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When She Fled Afghanistan, She Took Her Schoolbooks With Her

DON GONYEA, HOST:

If you had to leave your home at a moment's notice, what would you take with you? NPR has been posing that question to listeners and gathering stories from those who have fled conflict. Today, we bring you one of those stories.

SADIQA SADIQI: My name is Sidiqa Sidiqi. I live in Hayward. That's a city in the Bay Area. I was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. I moved to the United States when I was in eighth grade. That was January of 2006. The Taliban were already gone, and the coalition force was there. The American army was still there. The security was stabilizing, but the future was still not hopeful. We decided to move for a better education for me as well as a better life.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSEE MECANIQUE SONG, "THE OPEN SEA")

SADIQI: The one important thing that I took with me was my books, my first grade books and some notebooks with my teacher's notes on it. It was important for me to take them with me because I wanted to have a reminder of the time that I was not able to go to school. The first grade, I was able to go to school. But then the Taliban came, and the schools were shut for girls for five years.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSEE MECANIQUE SONG, "THE OPEN SEA")

SADIQI: Everyone in my family had a really good education, and it was very important for them to educate me. But it was hard for them to teach me everything at home, so they found a teacher for me. She was a friend of my aunt, and that teacher was the only one who risked her life to teach me. I had to wrap my book in the cover of a Quran so it looked like I'm going somewhere to learn Islamic studies. Every single day, I had to drop my books in that cover and hide it under my scarf and walk three blocks to my teacher's house (sobbing). I knew everyone was scared.

After Taliban, most people's life went back to normal. But my family wanted me to have a better education, so that's the reason we decided to move. When we moved here, I started eighth grade, and it was February 14. That was my first day of school - on Valentine's Day. These books became more meaningful when I moved. I took it as a piece that will help me inspire me, but later, it became a item that would give me comfort, and I'm glad I had them to remind me when I was giving up. Some days, I didn't want to go to school. Some days, I didn't want to just try a little harder. Flipping the pages and seeing my teacher's notes - that remind me that I was a good student, and I was trying very hard, and I should be doing the same here.

This book is now a symbol of resilience, I want to say. It get me through many difficult times. And, now that I look back, I'm glad I brought these books with me. I'll continue to keep them. And maybe, when my baby's older, I can teach her and read for her from those books.

GONYEA: Sidiqa Sidiqi continued her education in the U.S., graduating from college with a degree in health science and administration management. She has been back to visit her old school in Afghanistan, where she and her husband help fund education for underprivileged students.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSEE MECANIQUE SONG, "THE OPEN SEA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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