Nov 16, 2011

Hidden Tears

Author: Nazifa Alizada
Student at Asian University for Women

It was 1996 when the wild Taliban regime attacked Afghanistan and wanted to interfere in different parts of people’s life by the name of an Islamic government.

I was only two, a small child who could walk and sit but couldn’t talk properly, there were only a few words which I could pronounce properly, “Momi(Mother)”, “Baba(Father)”,“Nan(Bread)”,“Ab(Water)”.However most people couldn’t even understand the words I pronounced correctly.

The situation of the country got worse and worse day by day. Many limitations were created for both women and men. I don’t remember anything from that time. My mother says the Taliban entered houses whenever they wanted and collected most of the valuable house materials for themselves. The only reason behind this was what they called an Islamic country. But it was either a wrong interpretation of Islam or misuse of people’s religious belief.

My father decided to migrate to any of the neighboring countries. The only thing which I clearly remember is when he drove us on his big orange bus from our home through a special part of way.

I guess my parents especially my father tolerated too many troubles until he found Iran as a shelter for us.

I was five when for the first time my mother sent me for shopping alone. I went to shop and asked the shopkeeper with my pure Afghan language: “Kaka Waytex dari?(Uncle! Do you have washing powder?)”It was the language which my mother taught me and we all talked in that at home. When I told it at first he didn’t understand and asked me to repeat my words but as I did, he grinned at me and told ironically “Go...Go… learn the name and come back Afghan baby...”

I was frustrated.

In Afghanistan it normal to call men shopkeepers “Kaka” but it seems impolite in Iran. This was the thing which I got to know after a long time during my stay in Iran. Maybe it was one of the reasons which drove the shopkeeper so mad.

I was six when my father wanted to register my name for school but almost none of the Farsi schools were ready to accept a native speaker of Dari on their school.

Finally I got admitted to an Afghan-Iranian school. There was a minority of Iranian students but most of the teachers were Iranian. Basically it was a part of the school rules that we had to speak the national language of the country on campus. Soon I got familiar with their language and accent. Since then I had neither faced problem with the shopkeeper nor with the teachers. I could easily ask the shopkeeper for “Safid konanda” instead of “Waytex”, or could ask my teacher “Mashqh man chea?” So simply I called him “Aqha” instead of “Ustad” which stands for the word Teacher in Dari. I distinguished the mispronunciations between two languages and found that I have to pronounce every “A” sound of my language like “O” to make it more Farsi, like “Non” for ”Nan”. On the other hand, I used to talk Farsi so that my other classmates and teachers don’t make fun of me; in school campus every student who couldn’t or didn’t speak Farsi was called rural kid. So we had to speak Farsi even if we weren’t comfortable with it.

At that time the question which always kept my childish mind busy was why do I have to ignore myself and my identity by speaking Farsi. At that time I was so small and naïve to know that it wasn’t ignoring me but the way to communicate with others and respect school’s rules.

I was nine, a fourth grader student of my Afghan- Iranian school- which recently has changed to an absolute Iranian school with specific laws-when the oppressive Taliban government collapsed and the situation in my country got better. Without any hesitation, my father decided to return to Afghanistan as soon as possible.

At first, it sounded nice for me and my siblings but later created many difficulties for each of us.

Since my father insisted on our education he registered our names in a governmental school by the second week of our return to Kabul.

I never forget the day in which my Dari teacher screamed at me in front of the class which had 40-45 students. It was my third day at an Afghan school; in spite of being the youngest student in the class I usually sat in the last row. Before starting the new lesson she asked some of the students to read their writing assignments out loud and asked some questions. It was my turn that time. After she entered the class told me to stand up and read my essay from my note book. So I started reading confidently with my mixed Dari- Farsi language. I used mixed words because I was used to talking Farsi in Iran but was trying to replace it with Dari then and it wasn’t possible at once: “sar am ra ka dowr dadam, maman am onja waystada bod, yak khorda asabani ba cheshm mekhord” instead of saying “sar khoda ka dawr dadom , madaram anja estada bod wa kami qhahr malom meshod”. Unintentionally the sentence betrayed me and told all my classmates and the teacher that I was an Afghan who was had migrated to Iran and came back recently.
As I was reading she screamed at me “Sit down Zawarak (the special word which is used for the Afghans who were migrated to Iran in order to show them lower status).” the whole class was laughing at me which made me badly ashamed as well as nervous. I couldn’t believe that I started crying. I was sure that they could understand my words and had no problem with my Farsi-ized language but I didn’t know what the screaming and laughing was for. Most of the teachers and students hated Iran (maybe because of some political issues) and anyone who came from there. After that event none of the students behaved well with me, even when I said “Hi” to them they answered it by shaking their heads. This was intolerable for me and later forced me to change my school.

In reality, my Farsi-ized language isolated me from my classmates, teachers and even from the school.

Five years later my language and accent had completely changed. Living in Afghanistan, as time went on, talking with different people has affected my language and changed it in a few months.

I went to another school, in contrast with my first school, when I told any of my friends that I spent five years in Iran, they didn’t believe me because I could talk pure Dari without mixing any Farsi word. I found ups and downs of sounds, vowels and consonants in my language and changed the sound “O” to “A” again.

Everything changed but the question which still remains in my mind is why, when I was in Iran if I talked in Farsi they called me “Afghani” and when I returned to Afghanistan- at least to be known with Afghan identity- on the first few months every one was calling me “Iranian”, although the languages are so closed to each and even the alphabets are the same, people of both languages can know each other but again why does it matter to people so much? if the languages don’t differ there might be another reason behind which people are thinking about that after we talk and that probably is identity.


My identity is what I am and my language is what I say. The fact is that what always I am affects on what ever I say because what I am makes what I say.