The Fragmented Existence of a Wanderer – The Story of a Former Afghan Intelligence Officer

[Written By: Zahma Azimi Translated By: Kazim Ehsan]

It is already noon when he wakes up from his sleep.  The fall sun of the Brazilian city of Jaraguá do Sul shines gently, but the taste in his mouth is bitter, just like his days. He stares at the room’s ceiling and does not want to leave the bed. Suddenly, he hears a child’s voice from the outside. For a moment, he thinks that he hears Sarah’s voice. Sarah is his seven-year-old daughter. He gets up and pulls the curtain aside. He sees three young girls running along the street, laughing loudly, but none of them are Sarah. Sarah is in Quetta, Pakistan.

Last night, his wife sent a short video in which Sarah laments for the victims of the Kaaj Educational Center massacre and says, amid sobs, “There has been an explosion in Kabul again, and many girls have been killed.” Though her mother cannot stop herself from weeping — yet she tries to comfort Sarah, “It is fine, don’t cry anymore, honey!” Sarah puts her tiny hands on her tear-stained face and says, “It is not fine. It is not fine anymore.”

Noticing Sarah’s weeping, the displaced and heavy-hearted father sinks back into his thoughts, and a veil of tears begins to cover his eyes.

Sarah Qasemi, Nemat Qasemi’s seven-year-old daughter

He sits on a stool by the window and lights a cigarette. He puts all his weight on the left side of the chair and heaves a deep sigh with his face toward the sky. Sarah’s sobbing keeps ringing in his ears, and the image of her teary little face keeps turning in his mind. Suddenly, he remembers an incident from the early days of the Taliban takeover and the fall of Kabul. While watching from the window, Sarah saw two Taliban militants who got out of the car in front of their apartment. Sara thinks the Taliban have come to arrest her father, a former intelligence officer at the National Directorate of Security. Sarah keeps watching until these two Talib soldiers walk away. However, until they disappear in the next avenue, the traumatized Sarah’s patience melts.

Remembering these memories is so painful that Qasemi cannot bear it anymore. Therefore, by distracting himself, he escapes the burden of these memories and lights another cigarette. The cigarette all burnt, yet he did not know what to do next.

Confused and emotionally numb, he sits on the stool yet again. When he attempts to cross his legs together — he notices a scar bearing the mark of two bullets that had entered his left leg at one point. Three years ago, armed robbers surrounded him when he parked his car in front of Baba Dehghan Behsoud’s Sweet Shop on Silo Road in Kabul. The robbers wanted to take his car and asked for the key, but he resisted.

One of the robbers shot him with two bullets in the left leg. To survive, he had to give the keys to the robbers. The scar is a reminder of years of effort and struggles to build a peaceful life in his homeland. A seemingly cursed country that fell to the Taliban extremists due to corruption, mismanagement, and acts of treason by the political and military leadership actors.

After the fall of the Afghan government, the Taliban tracked down and persecuted the National Directorate of Security employees and officers of the fallen government.

Nemat Qasemi, who has served in the directorate for ten years, says, “The Taliban called me several times to resume my work at the directorate and work for them, but I refused because I could not work with a terrorist group that had its hands soaked in the blood of the innocent Afghan civilians.”

Qasemi says that he couldn’t consider working for the Taliban-led intelligence directorate. Led by the voice of his moral conscience, he says that he cannot afford to violate the moral principles of his life. Furthermore, the Taliban’s offer to continue his work at the directorate seems like a trap to hunt him down.

Qasemi says he knew that the Taliban were looking for him. He says his daughter remembers the day the two armed Taliban militants got out of the car, searching the neighborhood to find him. He tried comforting his daughter but could not because he felt desperate and frightened. The episode kept haunting him for the next few days, and he still tried not to remember that one day.

Sarah Qasemi

The next day, Qasemi and his family left for their hometown in Ghazni province so that the Taliban would not capture him. The car speedily went toward Ghazni, but his heart was restless. After six hours of tiresome travel, he finally reached his hometown.

As he steps into his father’s house, his cell phone starts ringing, and a terrible fear fills him inside. He takes the cell phone out of his pocket and sees that his neighbor’s number is on the screen. He anxiously picks up the phone:


His neighbor: “Hello, Qasemi! Are you doing well? Where are you?”

Qasemi: “I have just arrived at my village in Ghazni province. Is everything all right?”

His neighbor: “The Taliban searched your home and asked about your whereabouts. We did not know. They took our Tazkira (ID Cards) and left.”

Qasemi grew desperately worried hearing his neighbor describe how the Taliban attempted to track him down by going to his home in Kabul.

Qasemi spent forty days in fear and anxiety in his hometown.

When the phone calls from the Taliban decreased, and he felt the Taliban had lost track, he decided to return to Kabul with his family.

As they got closer to Kabul, Qasemi and his family’s fear and trembling increased. Finally, they got back to their home. The first day passed without any incidents. On the second day, when Qasemi was looking for a house to rent, he received a call from his wife, “Hello, Nemat! Please do not return home today; the Taliban have come.” The phone call quickly disconnected.

Qasemi was terribly shocked. By the end of the day, he found himself a place to rent in the outskirts of Kabul. He called his wife to pack their belongings. The next day, when the sun rose, they moved to their new home. After a month, fearing the Taliban, they moved to a different house. They kept switching their locations.

Amid the hide-and-seek game, spring 2022 arrives. Schools are about to reopen after the winter break. But the Taliban has suddenly banned girls from attending secondary schools. Zahra, his eldest daughter, returns home with tears in her eyes. Qasemi is further distraught after hearing that his daughter cannot attend her school anymore.

Nemat Qasim with his family

He checks his email inbox several times a day to see if there is any new email from any western government or organization to help him evacuate from Afghanistan. He doesn’t hear from any such organization.

The living condition is getting stricter daily as the Taliban pushes to hunt former government employees and security officers ruthlessly. Finally, to save his own life so that his children could study and live in a peaceful environment, he decides to immigrate to Pakistan for the second time in his lifetime.

The first time he immigrated to Pakistan was when the Taliban took power after the defeat of the Mujahideen government in the late 1990s.

Qasemi says, “When the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, my father took me to Pakistan to save my life and his own life.” Qasemi started working instead of studying and could not study for the next seven years. “After seven years, I returned to school again. My son Ali and I went to the same school. People mockingly said, ‘Your wife gives fifteen rupees to each of you and sends you both to school. . . but I ignored these insults and continued studying,” he says.

When the international coalition forces invaded Afghanistan after September 11, 2001 — a new government formed with the international community’s support. Nemat Qasemi returned to Afghanistan.

Qasemi joined the university with great enthusiasm and motivation and studied political science and his master’s degree in International Relations. He worked as a journalist for a while. After that, he joined the National Directorate of Security (Afghanistan Intelligence Agency) and served in the foreign relations department of the agency for ten years. But with the government’s fall in August 2021 and the Taliban’s return, he lost everything: “I lost my country and my home. My life collapsed. I fell apart and lost my family, relatives, and friends. My life’s goals and dreams were suddenly shattered. Now, I wander in exile and live in perpetual uncertainty. . . far from my family, home, and friends,” he says.

According to Qasemi, he left Kabul and his home with great difficulty. When he decided to leave, he sorted and donated more than six hundred books he had collected over the past two decades.

“I looked at and categorized each book. I felt like I was losing pieces of myself. However, I am happy that those books, which were like friends to me, are now available to my country’s children,” he says.

Now that he is far from home, he lays his head on the pillow every night, hoping that peace will prevail one day so he can return to Kabul and visit his home province of Bamyan.