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  • To Dounia, Nur and Nadia, with love.

    I once met Dounia. Some time later I met Nur and Nadia.

    A woman from Afghanistan lived near my best friend. I only saw her once in the street, under her blue burka. I was sorry because someone had told me she was always alone at home. I went to her house. Both of us spoke a strange mixture of bad English and Spanish. We became good friends but I could only go and visit her when her husband was not around. I never saw him, but I was afraid of him.

    I was 14. Her niece living in Afghanistan was 15. Her name was Dounia. She was learning English and she wanted to practice it with someone, so I offered to be her pen pal. Her aunt called her and I was given her e-mail address. We started writing e-mails to each other. She sent me a picture of her. Big hazel eyes. Brilliant smile. Long, black hair. Beautiful clothes. She was brave. Too brave.

    She had some books which she used to hide under her burqa. She explained me how she used to pick the bus and go to a neighborhood nearby. She used to go to the house of one of her mother’s friends. A group of women would take their daughters there, always at different times so that no one would suspect. She taught the girls how to read and write. She gave the girls books. And she even taught them some English. I knew it was illegal. I admired her. I always told her to be careful. I always wished I could be a bit like her. I always wanted to have just a tiny bit of her braveness.

    One day her aunt called me. She was crying and she asked me to go to her house. I went. She was crying a lot. It was very difficult to understand what she was saying. Plus I was starting to understand and I didn’t want to hear that. I didn’t want. So my brain kept making it difficult for me to understand her words. But she forced herself to stop crying.

    Dounia was coming back from teaching the girls. She was in the bus when the police went into the bus and headed to the back where the women were standing. They started pushing them and Dounia’s books fell from under her burqa. She couldn’t pick them up in time and she was discovered. She was beaten and stomped. She was bleeding and hurt. She was left lying on the street. No one helped her. No one dared taking her to a hospital. People walked by her. Someone found her and took her body to her family. Only her body. Her soul was lost between the beats. Between the beats of the beasts.


    Nadia was 11. Nur was 7. They were my English’ students because her mother didn’t want them to forget the English they knew. Their mother was Spanish, their father Lebanese. The mother took their girls to Spain running away from the war but the father couldn’t get a Visa and he was still in Lebanon.

    Nadia and Nur were sweet, polite and happy girls. Their English was just great so we mostly played and spoke for them not to forget. After some months they were my girls and I was their friend. They told me about everything. About how madly they missed their father. About how they were scared because they had been talking and they heard a bomb very near him. The three of us cried together when their grandfather died in Lebanon. They kept asking why was there so much hate in the world. I could never give them and answer. I keep wondering the same.

    One day their mother came and told me they were going back. They couldn’t stand it anymore. The pressure of knowing their father could die at any moment and they wouldn’t be there for him, they wouldn’t be there with him. The fear of losing him without having smiled to him or without kissing his cheek once again. It was too much. I gave them my phone number and asked them to call me, to talk to me, to show me they were happy and well. We said our goodbyes and they left.

    They called once a week and we usually spent about half an hour on the phone. Their happy voices weren’t the same. Their voices showed me the fear painted on their faces. But I was always happy to talk to them. They once made me say hello to their granny. Once I heard a bomb falling near them. The noises and screams were terrible. Then, the call was cut. I was really nervous. I cried. I didn't sleep. I spent the whole night near the phone. Waiting. Hoping. Praying. I got a call the next day: they were ok. It had been two or three houses down theirs, but it was empty and only two neighbors who had been walking near there had died. We always laughed and their mother kept telling me I was their medicine. I never believed so.

    Once their mother called me. She had left the house. She had gone for food and had left the girls and the father at home. When she was back a bomb had felt on their house and the three of them were dead. I couldn’t say anything. I could only cry. Her mother never called me again.


    To our sister, with prayers, wishes, hope and mucho amor.

    Sis, you may not be in the safest of the places. You might have seen, heard, touched, felt and smelt terrible things. But you, my sis, are that standing tree between the fog, remember? You are strong. And I always want you to smile and use it as a medicine for you and yours. You are wise. You’re brave. And you are our sister. And you are always going to stand strong. You are always going to be the woman you wanna be. And one day, very soon, I’ll give you the biggest of hugs and smiles. And our tears will be of joy. And there will be no fear in our hearts. And you’ll grow to be that sweet old lady giving the little girl a soft teddy bear. We love you and you’re important to us. Always know that.
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