Over a year ago, Asma, a young widow living in Pakistan, picked up the phone and heard an unfamiliar voice filtering in through the receiver. “If you’ve read your husband’s funeral rites,” said the voice of a man, “You should think about paying now, unless you want to lose your child as well.” Then he hung up. The next day, Asma, accompanied by her older brother, took her three-year-old daughter and fled for Europe.
The voice belonged to one of the Taliban members who had been demanding for months an unpayable sum of 20 million rupees (approximately $191,000) from Asma and her family. After a number of death threats, they beheaded her husband and her two brothers on the streets of Khatam, the town where she was living at the time. Their heads lay on the ground until a driver who was passing through the area recognized them and notified the family. Unable to bring their bodies home due to the condition they were in, she told me in devastated tones that she and her family had to bury them where they died.
Even now, safe in a refugee camp in Greece, Asma, whose name has been changed to protect her identity (as with others in this story), is fearful that the Taliban will somehow find her. She tentatively showed me, but would not allow me to photograph, the scars on her face and hands from when the Taliban assaulted her inside her own home. They had forced their way into her house while she was in the kitchen warming a bottle of milk for her daughter, then slammed her face against the wall, sliced her hand with a knife, and smashed the butt of their guns into her foot. She explained that this is how the Taliban funds its operations in southern Waziristan, a mountainous region in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. One of her neighbors, who made a decent living as a doctor (for local standards that is),
Loading, please wait...