 surgeries were done on one leg!" she adds.
Shahfiqa thinks it was her faith in God that helped her through the ordeal. "I prayed to God - don't let another Muslim face such a big test!"
After the fall of the Taleban regime Shahfiqafound a job in the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs & Disabled (MoLSAMD). "Those were comfortable days," she recalls. But it lasted only eight years.
"I was a trainer of vocational studies with the ministry," she says. "One day I was told that if I work as a cleaner I had a job but otherwise in my present position they could not keep me." No explanation was given for her termination.
Shahfiqaaccuses the MoLSAMD for paying only lip-sympathy to the disabled. She says officials help only those who have "personal links" to them.
Now Shahfiqa heads the Afghanistan Disabled Women and Martyrs Heirs organisation. It is committed to raising the voice of oppressed and war-affected women in the country. She says the organisation has a work permit from the Ministry of Justice.
"There are 500 widows, poor women and heirs of martyrs registered as members of the organisation. We have received no official help although I have given the list of our members to the MoLSAMD."
**The testimonies of survivors of war crimes are our contribution to creating greater public awareness about people's hopes and claims for justice, reconciliation and peace.
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