How I became literate but had to bury my books
My story on how I learned to read and write and how I buried my books when the Taliban took over Afghanistan for the 2nd time.
My father and uncles were bi-sawad, a Persian word for illiterate, meaning they could not read or write. They inherited it from their father, my grandfather, and great-grandfather. Traditionally sawad (literacy) was seen as a male thing; naturally, no females in our family were literate. But interestingly, it was a female-my elder sister- who first stepped into an open-air school, thanks to my uncle. By open-air school, I mean a temporary school set up by the Swedish committee on the ruins of a building that used to be a roadside restaurant. A year later, I went to school. The following year our education was interrupted when a fight broke out between the Taliban (Taliban 1.0) and the Wahdat Party and the subsequent Taliban takeover of my hometown in the 1990s.
However, my uncle was determined to make us ba-sawad (literate), something he did not have, so he bought us notebooks, pens, and pencils. The challenge was that we needed someone in the family to teach us how to read and write; in a village of almost 80 families, no one could teach us how to read and write. One person could only read when invitation letters were coming to the town. He was respected among the people because people needed him to read their notes. My grandma used to get him to read her the letters my younger uncle sent from Iran. But he sometimes got things wrong; the things he could not read, he guessed, sometimes wrongly. Once, our villagers had gone to a funeral in another village at 1:00 Am, while the funeral was held at 10:00 Am because the reader got the timing wrong. That became a joke later. We had to teach ourselves how to read and write. My sister was more intelligent and hardworking than me, she learned it first, and then she helped me read and write simple Persian texts. It was the third year of the Taliban rule that my uncle and some other men from other villages started paying a clergyperson from another village to teach us. We were all boys of different age groups in the same class, each studying different things. But because of the Taliban ban on female education, I was the one who was able to participate in the class. Hence…