7 years ago, everything seemed perfect for Aria and her family. They lived in a 2 bedroom house with a sitting area, toilet and a kitchen. They also had a little balcony where most of Aria’s favourite memories lived, surrounded by beautiful gardens and exultant faces.
This all changed the day Aria turned 9.
The family had to move from Egypt into a place they never felt safe in and for good reason. The family of 5 moved to Herat which is the largest city in Afghanistan and is based near the centre of this country.
They moved into a miniature hut house which was built with the family’s remaining life savings.
Aria was the middle child in the family and had an elder brother, Aqib as well as a 6 year old sister called Meya.
Aria’s parents, Omar and Yasmina were always hard working and supportive. But, when Omar and Yasmina lost their eldest child, Amina, times got extremely hard.
Aria’s parents spent all their savings on medical care but this wasn’t enough as Amina was severely ill and so passed away at the age of 21. The funeral costs resulted in Omar having to work extra hard but when he got laid off work, they were forced to leave.
It was different being in Afghanistan, especially for this family. Being Muslim in a country like this brought up numerous different expectations, and most of these were based on false truth.
Due to these expectations and rules, Yasmina couldn’t work so less money was being brought in for the family to live on, but they survived. For 7 years, the family managed to persist even in the unpleasant conditions they lived in. For example, the family all had to sleep in one room, travel miles to get clean water and sometimes had no money for any food.
However, one day, the family’s condition went from bad to worse. The day they’d always knew would come but didn’t expect when. The day when Taliban soldiers invaded Herat including Aria’s family home. They were sent to find more soldiers but took them as slave labourers and so overran the family, stealing Aqib and Omar as they needed male soldiers but had no authority as they took them without their consent.
They also kidnapped Yasmina and Meya in their home keeping them as ransom for their immoral needs.
Aria has always had a diary that was gifted to her when she was 8 by her elder sister, Amina to write down all her memories and experiences so that she can look back on them.
In this, she wrote down everything as if it was written to her sister. This included, her most favourite days and how they played out back when her family was happy, but little did she know she’d also write her most fearful memories as she wrote down everything that happened since this day:
Dear Amina, 6th May 2000
I know I haven’t wrote down anything in a while, nothing’s changed since the last time I wrote. But now, everything’s different. I don’t know what to do, I can’t even cry anymore. I’m not at home right now, I’m in a place that I don’t even know, and hiding from depraved people who have took away everything from me.
These people took Aqib and Father. They didn’t say anything, they just dragged them out of the house.
Mother begged me to take Meya and run but Meya wouldn’t stop crying and I thought she was behind me when I hid but she wasn’t.
These awful men tied up Meya and Mother as I hid behind the chestnut drawer and watched. I wanted to scream and run to Mother but I needed to get out of there and find help… but how could I have?
Who could I have trusted? What could I have done? I carried on hiding, whilst more horrific men came into the home. I prayed, I prayed to God. I prayed so you could know what was happening.
I wish you was here,