Red, White, and Blue
Prior to our first class, the kids at school sang the Afghan National Anthem followed by a
prayer. Each morning they sang eagerly and prayed fanatically; I mumbled in pretence.
Every day, during this hour the same question somehow found its way to pierce my mind: I
questioned the reasons why they prayed to such an unjust God. The prayer was led by our
teacher, and the kids followed out loud in sync with one another. Not me. I knew of no God! I
once saw a post card of a beach with kids playing, laughing, and building sand castles. It read
San Diego, CA. On occasion, I stared at the post card so extensively that I imagined I was a part
of it. San Diego, CA, the only English words I knew were engraved in my memory.
Everyday, I dreaded going to the mosque. Unable to grasp its meaning, I didn’t
particularly enjoy learning to read the untranslatable Arabic Quran. Nonetheless my brother,
who is two years my senior, and I were expected to go to the mosque daily. One afternoon a
sobbing young girl, with her ringlet hair bouncing off her shoulders, jogged her way as she
struggled to keep up with her father’s long and firm steps. Dragging the young girl by her upper
arm sleeve, her father approached the mullah (priest), furious, for his daughter was sent home.
“She doesn’t pay attention, she’s brainless”, the mullah aggressively expressed to her father
while habitually brushing his stomach-length, salt and pepper beard with his fingers.
I was seven years old when I was first molested by the mullah. I couldn’t understand why
God allowed such evil to take place in His home! I stopped concentrating during the Quran
lessons; my mind was pre-occupied with endless anticipation of the next time. The walls in the
mosque suffocated me. In my mind’s eyes, the mosque was the place where children were
robbed of their innocence. To my surprise, at last, I acquired the first place in my class (a
numerical grading system used to classify the number one student). “She’s a very smart girl,”
said the mullah to my mother. She had gone to the mosque to thank him for spending extra time
tutoring me. I would have preferred it if I were stupid like the sobbing girl, but now I was
“smart”; now I was dirty.
My mother woke me up in the middle of the night to what was my last night in Kabul.
My parents had saved up enough money to smuggle my brother and me into the U.S. after
anticipating a regime change in Afghanistan. I wasn’t sure if we’d see them again, but inside, my
heart could’ve burst from happiness. I watched those miserable buildings from the plane as it
took off from Kabul airport. With anguish, my eyes followed the filthy walls of the mosque till I
could no longer see it. At that moment, I left behind my deepest pain, the unforgivable memories
of my childhood, my innocence, love, and compassion for my own kind.
My brother and I migrated to the U.S. when I was twelve years old. We arrived in John F.
Kennedy airport on December 25, 1991. The hour was 9:45 P.M. Holding my brother’s arm, we
exited the plane. Instantaneously, my eyes spotted the red, white, and blue colors! An
indescribable emotion took over me, and I ran toward the colors. I was beside myself. I couldn’t
believe I was standing in front of the American flag. Vivid images of the burning American flag
at the opening ceremony of my school rushed my mind. Hesitantly, I touched the flag with the
greatest love and affection. I knew this flag would give me back what I had lost years ago, my
dignity, self-worth, self-respect and, most importantly, my freedom. Because of this flag, I no
longer dream of the post card from San Diego, I now see it in my reality…
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