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Coming home

12 November 2009, 7:40 am. The sky was clear, the mighty sun replaced the morning dew with its radiant illuminating rays. Daud woke to the routine call to prayer, he rubbed his blurry eyes and looked around him, exhaled and rubbed his eyes again as if trying to wake up to the smell of his mother’s cooking instead he is still haunted by his Kalashnikov in front of him. He jumped out of his hammock and strapped on his weapon on his shoulders and walked to location he was instructed last night. He climbed hills and disfigured rocks with his torn, worn out sandal effortlessly even the weight of his enormous weapon did not burden him.

Daud came across a small tea stall where a group of old bearded ‘holy’ men sat counting beads on a line of string with their fingers and sipping tea. One man looked at Daud, grinned and proudly said “Asalam wa’aliekum”. Asalam wa’aliekum? Peace be upon you? What peace did they speak of? These men were clearly brainwashed and blind toward humanity. Daud bit his tongue and nodded reluctantly. He finally climbed the last hill for the rendezvous and saw his fellow young ‘mujahedeens’ loading their guns and filling a number of pickup trucks with ammunition and explosives. It looked like their going for yet another killing rampage.

Just another day; kill or be killed. Daud Karzai’s parents and home was snatched from him at the young age of 11 when the Taliban stormed the northern region of Banu near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The Taliban took control and scavenged Dauds village, they captured all those who opposed them and burned down the houses leaving nothing but ashes and memory behind. They, one-by-one, executed the men who did not share their fanatic mission of spreading strict sharia law. Daud’s mother was left a widow that day. His father had collapsed lifelessly on the hard ground soaked in his own blood.

His mother left to stare motionlessly at his body is if it were an abyss. Daud was tied and placed on one of the Taliban pick-up trucks in such a position that he could see the traumatizing expression of his mother. Completely petrified, Daud could not even utter simple words rather move. The Taliban satisfied their amusement and drove off with Daud on the trunk seeing his life change in a matter minutes. His eyes consistently staring at the aftermath and especially his mother who lifted her eyes towards Daud with the utmost effort, as if life had been sucked out of her.

They both look into each other’s eyes trying to make sense of what just happened, millions of questions buzzing in their minds ‘what now? ’, ‘will we ever see each other again? ’ ‘Why us? ’, ‘is God punishing us? ’ And just like that Dauds life changed. The trucks at the rendezvous point were almost ready it was just a matter of time before they leave. Daud saw one of his fellow soldier, Jeddah, sit next to a small lake away from the group and went to sit with him. “Salaam, are you alright? ” Daud asked. Jeddah turned his head, looked at him dead in the eye and regarded him with frustration.

“Sorry” realising how stupid his question was. They sat there for a while gazing the clear water. Jeddah sighed and finally broke the silence “If…if you had a chance, what would you wanna be when you grow up? ” He asked, looking straight as if talking to himself. “Umm…well I never thought about it but a pilot I guess ……. What about you? ” “.. I loved my family especially my grandfather, he was my everything……he suffered a stroke a few years ago and passed away….. they all passed away…. , they said he could survive if we could afford a doctor… …..

I vowed to be a doctor after that day so I can try to stop people from dying … I wanted to lessen grieving and bring happiness to people….. Hahaha ironic isn’t it? I’m sitting here saying I want to be a life saver yet I kill innocent woman and children for no good reason” He forced a smile on his face and looked at the lake vaguely. As he did a tear sparkled down his cheek, trying to restrain from himself from breaking down he exhaled with the relief of expressing his emotions. No one wanted this life, they were forced to take the lives of innocent men and woman every day for no good reason.

They could have been kicking a footballs instead they held guns for the same men who killed their families. Our group leader gave a loud roar, signalling us to gather at the rendezvous point and depart for their “holy” mission. The leader of Dauds group was known as “mullah”, a man who has learned and preaches Islamic law, he was a broad, tall man with a dark beard reaching his collarbone. He wore typical Afghani attire but with an armed vest, which handled grenades, a machete and a pistol, not to mention he had an ak-47 strapped on his shoulder as well.

His turban was black and covered his ears , dangling from the back of his turban was a green torn scarf which he occasionally covered his nose and mouth with to conceal his identity. His voice was deep and demanding, perfect for a man with authority. He commanded us to be seated and the drivers to drive. There were three pick-ups, seven men sat in each pick-up, five in the car itself and two on the trunk armed and ready. We were heading for a commercial area known as ‘Zamaza’ where we were hinted that U. S troops made camp.

Everyone in the pick-ups was aware that this day could be their last including Daud and Jeddah yet everyone was calm and ready to face death as if they were destined to. But could death be the destiny of an 11 year old boy who was been hide away from the world and surrounded by only acts of violence and turmoil. Which raises the question in Dauds mind “what is my purpose in life? ” “Is this what I was born to do? “. The camp was not far now. Zamaza was home to many businesses which revolved around international affairs including aid and funds from U. S and the Pakistani government.

It was surrounded by trade routes stretching to Pakistan and Kabul. Daud and Jeddah sat on the trunk and watched out for any signs of ambush or potential assaults. The elder mujahedeen’s sat in the back seat and talked to each other along the way, unaware that Daud and Jeddah could easily hear them. One of the men sparked the conversation regarding a rescue camp near the border where homeless woman and children were cared for and protected by the Pakistani government. Daud senses heightened, he could not resist eavesdropping on their conversation. “Could my mother be there?

He whispered to himself. His thoughts were sharply interrupted with a thunderous blast. The truck behind Dauds was completely obliterated any remains was enveloped in flames. The battle had started. The Americans had launched a missile from one of the Zamaza buildings. Mullah ordered us to engage back and fire at the buildings not considering any innocent men and woman there. Rapid cross-firing continued till our trucks had reached the mouth of the area. The Taliban’s firing had pushed back the Americans allowing the mujahedeen’s to rush and take cover behind the buildings.

The opposition had placed barracks and snipers throughout the main road. Only a fool would expose himself openly. The area layout was very simple, the main road divided the area in half, the east wing was were the Taliban had taken cover while the west wing was the oppositions. Mullah’s plan and orders were as senseless as his mind, kill everyone and take control of this land. Daud and Jeddah firmly held on to their guns and took cover behind a bank. Bullets pierced through the walls, rumble flew everywhere, and innocent cries echoed within the alleys.

Mullah and the others moved from building to building in order to get as close to the Americans as possible. Daud and Jeddah sat still till the building next to them was blasted with grenades the aftermath blocked all directions except one the west wing. They had to move. Duad and Jeddah run through the alleys in effort to find a way out of the area. They crawled under large destroyed concrete surfaces to catch their breaths. The bullets flew in all direction and they knew the concrete cannot hold them for long. Daud peeked from a gap created from the bullets, a U.S soldier was crouched beside a building and aiming in the direction opposite of them.

Daud watched as the soldier calmly inhaled and exhaled enhancing his accuracy. Dauds eyes followed where he pointed his rifle, in the distance Mullah sat reloading his gun behind a wall. The soldier fired and in an instant Mullahs blood splashed across the wall. Watching someone Die was a traumatising experience but Mullahs death gave Daud liberation, a feeling which was snatched from him. Jeddah heard the gunshot and instantly reacted he pointed his gun at the soldier, he hesitated but eventually he pulled the trigger.

His gun gave a loud click. He had no ammo. The soldier reacted to the click and instantly turned back and pointed his gun at Jeddah, who lay their petrified, impetuously Daud pointed his gun at the soldier and fired in effort to kill him before he kills Jeddah. Daud was too late. The bullet pierced through Jeddah’s head spilling out blood and exposing his skull. Daud had seen death before but not inches away from him he saw how instantly life is taken away in a matter of seconds. Jeddah’s eyes were wide open and stared motionlessly at the sky.

Daud gently pushed his eye lids down and glared at his blood stained weapon and realised death would be his inevitable fate if he continued to stay here. Hardly audible, Daud hears a loud siren, he focuses on the sound. It was a steam train. Determined to escape, Daud follows the sound of the train. Dashing through small rumbles and alleys, the volume of the siren increases. He reaches a dead end wall but behind it he was certain he would find the tracks. He had to react quickly the train was approaching nearer and nearer. He looked around him and found one of the mujahedeen’s body crashed under the rumble.

He crawled under the large debris and reached in his vest and retrieved a grenade. Daud pulled the pin and threw the grenade at the wall. The blast created a large hole from which Daud climbed out off. The train was about to cross Zamaza, Daud sprinted to the tracks and stood a position from which he could jump in the cargo coach. Daud looked behind him, the smoke from the numerous grenades covered the Zamaza, cracks of rapid gunfire continued in the distance. The train finally came, Daud jumped successfully onto the cargo coach. He finally escaped.

The train was going to Pakistan from a popular trade route which was controlled by the Pakistani army. The journey took several hours but Daud was grateful. He remembered the conversation he had overheard about the relief camp in Pakistan and was certain was mother was there. He reached Pakistan on 13th November. Daud searched the relief camps tirelessly, and there among thousands of separated families he found her. The U. N supplied funds, aids and a home. Daud lived with his mother at the camps for two years. Today he works with UNICEF to rescue and bring hope to child soldiers around the world.

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