On June 2, 2018, Zarghuna, while cooking dinner for eftar, receives a call from her husband Ghazi Jan, an Afghan army soldier who was waiting in cheap hotel rooms in Herat to be boarded to Kabul. “I cannot wait longer, I have booked a bus ticket and will leave this evening,” Jan said. Aware of how unsafe Herat-Kabul route is for Afghan army soldier and government employees, Zarghuna struggled to convince her husband not come by road but in vain.
It usually takes a passenger 14 to 17 hours from Herat to reach Kabul. The next day, Zarghuna, pensive and worried, waited until sunset but her husband did not show up. The night fell, and Ghazi’s family members grew more worried. His mother, wife, children and brother became more concerned as minutes passed. They called him but no one responded.
Zarghuna became more perturbed as days went by. She repeatedly called her husband but his cell phone’s automatic reply responded: “the number you dialed is switched off.” Six days later, as Zarghuna tried to reach her husband by phone, a man responded the call and said, “I have found this SIM card on a roadside.”
Ghazi Jan had joined the Afghan army in 2016, and he was deployed to 207 Zafar Corps in Herat province. He pushed for seven months to have his leave letter approved. Finally, he received his letter of leave in April, 2018, hoping to reunite his family. Jan waited very long to get a military subsidized plane ticket and leave Herat for Kabul but his dream of flying to Kabul did not turn true.
Before Ghazi’s departure to Kabul, his eight-year-old daughter Aisha had asked him to bring her clothes for the Eid festival. “Mom, I wish I had not asked my dad to bring me clothes. If I had not asked him, he might have returned home,” Aisha told her mother with a deep sense of guilt.
“The other day, feeling pain in my bone, I visited a doctor who said the pain was caused by stress,” said Zarghuna, thanking her brother-in-law who took her to hospital. “How can I not worry about my husband? If he was dead, maybe I could overcome pains after a while, but this uncertainty kills me.”
Sebgul, Ghazi Jan’s old mother, has partially lost her eyesight following the disappearance of her son. From dusk to dawn, she prays, and waits to hear about her son. She just wants to know what happened to her son.
“I am getting worried about my daughter-in-law,” said Sebgul. “If Zarghuna falls, what should I do with my grandchildren? Who is going to take care of them?”
“I was really excited to meet my brother,” said the 34-year-old Fazl Karim, who returned home after 22 years of living abroad. “He wanted to meet me as soon as possible.”
Fazl Karim, who works in a private company as guard, traveled to Herat, and searched hospitals, prisons, streets, hotels, and private transportation firms but found no sign of his brother.
Referring to her brother-in-law, Fazl Karim, Zarghuna said, “he cares for everyone in the family but is going to get married very soon, and once he is married, he cannot afford to support two families_ his family and mine.”
The Afghan army has turned their back on the family. Zubair Aref, deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense (MoD), said that the ministry knew nothing about Ghazi Jan who was missing on his way back to home. Officials at the MoD asked Ghazi’s family to provide details and information about him.
According to regulations, if an Afghan soldier goes missing, the army should pay the total amount of his one year salary to his family members, what Jan’s family has not received until now.
“My husband was not an indifferent person who would just walk away and leave us alone,” said Zarghuna. “Once he was on duty in a remote village, he called by a cell phone of a shopkeeper.”
Zarghuna said that if Ghazi was alive and free, he would definitely contact us. With hope that he is still alive, every time the phone rings, their heart beats faster, and rush to phone.
“My children rush to cell phone every time it rings,” said Zarghuna. “They are always sad. I am not sure whether they will hear his voice or not.” Ghazi Jan is a father of three young children. He is the only bread winner of the family.