Theater of Cruelty

On the day of the dream, we get up at four in the morning

Who will carry firewood and water if the house ten-year-old is allowed to start school? This was just one of the many issues Unni Rustad witnessed in her work in Afghanistan. Ny Tid presents here two of Rustad's Afghan stories.


A nine-decade-old country boy is constantly coming to his mother, full of news; he has to start school! Mother does not become gentle.

"Who's going to work at home then?" She says. "Who will carry wood and water?"

"But mom, I want to study, I want to be a doctor or an engineer," the boy tries.

"Shut up! I'll ask your father to beat you when he comes! '

"No one in our family goes to school, what do you think?" The father cries when he hears what's going on.

"The other kids go to school," the boy cries.

“School is for the rich. You have to work with me to feed the family, school is not for poor people, ”says Dad, grabs the boy and punches.

It knocks on the door. A teacher comes to visit and gets the whole story.

“You are a man without education, and now you want your son to learn nothing either. If you do not

have knowledge, you can not know God, "says the teacher to the father, who becomes thoughtful. When the teacher says that the son can work after school, he gives up.

A teacher with sunglasses and western clothes enters a small boys' class and shouts names. Guys

we have met before, is not in place. He's probably just a little late, the others say, he has a long way to go. When

the boy comes, the teacher is angry.

"You do not have to come to school if you can not come in time," he says. He beats the boy even though the others ask nicely that the friend must get another chance.

Then we see the boy sitting in despair and alone and talking to God:

"School is so far away, I can not get there in time, so the teacher beats me. Because I'm going to school

and does not help father, he beats me. I have to quit school and work with my father, "says the boy sadly and resignedly.

With this little drama, a group of boys in a village in Badakhshan present some of their problems. 130 girls and boys in two villages here have discussed how they feel and what changes they dream of. A couple of the boys have walked three hours each way to attend the weekly group meetings. The last time the boys met, they prepared what they would say to the village. Now their fathers are sitting in front of them, the village leaders, the mullah and big and small brothers are in place. The girls will have their performance after lunch, then the women will come.

We are inside a garden with a small house and a low stage in the corner. Branches from beautiful trees extend into the square and provide shade, the sky is blue and the sun is shining.

This was the headquarters of the mujaheddin's battles against the Russians, now it is the most beautiful arena we could wish for. Under a tree with large branches in the middle of the square, the chef prepares lunch, it steams from huge pots of rice.

Around us on all sides the mountains rise in the air. Last night we sat on mattresses out on a low roof while the high peaks and the valley disappeared in the twilight. Early today, the sun sent a thick javelin of light through a small depression in the mountain range while the miller passed by on his way to work up the road. I was downstairs greeting, he was already working, his beard was white with flour, and the decor and smell were like in my childhood mill. It is a harsh climate here, and the summer is short, every meter of soil is utilized. From the road we saw a man spa a hole in the ground to bury a large rock. This way he can get a couple of square meters of extra cultivated land.

The boys have hung up large sheets about what they have discussed. One of the tasks was to tell about a normal day and a dream day. The boys between fourteen and eighteen describe a normal day as follows: “Five o'clock: get up, prepare for school, take the animals to pasture. Seven o'clock: work, do homework, go to school. Twelve o'clock: washing hands, eating lunch, praying afternoon prayers, listening to the teacher. Four o'clock: comes back from school, picks up the animals and takes care of them. At eight o'clock: have dinner and pray. "

The program for the dream day has the boys decorated with flowers and borders. This is the day that will contain everything they long for, and it will last as long as possible, so they will get up at four o'clock. Then they should pray, relax a bit, exercise, then eat a delicious breakfast with kebabs and eggs. At six o'clock they will put on good clothes, listen to the radio, carry water and work with father before they go to school. On the fields we should have a good irrigation system, the boys write. At eight o'clock the school begins where they can show their homework to a trained teacher who is good at teaching. Then there is the dream afternoon: “At one o'clock: prepare for exams, have a good pen, be able to play with a ball, have materials we need to learn something. At eight o'clock: pray, listen to the news, do homework in good light, sleep in a good bed. "

A group sings a love song to good mothers. Others say they hate to be beaten and are afraid of the gunmen, they wish adults respected them and would like to learn something and serve their country. Some of them are so small that they have to be lifted up on a bench behind the lectern, sweaty sheets tremble in their hands, but they do not give up the chance to speak out, and their voices carry.

On narrow wooden benches in front of the stage, the men bend forward and stretch their necks to catch every word. The laughter is loose at the slightest hint of humor.

And then we give speeches and use all the big words the kids deserve and challenge the men to support them when the children are to continue working on specific projects. Then there is lunch on wax cloths under the beautiful trees. Mahak whispers that she hears a former mujaheddin commander tell that he has the feeling of having wasted so much time on destruction. "He says he wants to help build something," Mahak whispers, discreetly pointing out a tall, thin man with a beautiful face and a broken eye. We line up at the exit and thank people for coming. The man stops, puts his hand on my heart and looks at me seriously with one eye. "Tell me what to do, I'm ready," he says, promising to keep in touch with the boys and discuss with them. And the mullah, a little guy with gentle eyes, says yes right away when we ask if it would not be a good idea to give a Friday speech on children's rights. Later, they both follow to Fayzabad where the girls and boys from here meet the groups from the other village and talk to provincial politicians and the media. The former commander speaks and asks adults to support the children, not just for the sake of the children. "If we treat the children well, this place will be good for us too," he says.

The texts are taken from the book On the day of the dream, we get up at four in the morning. Voices and stories from Afghanistan (October 2005). Reprinted with permission of the author and publisher.

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