Widow of Afghan fallen soldier demands immediate end to war

We had many derams, working to make them true, Zainab, Mahmoud’s widow, says, lamenting how the brutal Afghan war killed her husband. “We got married but life did not give us chance to live a life we were dreaming,” she says.

Zainab was a second year student at department of social science at Herat University when she met Mahmoud, her would-be husband, for the very first time. Mahmoud then was studying engineering at Jawzjan University. They got engaged in the next year.

The two ambitious young students spent summer of 2014 together making an unforgettable memory, discussing their future plans and dream lives. But they did not fear challenges that marriage life may bring in Afghanistan.  

A year later, Mahmoud graduated from university, with a bachelor degree in engineering. Unemployed and jobless, he could not manage to pay extravagant amount of money required for his marriage expenses.

Eager to serve the Afghan army, Mr. Mahmoud joined the Marshal Fahim military Academy to study military arts and become a service member of Afghan army. It took two and a half years for Mahmoud to graduate from the academy.

Upon his graduation, Mahmoud went to Herat. He married Zainab, then a reporter working with Bakhtar agency of Herat Information and Culture Department. Mahmoud was waiting for the Ministry of Defense to deploy him where he needed to go and start his duty. Zainab and Mahmoud, hoping that he would be offered a position in the military in Herat.

Mahmoud was appointed as a lieutenant in Paktika province. A brutal war with the insurgent groups was going on in the eastern part of the country by the time he was deployed there.

Zainab did not want Mahmoud to go there but apparently they had no choice. Mahmoud persuaded Zainab by telling her that he will leave just to check his place of work and then decide to leave or stay. When he left Herat, Zainab was four months pregnant.

Lieutenant Mahmoud, who was killed in a Taliban attack

Four months after his appointment, Lieutenant Mahmoud was killed in a Taliban attack on their outpost, apparently coordinated by a Taliban infiltrator, who had shared the map and details with the Taliban insurgents who carried out the attack on their outpost.        

Zainab was eight-month pregnant by the time she heard the saddest news of her life: Mahmoud’s death. She could not calm herself down. She wanted to go to the nearby shrine, cry, and pray to release her distress, but could not. A deep pain had occupied her body and soul.  

Helpless and broken, she tried to reach out Mahmoud by phone but his mobile was switched off. Mahmoud’s family tried to calm Zainab but in vain. Around evening on the same day, sometime in December, Mahmoud’s father walked in with a devastating mournful eyes to take Zainab to her parent’s home. She was told that Mahmoud was wounded.  

The street, where Zainab’s house was located, were filled by people, whose looks were telling Zainab something different. She lost her consciousness and could not feel anything happening around her. She was taken to a mosque where Mahmood’s dead body was laying and then to a graveyard where he was buried.

Two weeks after Mahmoud’s tragic death, Zainab gave birth to her son, Subhan.

“With Mahmoud’s death, my dreams shattered as if they never existed. Even giving birth to Subhan could not help me heal and reconnect with the outside world,” says Zainab.

The depression, caused by the demise of her husband, triggered Zainab think about suicide.  “I was so alone, had no one around me, memory of Mahmoud, his absence was dressing me,” she says. Swamped in a pain and suffering, Subhan was the only hope that dawned the gloomy nights for Zainab. “As time passed, I managed to accept and take responsibility to raise Subhan. This is what that makes me stay strong,” Zainab says.

Affected by long and devastating war in her country, Zainab wants an immediate end to war. She is a war victim, who does not know how exactly justice is served.

Zainab is campaigning against war. she took part in “People’s Dialogue on Peace”, a program organized by the US Institute of Peace in Herat. “Those who sit at the negotiating table must think of the rights of thousands of women like me, protect, and defend it in the peace agreement. If I am deprived of my right to work, and study, then how can I raise and support my child,” Zainab questions. The war killed my husband, the father of my baby, she says. “This war must end.”