By Noor Wali Saeed Shinwarai

Noor Wali Saeed Shinwarai writes for Killid, an independent Afghan media group in partnership with IPS. By distributing the testimonies of survivors of war crimes through print and radio, Killid strives for greater public awareness about people’s hopes and claims for justice, reconciliation and peace across Afghanistan.

This testimony follows Mohammad Hasan, who says he had a good life before the breakout of war in the 1990s. But the fighting between mujaheddin factions between 1992 and 1996 rendered him a pauper. Two decades later, he has not recovered.

Before the war, Hasan, 67, was a motor mechanic in a village near Ghazni. “I was a popular mechanic, and I had a good life. I had 80 barrels of oil in my shop. I had a truck,” he says with great pride.

But then the war arrived — one day gunmen came to his shop, beat him up and drove off in his truck piled high with everything he owned. 

“They left me with just the clothes I was wearing. They took away whatever I had including money, and the old truck,” he says, shaking his head sadly.

Hasan borrowed some money from people, and left with his family for Kabul Dehbori. “I was an indigent in Kabul,” he recalls. “I was remorseful about leaving the village. People took pity on us, and donated some pots in charity.”

Hasan calls the nineties a time of trouble for even the rich in their palaces. Life was like sipping from a poisoned chalice, he says. The poor saw death as a relief, he adds.

The tenth grave

In Kabul, Hasan and his family first sheltered in a mosque, before finding a house in Dasht Barchi. But the ouse was close to a mujaheddin gun post targeted by rival fighters.  Hasan recalls a rocket caming down on a nearby house and killing seven people, “One of them had married only 10 days back.”

When a barrage of rockets hit the gun post, killing nine, Hasan decidee to dig graves for the men.

Just as he was finishing, news arrived of his own family being in peril. “A rocket had come down on our house. When I got there, my 22-year-old son was dead,” he says gruffly, trying to hide his grief.

The tenth grave he dug that day was for his son.

Everywhere that night, in the cover of darkness, people dug graves and washed bodies, preparing the dead for burial. Five people had died in Hasan’s neighbour’s house.

He found a mullah who agreed to a mass funeral. All the bodies were brought to the graveyard. But just then there was another round of rockets, and people fled including the cleric.

“I remained alone among the bodies,” says Hasan. “At midnight I knocked on some doors and found three other people and together we buried the bodies.”

But sadness was not through with Hasan that night. When he got home his wife told him their daughter Nilofar had been badly injured and taken to the hospital by neighbours.

Outside his window, war was not about to stop. When an explosion hit nearby, Hasan climed the roof to find his neighbour’s house in flames.  Fortunately no one was killed, he says.

It wasn’t long before a piece of rocket pierced Hasan’s arm, leaving blood pouring out of his arm. As people screamed to get him to climb down, Hasan fainted and fell from the roof to the street below.

While Hasan recovered except for the use of his right hand, his daughter returned from the hospital  unnable to ever walk again.

“She is alive but does not leave the house. She cries all the time,” he says.

Hasan has not been able to reconcile with his present.  “I am tired of life,” he says. “I was not poor like I am now.” He has found work as a poorly-paid watchman, staying awake all night to earn bread for his family. “I am a victim of war — it is the war that has made me poor.”

Hasan wants to see the gunmen of the Kabul war punished in this life — but he is certain punishment awaits them in the court of God. 

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