Sarah's picture holding her baby started circulating on social media hours after the attack

Born in fire, lost in war

A picture, showing a woman, holding a newborn baby, circulated on social media hours after a deadly attack on a maternity hospital in western Barchi neighborhood of Kabul. This initial picture, which was taken in the aftermath of the attack, showed a woman lying down in a hospital room, her left hand in blood and a baby in her right hand.

The woman in picture was Sarah and her newborn daughter. From the mountainous central Daikundi province, in an 18-hour-long and bone-shaking journey, Sarah had come to Kabul to have a safe delivery.

On May 12, three gunmen, in police uniform, broke into Barchi National 100 Beds Hospital in the capital Kabul, opened fire at newborn babies and mothers and killed 24 people including Sarah. The Taliban denied responsibility for the attack. Islamic State of Khurasan Province (ISKP) claimed responsibility for the attack.                     

Mother of two children, Sarah, in the words of her desperate husband, Rahmatullah, was the closest friend he ever had in his life.  The 26-year-old Sarah was a university graduate. In 2017, she acquired a major in psychology from the newly established Bamyan University. Living in an extended 12 membered low-income family in Daikundi, Sarah, was working to change her life and lives of many women in her home province.

Passionate about life she got married years after her graduation from university. She gave birth to her first child a year after she was married to Rahmatullah.

In 2017, Sara acquired a major in psychology from the newly established Bamyan University.

A number of nurses in Daikundi advised Sarah to go to a well-equipped hospital for a safe delivery as she, according to nurses, had some health problems which could risk her life during a delivery in an underequipped maternity hospital, says Rahmatullah.  

To have a safe child birth, Rahmatullah took his pregnant wife to Barchi National 100 Beds Hospital when they arrived in Kabul. At 7:30 am, on Tuesday, May 12, Sarah delivered her daughter safe and sound. The news of a safe delivery brought a short moment of delight and happiness for the couple but a bloody attack by the brutal terror group, which occurred at around 10:00 am, turned the short moment of joy into long hours of grief and suffering.

Panicked and terrified in the aftermath of the attack, Rahmatullah, as recounts now, waited outside hospital and reserved his mind and body to praying for safety of his wife and newborn baby. Hours later after the Afghan security forces killed the attackers and undertook rescue oppression, Rahmatullah, filled by a deep sense of guilt, searched every room in the hospital to find his wife and daughter but in vain. He went to other hospitals where victims were taken for rescue but found nothing and no sign of his wife and baby girl.                             

At 5:00 pm, on the same day, Rahmatullah received a call from Kabul forensic center. The telephone operator, speaking on the phone, “asked me to bring a copy of my tazkira, ID card, and receive the dead body of my wife,” he says still with sense of denial.

But the cruel reality of daily life in Afghanistan is more painful than a fictional feeling of denial everyone survivor of a loss feels at the early stage of a painful loss in the country. The call from Kabul forensic center froze him in shock and ended that short moment of joy forever.   

“My nephew was killed, her husband attended her funeral and I went to get her baby girl but doctors told me that no patient, under the name of Sarah, was registered at the hospital,” says Hassan, Sarah’s uncle.

Dr. Atiqullah Qate, head of the Barchi National 100 Beds Hospital, confirmed to Kabul Now that Sarah was “martyred.” He, however, doesn’t know about whereabouts of her baby girl.

Barchi National -100 Beds Hospital came under ISKP attack on May 12

Besmelluah Ranjbar, who was an in-charge of rescuing the babies, told Kabul Now that in the aftermath of the attack, a large number of families rushed to hospital to receive babies whom they claimed were theirs.

There was a baby left alone in the hospital until Sunday, May 17, but she was not Sarah’s baby girl, hospital authorities say. Rahmatullah, who is a construction worker in Kabul, is desperately searching for his baby girl. Nobody knows about her whereabouts. The tragic story of Rahmatullah’s loss and his desperate fatherly search for his two-week-old baby are painful account of a death and a life that make headlines in Afghanistan. The country is preparing for a political settlement with the militants who have shown no mercy in use of violence and gain of power.