Zaheda Ghani

Working Note: I wrote this piece as part of a major work called FRAGMENTATIONS in my third year of university. The work deals with issues of border crossing, feminism and identities. It uses experimental language and fictocriticism.  “Afghanistan” is a true story of an actual event which happened to me when I was a child and everything in it is true to the best of memory.


Paper is falling out of the sky. I am in the garden.
It’s sunny day. It comes back to me in slow
motion. I’m three years old. My father is often
amazed at the fact that I should remember this far
back into my childhood. I tell him the     
memories are unforgettable.

Paper continues to fall, communist 
propaganda literally rains down on us. The
helicopters are so noisy, so high in the sky. I
stand looking up, my arms are wide open.  I want
to catch all the pieces of falling paper.

Paper, paper, everywhere

At least it’s better than when they decide to shower
us with bullets.

Mother is at work. She is a teacher at the school
across the street. You can see it when you
go outside the huge walls of my grandparents’

The walls are made of the thick hay and mud.  I
remember the walls. The height of them makes me
feel protected.  I imagine that these walls
are strong enough to stop the rockets.

I go inside the house to play behind the big black
couch in the main guestroom. This is where we
hide when the sirens sound in the middle of the

One night, I hear my father pray for us to die
together if we are hit. That night he holds mother
and I close to him. I can feel him shivering as I
secretly agree with him. I’ve never seen father
frightened before.

Now, I play with my big red doll when it happens. I
hear a loud noise. I know it is a bomb. I run out
into the garden. Somehow, I find my hand in my
aunt’s hand and I am being pulled behind her.

Small feet try to keep up.

Everyone gathers outside,
smoke rises from the direction of the school. I see
it come up over the wall. The noise numbs my ears.
There is screaming and shouting on the other side
where mother is.

We run out of the gates, into the street, though I
am hesitant.  I don’t want to see her pieces lying
before me. She would be coming home for
lunch now.

All I see is smoke. My heart has stopped, my
knees shake, I know she’s gone. Everyone is
crying. My grandmother holds me.  My head is on her
chest and I watch the smoke. I don’t say a word. I want
her to walk out of the smoke. That’s all I want.

I break free of my grandmother. I stand alone, but
I do not cry. After that I don’t remember what
happens. What I do recall is my mother, running
out of the smoke. She runs towards me. I’m in her
arms. I can smell her.  She smells of mother.  She
holds me tight.  She cries as she whispers “we have
to get away from here.”

My mouth is dry.

Bio: I was born in 1977 in Herat Afghanistan. Since then have lived in India and now Sydney, Australia. I have a degree in Journalism and creative writing and have worked for newspapers and radio. I have also worked as a Project Manager and am interested in multimedia and web design. Currently I am working as a Sports producer at a commercial radio station in Sydney. Part of my free time is spent in reading biographies of classical and modern writers, writing poetry and working with a women’s charity group. One day I would love to publish my own book and be known as a writer.

Afghan Writing Feature

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