“My husband, Habib Rehman, was killed six months ago when the militants attacked our village Dara-e-Robat in Chardara District in Kunduz. His death left us alone and very vulnerable as he was the only bread winner of the family. After his death, the conflict increased and since I feared for my children’s and my own life, we took with us whatever we could from our house and fled to Kunduz City. At that time, we felt Kunduz City would be a safe haven for us to live in and to start rebuilding our lives but it did not turn out that way. Although it was extremely difficult for me and is considered culturally shameful, I resorted to begging on the streets in order to feed my children.”
Mazari, Habib’s widow, also started working as a maid for wealthier families in a desperate attempt to earn more income for her six children. After a few weeks of the displacement, organizations arrived in Kunduz and provided humanitarian assistance to the displaced communities. Among these organizations was Community World Service Asia who assisted Mazari’s family among others with the provision of two month food rations. “This was very helpful as my tension eased and I did not have to worry about providing food to feed my children and could instead focus on looking for a job. With the assistance we received from Community World Service Asia and other organizations such as UNHCR, UNICEF and NRC, we began to feel a sense of hope towards living a better life,” said Mazari.
“Soon, Kunduz City became a war ground as well. The militants attacked the city and took control, followed by intense battles between them and the armed forces. I was terrified. We hid in our homes, unable to go out as that could mean an instant for us. The shops in the city were all closed; there was no water nor food items to cook meals with. We were left hungry even though we had dry food rations. My children were also frightened, especially of the hammering sounds of weapons and bombs exploding, which continued day and night.”
Many people, including women and children, were killed on the street that Mazari lived on. After three days of continued fighting, Mazari rushed to leave the war struck city with her children. The next morning, when the ongoing struggle seemed to have calmed, the helpless mother took the risk to come out of their shelter and started walking back to her own village. However upon reaching their village district, Mazari was informed that the situation there was still unstable and under militant siege. “I stood there confused and afraid, not knowing what to do next. After talking to the local communities there, I learnt that many people were migrating to Taluqan City of Takhar Province, which is the neighboring province to Kunduz. I was also given an address of a man who was transferring people to Takhar in his vehicle. I took my children along and stood at his door. I begged him to save children and me and to drive us to Taluqan. He finally agreed after pleading him for hours.”
Mazari has now relocated to Taluqan city. For the first two days, her children and her lived in a partially constructed house located inside a walled piece of land; mostly sleeping under the open sky. “The weather in Takhar is getting cooler especially during the night and it was becoming difficult to sleep and live in the open, especially for the children. I started looking for other displaced families in the city who would be interested in renting a house together. I found four such families from my own village and we finally found a house for all of us to rent out together.”
Even though the rent was not much, it was still expensive for Mazari to afford so she borrowed money from some relatives to contribute equally in the rent. The house they rented had five rooms so each family got a room. The tiny room in the house was home for Mazari and her five daughters and a son. As this destitute family fled Kunduz City in haste, they left most of their belongings in their house and did not have nothing in Taluqan. Neighbors and other displaced families sometimes assisted the families living in the house with food which all the five families shared, leaving insufficient amounts for each person to consume.
“We slept on the bare ground without any mattress or blanket. It was much better than sleeping in the open air but it was still quite cold. I was grateful to a kind family who gave me an old blanket, a quilt and a pillow which my children could take over them at night. We, the displaced community, approached the government but they did not provide us any assistance in Taluqan. I am tired of running and I am fearful for my children and myself. Who will help us?” wept an exhausted Mazari.
Mazari is in contact with Community World Service Asia staff and has informed the staff of her return from Takhar to Kunduz city since now the government has taken back control of the city from the insurgents. Upon return, she found the shelter she once lived in with her children before the Kunduz conflict completely destroyed. All of her belongings that she received from generous families and humanitarian agencies left there were burnt or looted. Mazari and her family, like hundreds other, are currently living without food and shelter in Kunduz city.