‘I cried so much when separated from schoolmates’
KANDAHAR (Pajhwok): Attiqullah was two-years-old when his father was killed in a group Taliban attack, including a truck bombing, on the central jail in southern Kandahar province nine years ago.
Wearing dirty clothes, exhausted and covered with sweat in hot weather, Attiqullah, now 11-years-old, works at a mechanic shop in Kandahar City.
The boy says he knows it is a time in his life he should be playing, going to school and enjoying time at home with siblings, but the death of his father forced him to work and feed his two small sisters and the mother.
The attack on the main prison in June, 2008 left many people dead and injured and hundreds of prisoners managed to escape, mostly Taliban political prisoners.
Attiqullah told Pajhwok Afghan News he was just two years old when the prison attack took place. He said his mother told him his father owned a bakery in Sarposa area and he was killed along with several others in the attack.
When his father was alive, they lived in a rented house, but after the death of his father, Attiqullah said his grandfather gave them a room in his house where he, his mother and two sisters still live.
Three years ago, Attiqullah was admitted into a school by his mother, but he had to quit and instead work to support his family.
“I remember the day when my mother separated me from my classmates and took me to a mechanic shop to learn the skill. That day I cried so much, I was telling the mother I don’t want to work, I want to study. But the mother was also crying and said there is no other option with her but to take me to the workplace.”
The boy said he never felt happiness coming to the shop and always came to the workplace with his eyes filled with tears.
“Work at the mechanic shop is tough. I don’t like it. I wear dirty clothes all the day and the master uses harsh words and often beats me.”
Attiqullah said he daily thinks he would have been living a different life had his father been alive. “I am dreaming the day when I get rid of this dirty dress and the hard labour and just go to school.”
“There is no one to fulfill my wish. No one has helped us after the death of my father, neither relatives nor the government, we are forgotten folk.”
Attiquall is given 50 afghanis each day by his master before leaving for home and sometimes when there is more work, he gets 80 to 100 afghanis, which he gives to his mother to buy bread and other things.
His mother said she would have never sent her son to the mechanic shop if his father was alive. She said she had no choice but to send her son to work.
“My husband owned a bakery shop near the Kandahar prison. He would leave for the shop before dawn and would come home at midnight.”
She said her husband worked for long hours for the sake of their family, but he was martyred in a very powerful blast.
Her spouse left her behind with three small children, including Attiqullah. Her father then took them to his home and gave them a room.
“My father is also not in a position to support us and that’s why I send my son to the mechanic shop,” she said.
She said she also worked day and night dealing with household works, taking care of children and embroidery.
The mother said she worked on embroidery designs from shopkeepers against wages and earned up to 6000 afghanis after months of work. “I hardly meet the family needs.”
Initially she sent all her children to school, but bad economic condition forced her to take her son out of the school and send him to work. Her two daughters still go to school.
The mother said no one had assisted her and she alone was taking care of her children under tough conditions.
Attiqullah is not alone whose life is ruined by the conflict in Kandahar. Thousands of families who lost their beloved ones and breadwinners to the conflict live in the province.
Security officials say the attack on the Kandahar prison was one of the deadliest that freed some 1200 prisoners, including experienced killers and those involved in heavy crimes.
They say many years had passed since the attack and some of the perpetrators might have been among those arrested since then and others killed during the conflict.
Kandahar governor’s spokesman Samim Khalwak told Pajhwok Afghan News that the government has been assisting families of the war victims and Attiqullah’s family might be assisted by the then government.
“But such assistance cannot change the pain into joy,” he said, adding the provincial government was encouraging wealthy people to assist the victims of war to the possible extent.
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