[Editors note: The following is a transcription of Zohal Haidari’s Sept. 21. speech during the Upper Years assembly commemorating the International Day of Peace.]
A ten-year-old girl is going to school thirty minutes away from her home, hoping that today, her science teacher won’t come to class because she didn’t study for the test and didn’t memorize the parts of a cell and its functions.
It is the third period and she still hopes that her teacher won’t come.
Suddenly, she hears a very loud noise of guns, firing close to her ears. Everyone starts moving, screaming, and crying.
She freezes. She doesn’t know what is happening and what she is supposed to do.
She tries to hide under a table which a person could easily see; but, she thinks she is invisible.
She could still hear the sounds of bullets while her classmates cry to God, “Yah Allah! Please protect us, we are innocent and we haven’t done anything wrong! Please, God, please!”
She then hears one of her friends getting shot.
This girl doesn’t know what war is; she doesn’t know why it is happening. All she knows is that she lost her dearest friend in an attack.
That is the definition of war for her.
She never wanted to be born in a proxy war country. She doesn’t know that the two world powers are fighting against each other and her friend is the victim. She doesn’t know what it means to be a capitalist or a communist.
She just thinks of herself as a ten-year-old girl who goes to school so that she can talk to her friends. She doesn’t know what it means to be an Afghani in a western world.
All she knows is that her friend was a victim of all of this chaos.
Today, that girl is standing in front of you guys and talking about one specific moment of her life but why? Why should you guys care about it?
Well, that day more than a hundred students died and I survived. I don’t know why. But yeah, I did.
And from that day onward, I understood what it means to walk up to school safely: when your heart doesn’t beat faster than a normal person with each step you take to go to school, hoping that today you won’t lose another of your friends.
I am not here today to ask you guys to study and help Afghanistan or any other war zone. That’s your choice. But I want you to question yourself: How can you use your power and potential to change this unjust and unfair world?
The hopes of this ten-year-old girl changed from hoping that her science teacher wouldn’t come to class, to hoping that these conflicts will end someday and she can go back to her home.
She still believes in humanity.
“When you come to me
Bring a pair of eyes
So that I can see the world differently
When you come to me
Bring a bundle of smiles
So that I can feel happiness one more time
When you come to me
Bring a piece of hope
So that I can hold onto life
And a piece of the sun
To light my inside”
– by Farida
Zohal Haidari, Class of 2020, is an Afghan national whose family departed from Afghanistan on July 7, 2016, because of safety issues. She and her family now live as refugees in New Delhi, India.
Edited by Dhrubhagat Singh