body#layout #main-top { display:none; } -->

Saturday, 26 September 2009

One Year After Her Family Died In U.S. Airstrike, Seven-Year-Old Afghan Girl Lives In Constant Fear

On the night of August 22, 2008, Zahra's father, mother, sister and two brothers were killed by American bombs. This is her life now.

Seven-year-old Zahra looks like a typical Afghan girl in her traditional long dress and scarf, her short black hair peeking out from her head covering. She sticks close to home, seldom venturing far from her house. But it is not tradition that keeps her home but fear.

On the night of August 22 2008, all of Zahra's immediate family was killed by American bombs. In pursuit of Taliban commander Mullah Siddiq, United States Special Forces and the Afghan army launched an airstrike on the village of Azizabad in Shindand district of Herat. An investigation by the United Nations said that 90 people, 60 children and 30 adults, died.

The American military initially denied that any civilians were harmed in the attack. Only after prolonged pressure, in October of last year, did they acknowledge that the strike killed 33 civilians.

Zahra's father, mother, sister and two brothers died that night. She is the only survivor, together with her grandmother, Maryam, known in the village as Pori. One year later the two traumatized females, one seven years old the other 75, are still living in Azizabad, in a small, dirty, three-room house donated to them by a kind-hearted neighbor.

The house the pair inhabit has no doors and no windows. Inside it is dark and dusty - the floor is carpeted with old sacks. It looks more like a dirty storeroom than a place where people live. There are some teacups, two buckets full of water, three small pots and three threadbare blankets. Every day Zahra cleans and arranges the few items they possess.

The rest of the time she sits alone, staring into the void. More