Nazia’s Survival Story

My father would always say that one day can change someone’s life. 

In one day, you can get everything and another day can also take everything from you. I didn’t believe his words until I experienced that one day in my life in August 2016. 

I wish that day had never happened in my life. I wish I could erase that day from my life. I wish I could change that day. But I can’t and it has made me who I am today in so many ways.

It was 24th August, Wednesday evening, when I came out from my family law school class at American University Afghanistan. I caught up with one of my best friends on campus, and we chatted and looked at conversations on our smart phones. I remember that at the same time my professor Naqib Ahmad Khpulwak walked toward the café. 

My sister, Nadia, was also coming from the café. She called me and said, “Nazia, your teacher has come.” I told my friend I had to leave for my next class. My teacher gave me a four-page reading assignment for today’s class. I went to the library to start my research. It was 6:00 p.m., and I started my reading.

I finished the first three pages and started the fourth page, when my sister came by and told me that she had a headache and wanted me to come with her to the café to buy coffee. Not the best idea for a headache but that’s my funny sister. We went to the cafe and she got her coffee and we went to the Bayat building to attend my class. My sister was walking on campus on her own now. When I entered the class, I was five minutes late, and the teacher was writing something on the board. When I saw the front seats were full, I sat at the back.

The teacher finished writing, turned around and said, “Salam. In the first half of today’s class, we will finish the remaining part of the last class. In the second half of the class, we will cover four pages.” At that time, one student suggested to the professor it would be better if he sent us homework one day before, because on that day we have other classes too. The professor smiled and said, “Of course. Next class I will send the homework one day before.”

We started studying and the professor finished the remaining part of the last day’s reading. One of the students asked the professor if we could have five minutes’ prayer break. He said, “Of course, but only 5 minutes. If any one of you comes back late, I will mark you late.” We came out of Bayat and about 8 or 10 of us girls went to Masjid to perform prayer.

I almost finished my prayer. When I went to the last sajda, it happened. A huge bomb exploded and glass fell on my head and around my waist. When I got up I ran toward the wall because I thought it would be safer. We were all gathered together on the floor and sitting beside the wall screaming, crying, yelling, “KALMA TAYABA.” That’s the First verse of Quran that we recite whenever we get in trouble.

When I went to the last sajda, it happened. A huge bomb exploded and glass fell on my head and around my waist.

Nazia Qani

One of the girls looked at the door and there were tall engulfing flames. Girls were crying and saying it isn’t safe to stay here. We looked at each other: “Let’s run.”

There was glass everywhere and I was running in bare feet, because we remove our shoes for prayer. My feet were bleeding. But I could not even feel the pain because of the adrenaline surging through my body. We were moving from one side to another. Where to hide? Where to escape? One of the girls who was with us shouted when she saw a gunman. Suddenly, one of the girls said she wanted to climb through the window to the administration office.  The door was closed, so she thought if our attackers arrived they wouldn’t find her there. She would hide behind desk. The girl climbed the window without help, another girl wanted to climb the window also, but she could not. She asked me to help her so she could go inside. I was helping her. At that moment, the glass from the window fell on my face. My face was bleeding, and I could not see properly. I asked a girl to look at my eyes and tell me if I lost it because I couldn’t see. She said it was fine and I just couldn’t see because of all the bleeding. We were now about 10 girls running from one side of the building to another to find a place to hide, then suddenly one of the girls screamed  “look they are here.”

When I turned around there was a man coming from the other door of the Bayat, the door we had just come though. 

Because my eyes were full of blood I could not see properly what they were wearing but I saw he was holding a gun. In that moment one of the girls said, “Come on girls. We should go to the security door.” We made it out of the building but one girl, Breshna Musazai, could not run because she has polio in one leg so she was left behind in the building. We were running toward the library. There was gunfire behind us. I could now see the bullets flying in front and both sides of me. I didn’t care. I said to myself, “Either you will die or escape from here. You have to do it. You haven’t got any other alternative. Keep running, Nazia. Keep running. Run for your life.”

I said to myself, “Either you will die or escape from here. You have to do it. You haven’t got any other alternative. Keep running, Nazia. Keep running. Run for your life.”

Nazia Qani

We reached the security door and a boy told me go to one particular house. It was the home where my sisters were staying. When I entered the house, I cried and asked, “Where are Nadia and Shazia? Where are my sisters?” Shazia then called, “Nazia I am safe.” I asked her where Nadia was, and she said Nadia was safe too. “Don’t cry.” When my sisters saw me covered with blood, they were crying and yelling. They asked the boys to take me to the hospital. There was a boy who I had not seen before at the university. I think he was senior student. He came forward and told my sisters, “Go inside the house. Outside is not safe. I will take your sister to the hospital.” The boy grabbed my hand and we started running, I could hardly even walk, I was now feeling so weak because of so much bleeding.

There was a man on a motorcycle passing our way. The boy asked for help. “Please drop us at the hospital. The girl has lost a lot of blood”.

I thought of my father’s words. One day. And the crucial moments.

Thankfully the motorcyclist said, “Okay, come and sit.” We sat on the motorcycle, but roads were all blocked after the attack. We went through backstreets. A man standing there gave us the address and direction of the hospital, but when we reached where he said it was not hospital. I was passing out.  Again, the boy took me to the other side of the road to find a taxi. We found a taxi and got in. When we finally reached the clinic, another boy from the university was there and injured too. When the doctor saw my injury, he told the guy he couldn’t treat me, and to take me to the hospital. At that time, I was so weak my feet would not move. Again, we took another taxi when we reached the hospital, the doctors started my treatment.

After one week of  treatment here in Kabul I went to India and did my facial surgery there. Because of that attack I still have high blood pressure and I am taking medicines for it. In my feet there were many minor cuts because of the glass, I don’t know how many but I was unable to walk properly for one week. I went three times to India for my treatment. I don’t know how we found the money to do this. 

Breshna can’t walk without aid and uses a wheelchair now. Breshna was with us, when got out of the building but she couldn’t run and she left behind. When I saw her later in the hospital she told me the story that when I came out of the building she could not run and was left behind. The evil guys shot her in the leg that was without polio. 

And me? Three veins of my face were cut. I had a trauma till one year ago. 

In the process of healing I was so depressed, I was scared even from the cry of a child as it would remind me of that day when the girls were screaming. Slowly, very slowly with the help of a psychiatrist I managed to overcome that fear. But still in university when the lights go off I get scared because I feel like the attack is happening again.

But still in university when the lights go off I get scared because I feel like the attack is happening again.

Nazia Qani

 I would dream about that day and I still do.

This is my story of August 24, the day I wish never had happened, the day that took many people from me, the day I lost my one professor and my kind classmate Jamshid who were both killed. 

We have to be strong. I can’t change what happened to me, but I can do one thing. I am going to get an education. I will achieve the dreams of thousands other Afghan whose dream of getting an education wasn’t fulfilled because of their needless slaughter. I will never let this cowardly attack become the reason I stop my education. I will rise up even stronger than before to get my University education and achieve the dreams of those who didn’t have the opportunity to fulfill it.

I can’t change what happened to me, but I can do one thing. I am going to get an education. I will achieve the dreams of thousands other Afghan whose dream of getting an education wasn’t fulfilled because of their needless slaughter. I will never let this cowardly attack become the reason I stop my education. I will rise up even stronger than before to get my University education and achieve the dreams of those who didn’t have the opportunity to fulfill it.

Nazia Qani

My father’s words were right  — one day can change someone’s life. 

Nazia Qani

Author: Nazia Qani is a AUAF Alumna. Currently, she is working at the State Ministry for Parliamentary Affaris (SMPA).

Editor: Tom Valenti

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