Wrishmina’s Survival Story

This morning while having tea with my mom I asked her to tell me about my childhood beginning with  “when I was born, who was the president, and have I ever seen or experienced days without war”?

My mother thought really hard to remember, she closed her eyes and said, “You were six days old when the Taliban took over the country.  I remember I was on maternity leave when the previous regime was overthrown. You had just turned 40 days old, one day when I went to the bank to get my salary. I was wearing a tea-length dress, looking pretty with my hair down and wearing a scarf around my neck. The moment I stepped out I realized everything was different. The city was quiet. There were strange looking men here and there looking frustrated and mad with the way I was dressed. Women were wearing big scarfs and were fully covered.” She also said, ” It was the first time I felt unsafe and was hoping and praying to return home safely”.

Wrishmina’s portrait

My mother was a pedagogist and the regime forced her to stop working and stay home. Yet, her teaching did not stop, she continued raising and educating her five kids at home. I was the fifth child, and I was two years old when we moved to Paktia province in southern Afghanistan because of the war in Kabul. We started living there while working in a farm growing our own food. I studied in a boy’s school for a short period of time pretending that I was a boy. But, after getting caught I was homeschooled for many years as education was very important for my parents. In 2001, when the Taliban’s regimes was overthrown and vanished by the coalition forces, we moved to Kabul and started life from scratch so that my siblings and I could go to school.

My mother was a pedagogist and the regime forced her to stop working and stay home. Yet, her teaching did not stop, she continued raising and educating her five kids at home.

Wrishmina Zurmati

Once back in Kabul, I completed my education in Lama-e-Shaheed High school, where I got featured in Tarbyat educational magazine as the student of the year 2009 in Afghanistan. After successfully passing the entrance exams, I was accepted to Kabul Polytechnic University to study Architecture.

I studied in a boy’s school for a short period of time pretending that I was a boy.

Wrishmina Zurmati

I don’t remember a time when Afghanistan was at peace, there were always attacks. The next ones were the worst.

It was around 1:00 pm, in my third year as an undergraduate student.  We were nine girls in a rental car coming home from school. We were all hungry and tired so we made our driver drive faster so we could get home quicker to eat and take a nap. About 10 minutes away from home in First Macroyan near Chahar Rahi Abdulhaq, Kabul, we heard a very loud explosion and then the sound of gun fire. We were so close to the area that we could see a taxi driver die in his car. The attackers in Barakzai tower were shooting every car passing through from above. Our driver turned the car around and all of us went to one of our friend’s house who lived nearby.

We were so close to the area that we could see a taxi driver die in his car.

Wrishmina Zurmati

I remember that we were all starving and scared. Our families were worried trying to reach us, they told us not to worry, to stay there and they would come and pick us up once everything was back to normal. They shut the power down and our phone batteries died. We were all hiding behind the sofa in the dark praying that it would end soon. There was not any food left in the fridge, so our friend made us boiled eggs. The fight continued for 8 to 9 hours after which our families came and drove us home. 

The second attack I survived was back in 2014 when I was working with International Narcotics and Law (INL) in Camp Gipson, Kabul. It was a suicide bomber driving a motorcycle packed with explosives struck inside the compound, killed four international staff members, and injured six.
My colleague used to drive me and one of our other colleagues to work every day. We were 5 minutes away when we heard a massive explosion. We received a call from work that the explosion took place in the Camp’s entrance and we had to return home. The next day, when we returned to work, the entrance was blown up. The international staff member a lady who worked at security and who recently became a good friend of mine was no longer there. She was killed. The saddest part was that she liked the way I was wearing scarf and requested me to buy her one. I promised her but could not give it to her. It was too late, and she was no longer there.

The saddest part was that she liked the way I was wearing scarf and requested me to buy her one. I promised her but could not give it to her. It was too late, and she was no longer there.

Wrishmina Zurmati
A security contractor keeps watch at the site of a blast outside the Camp Gipson. Photo: Reuters

The third attack, the scariest and the deadliest attack was back in 2016, it was around 2:00 am when a very loud scary sound woke me up. The earth was shaking under my feet, my ears could not hear properly, and tears were flowing from my eyes. All I was thinking at that moment was about my family and friends living in different parts of the city. My mom came to check on me and saw me crying, she hugged me saying, “Shhh, it was nothing maybe a tire had blown up or something. Go back to sleep”.

The earth was shaking under my feet, my ears could not hear properly, and tears were flowing from my eyes.

Wrishmina Zurmati

I could not go to sleep that night. Early in the morning I heard that it was a massive explosion in Shah Shahid, Kabul. Hundreds of people were killed or wounded. As a result of the explosion, I was later diagnosed with a medical condition also called Ligyrophobia or Sonophobia, a fear of/or aversion to loud sounds such as explosions, gunfire, or fireworks.

Before moving to USA, whenever I would leave home for work in the morning I would always say goodbye to my parents like I may not come back in the evening because there were always explosions specially on army bases and facilities, back then I was working with Army.

Before moving to USA, whenever I would leave home for work in the morning I would always say goodbye to my parents like I may not come back in the evening.

Wrishmina Zurmati

It is sad to know that there hasn’t been any period of time without war while I have lived. It’s frustrating how we have gotten used to it and still struggle to bring a change.

It is sad to know that there hasn’t been any period of time without war while I have lived. It’s frustrating how we have gotten used to it and still struggle to bring a change.

Wrishmina Zurmati

Author: Wrishmina Zurmati is an architect. She currently works with an interior architecture and design company in Maryland, USA. She moved to the United States for the threats of security she was facing in Afghanistan. Her biggest goal is to support girl’s education in Afghanistan. She believes educating girls gives them the freedom to make better decisions and improve their lives.  She likes to bike, paint, socialize and learn new languages.

Editors: Aysha Marjan Nayer and Tom Valenti

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