AFGHANISTAN/USA. This feature contains a picture of Afghan girl Aisha, 4. published at EXPRESSEN Sweden
At the same time it is an important image, as it shows a side to the war on terrorism that the US does not want the world to see.
It was on 7th September last year that an American drone hit the car she was travelling in. Everyone died – everyone except Aisha.
After receiving treatment in a hospital in Kabul, one day she was suddenly missing. Not even Aisha’s family were told what had happened.
Expressen’s Terese Cristiansson decided to try and find the answer to the question,
Where did the faceless girl go?
Aisha, 4, was used to seeing the American birds soaring above the village. She knew that they were dangerous, her mum and dad had talked about it. On the 7th of September 2013, she became one of the birds’ victims.
Meya Jan is at home on his farm in the village of Gamber when he receives a phone call from the neighbouring village. “Did you hear that a car has been hit on the road to Gamber?” asks his neighbour.
Meya Jan feels a knot building up in his stomach. Did his sister, Taher, and her husband, Abdul Rashid, make it out in time with their children Aisha, 4, and Jundullah, 1?
They had been in Kabul because Taher had been having pregnancy troubles and should be on their way home. He hopes that they stopped for a break in Asadabad, capital of the Kunar Province on the border to Pakistan.
It’s the 7th of September but it is still hot, and they are likely to have stopped with some relatives for a rest. They aren’t answering their mobiles, so he calls his relative, Hasrat Gul, who is in Asadabad.
“Do you know who drove up here today?”
“Yes, Abdul Rashid drove off earlier with Taher, the children and several other relatives that were going that way,” he replied.
It’s the beginning of October 2013 and the article we have come to write in Jalalabad in Eastern Afghanistan has fallen through. But as there was a lot of talk at the time about children being injured when they were forced to plant roadside bombs, we decide to visit the city’s hospital instead.
Doctor Humayoon Zaheer says he hasn’t had any such cases. Instead he starts talking about other people they have treated. Dismembered policemen, children with gunshot wounds from battle crossfire and women who have died in childbirth. He shows us round the hospital telling us about everything they need to be able to provide the best treatment.
Once inside his simple office he suddenly says,
“We had another case here. She came in a couple of weeks ago, in September. A little girl who had lost her face in a drone strike. It was a very unusual case. I’ll never forget it.”
Meya Jan and the other villagers rush off down the road towards the site of the strike. People from the neighbouring village have already started gathering. It is late afternoon, but the September sunshine is still baking the green velvety mountains.
Meya Jan immediately sees that it is Abdul Rashid’s red car that has been hit. The bombs have carved big chunks out of the ground and there’s not much left of the car. Body parts lie scattered around the car.
A man from the neighbouring village says that they had seen a drone circling the area. The Kunar Province has long been a stronghold for the Taliban, Hezb-e-Islami and al-Qaida alike and the area has seen a lot of bloody battles. Most US bases are now deserted and there are few soldiers about. They have been replaced by drones – unmanned planes. The villagers call them ”American birds”.
The neighbour who saw the strike says that it first dropped two bombs and when the injured attempted to flee from the car, it dropped three more. Nobody survived, he says.
Around him on the ground Meya Jan recognises his family members, several women and children. There is blood everywhere and several of them are completely dismembered. He is filled with rage.
When the US troops arrived in 2001, a lot of Afghans believed that the US would come and help them. The country was divided after the Russian occupation, which was followed by a bloody civil war and the brutal Taliban regime. They had hoped that the country would be made stronger. But the opposite happened in Kunar.
Every time they tried to drive anywhere, they were stopped by US soldiers. Several family members had been arrested and later released. Because of the soldiers, the Taliban planted dangerous roadside bombs along the roads.
There may never have been a school for the children, but at least they used to sit under a large tree and learn to read and write. Ever since the drones began to circle overhead, they have been too scared to even sit there anymore. Yet another generation without an education. Everyone was caught between the two conflicting sides.
Meya Jan and the others begin lifting the body parts and mangled bodies into a car. They drive them home to the courtyard and line them up in order to wrap and bury them.
15 dead, 3 of whom are women and 4 are children:
Abdul Rashid, 26, Taher, 24, Aisha, 4, Jundullah, 18 months, Abdul Rahman, 28, Khatima, 45, Nadia, 26, Soheil, 3, Osman, 19, Abdul Wahid, 25, Amir, 4, Asadullah, 28, Hayatollah 28, Abdul Wahid, 36, and Mohammad Ullah, 16.
Wiped out. Gone. Dead.
Suddenly they hear a voice.
Read the full future here in EXPRESSEN Sweden
|Av Terese Cristiansson