On Monday, Leeda moves back to Kabul. Her family made the difficult decision to move to Afghanistan a few weeks ago after their house was robbed and her father attacked. There were moments of sadness leading up to today as we all emotionally prepared for her departure. When we went to wish Kubra an AWN employee mubarak on her recent engagement, she and Leeda cried in they stairwell of the house as they tightly embraced one another. They would not be seeing each other again since Kubra was leaving town that day and wouldn’t return until after Leeda had already moved.
The AWN staff held a small party for Leeda in the meeting room since today was not only her last day at the AWN Peshawar office but also her birthday. I kept trying to emphasize the birthday celebration to lighten the mood around the office but Afghan sorrow runs deep and for good reason. These women are more than just coworkers-they are sisters. They share each other’s happiness and sadness and each other’s joy and grief. As is the case in many parts of the world, here, a female’s obligations to her family and her responsibilities around the home make it difficult for these women to find comfort or pleasure in many places. Family may surround them, but they still lead lonely lives. Work for those who can find it and are permitted by their families to work is an escape. It is a place where they can apply their skills and challenge themselves but it’s also a place they chat, crack jokes, have tea, and just enjoy each other’s company.
You don’t have to speak Farsi to hear the sadness in their voices as they said khodafiz to one another. They took turns kissing each other on each cheek, and then stood sobbing, shaking and clinging to one another for support. I felt dry-mouthed and my stomach ached as I sat still just watching-unsure of what to say or do. There wasn’t even this much mourning at some of the funerals I have attended. Wiping her tears, Leeda came over to me and I stumbled as I rose to give her a final hug. As we embraced, I told her to be the strong Afghan woman she is for her family and for her younger sister Tamanna, an exceptional member of the AWN Youth Committee that I had worked with. Everyone upstairs went down to the gate to see Leeda to her van except me. I didn’t go because I wanted her to have some time in the presence of just her extended family of AWN staff. While I am a definite part of that family, I felt that it was too personal for me still ultimately being a stranger to witness. It felt voyeur-like watching a family being ripped apart, a family that I have only recently come to know, but one that I nonetheless respect and admire. I felt that I had not yet earned the right to see Leeda off.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in silence other than the occasional sniffle or the sound of a Kleenex being pulled from its box.
Posted By Saba Haq
Posted Jul 3rd, 2007