The author, whose name and identifying information are not being revealed by The Globe and Mail out of concern for his safety, is a 13-year-old boy living in Afghanistan with his family. They are currently applying for a permit to come to Canada through their lawyer, Erin Simpson, of Landings LLP.
In my native tongue, my name means “light,” and my light has burned bright. Following in my aunt’s footsteps, I have been preparing for university entrance exams in the West, dreaming about getting a scholarship and studying at one of the top universities in the world. My goal is to be a mathematician or an engineer and to raise my voice for Afghan women and youth.
But everything has changed. Now, I feel my light flickering. Now, I wake up to the sounds of bullets and bombs exploding and places near my house getting hit by Taliban rockets. The focus of my life is just to survive. The space for my dreams is shrinking.
Because of the fight between the Taliban and the now-departed government of Afghanistan, I live in fear. I can’t attend school. The internet connection that allowed me to study online has been cut. The internet was like a rope or a step for me, but it’s broken, and I cannot go up. Math is hard to learn when you don’t have a good teacher. Fortunately, I had access to Khan Academy software, which allowed me to learn and do exercises with some guidance. I also had a mentor who was helping me with the university entrance exams. I read books like Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree together with my mentor, who was also teaching me how to write personal essays. Now, I can write what I feel. But because of the internet shutdown, I can no longer meet with him on Skype.
To encourage us to read more, my mum put books on the shelf in our bedroom – books about astronomy and math and stories. She has since removed them all, because the Taliban don’t like people who read these kinds of books. It made me sad, looking at the empty shelf.
I worry about my sister, who will never be able to learn to speak English and read books. Recently, she told my mother that she wished we had never been born. When my mother asked why, she said it was because the Taliban were coming. She is very bright and could do so much with her life.
Every day I am very worried about the fighting, because people in the city are being killed. I cannot sleep at night because I am scared of the sounds of bullets and bombing. I have nightmares about our house burning, with no one around to help us put water on the fire.
We’ve left our home, which wound up being caught in the crossfire of fighting, and are now living in our relative’s house. We fear that we will be targeted by the Taliban because I have an aunt who inspired me, and so many others, with her commitment to girls’ education in Afghanistan. She defied the Taliban. She accepted the invitation of international forces – including Canada’s – and took a stand for girls’ education. She believed in the peaceful Afghanistan that Canada and the international forces promised. Now we wait in fear, to see how they will respond to her defiance.
When Kabul fell, I felt like someone took my heart. With the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, I can no longer breathe freely. I feel like everything I do, someone is watching. I am so scared. I want my normal life back. I know I can’t have the future I imagined for myself in Afghanistan. With every passing hour, my light is dimming, and I’m afraid it will soon die. Everywhere here is nothing but chaos.
My uncles, aunts, great-aunts, great-uncles and cousins are all Canadians, and Canada has said that it will help Afghans who are vulnerable to attacks because they spoke up for women and girls. That’s my family. That is us. And so we are asking Canada – home to the rest of our family, and protector of the Afghan people – to provide us safe haven.
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