My Anguish Realized, RIP – Farishta
It’s a pleasant spring evening here in Dar es Salaam and I’m enjoying the gentle breeze blowing from the Indian Ocean half a mile away to my 10th-floor apartment. I’m typing away furiously on my laptop, trying to pen ideas in my head for my new novel before I get distracted when my ears perk up and my heartbeat accelerates erratically. Al Jazeera’s anchorwoman just mentioned a bomb blast at a school in the Dashte Barchi neighborhood of Kabul, Afghanistan. Initial reports state nineteen casualties and scores injured; I feel claustrophobic and the onset of nausea.
I know Dashte Barchi quite well since I’ve visited it numerous times during my forays into this ill-fated country. CAI donors have helped pay for several projects in the area, from providing hundreds of school desks, drill water wells, and numerous homes for the destitute. It’s a sprawling township, with very limited or no public services. There are no streetlights, no paved roads, no running water, or a sewer system – it’s a ghetto. Most of the inhabitants are poor and persecuted Hazara Shias, hated as a minority by a tiny fraction within the predominant Pashtuns. These Hazaras are internally displaced refugees (IDPs) who escaped persecution from other insecure areas of the country and now make Dashte Barchi their home.
Whenever I hear or learn of a bomb blast at any school in Afghanistan, and there have been so many, I get this tight feeling of suffocation across my chest. CAI has constructed twenty-four schools across the country, and 150 orphans stay at a beautiful orphanage and school facility sponsored by CAI donors not very far from Dashte Barchi. These orphan children, whom I and many other CAI Trustees know well since they have been with us for most of their lives are bonded to us as family and I do not know what I’d do if anything happened to any of them. I desperately call Amini, our Manager at the facility, and he assures me everything is normal. My relief is so immense, I giggle shamelessly.
In all fifty-eight children, overwhelmingly teenage girls sitting for an entrance exam to Kabul University are blown to pieces by a suicide bomber. Scores are injured, including ten who are very critical and fourteen others who need serious medical attention. Their crime? They look different than the ruling majority, practice the Shia faith of Islam but make up a sizable 30% of Afghanistan’s population. The lucky ones are airlifted to a neighboring country for treatment. Two teenage girls cannot be transported due to the severity of their injuries. One of them is Farishta Raazayee.
Farishta is a beautiful, bubbling seventeen-year-old Hazara girl living in the low-income neighborhood of Dashte Barchi. She is the second of five daughters and one son. The family lives in acute hardship since the father is a disabled senior and cannot work, nor do the other females in the family. The son works as a shop’s aide earning Afs.8,000 as remuneration (US$90) per month. This is what the entire family has for livelihood. Even then, a small amount is saved up for Farishta since she is the brightest and wants to pursue a medical degree program. She is among hundreds sitting for the Kabul University entrance exam on Friday, September 30, 2022, when a SOB bastard guns down two security guards at the entrance, enters the exam hall, and detonates a powerful bomb.
CAI mobilizes to aid the poor victims with medical care as soon as we have a clear picture and the logistics in place. Amini in Kabul informs me that fourteen girls need help paying for medical services and medicines. Farishta is one of the two who is severely injured and cannot be moved.
I begin a fervent prayer regimen for these two to recover, willing them, across the miles that separate us, to live, to pull through. I would do anything to get them to recover, go back to university, graduate and show the likes of the suicide bomber their middle finger. But Allah (s), in His infinite wisdom, has other plans for Farishta and she passes away this morning.
I do not know you, Farishta, yet I know you intimately. I dream your dreams, my child, I feel your intense burning desire for knowledge and I share your demand for freedom from the demons in your country.
My anguish knows no bounds. Rest In Peace, dear Farishta. You are probably better off where you are than in this cruel and merciless world of ours.
The other girl is out of danger, alhamd’Allah, and will insha’Allah recover completely. CAI donors will continue their support for the full recovery of them all.