By Mary Dobbing
This is written following the news of bombs set off at the Boston Marathon on 15th April. So far three people are reported dead and dozens seriously injured with many suffering amputations of limbs. Amongst the dead in Boston was an eight year old boy. Last December we visited an Afghan mother and heard from her the effects of the sudden violent loss of her two sons in a suicide bomb in Kabul.
We were driven to a home on the outskirts of Kabul. The entrance to the typical Afghan courtyard house was through metal gates from a narrow alley of high mud brick walls. The neighbourhood was a maze of similar blank walled lanes filled with puddles and snow, and only as wide as a car.
The gates opened into a sunny courtyard full of smiley giggling girls, and chickens. With shy Salams from the women and girls we entered, taking off our shoes, and were ushered into a long empty room. There was no furniture, only an alcove of shelves with a curtain across it. A quilt hung over the door to keep in the warmth. At one end of the room, large windows let in the dazzling winter sun on two aspects, giving its warmth through the glass. Between the windows on the floor was a pile of quilts under which, unseen, was a wood-burning stove (called a kursi I think). On top of the pile of quilts, which was held up by a table top of some sort, was a dried circular cheese about twelve inches across and stuck with flies, which was the only object in front of us as we met the bereaved mother and her two remaining children.
In any other circumstances this would have been a delightful encounter. We were invited to sit around the unseen stove and we pushed our legs under the edges of the quilts. We sat around, warm and toasty, with the stove at our feet and the warmed quilts pulled up to our waists. Behind us on the outside window ledges curious chickens pecked at the glass.
At one edge of the table our hostess sat with a small girl and a small boy either side of her. Her eyes were dull and she looked depressed. She told the story of the loss of her children in a suicide bombing, mechanically, in a monotone voice racked by prolonged grief. There were long silences between her statements which we held respectfully, but I longed to know how we could comfort her. A crowd of girls and older women sat along the edge of the room like a Greek chorus watching and listening to the story and its translation.
The mother told us about her pain. She told us of the tragedy and shock of her young sons being randomly killed by a suicide bomber who had targeted one of the numerous NATO convoys in the streets of Kabul. The two boys had been walking to school and the suicide bomber triggered his device killing them along with other bystanders. They went out to school on an ordinary day and never came home. She said that even now she still cannot bear to let the other children out of her sight, let alone go to school. She asked “what will become of them?” When we asked them, the girl said she wanted to be a teacher and the boy wanted to be a doctor.
It happens that one of our Afghan Peace Volunteer friends lost a cousin in the same suicide bombing attack in Kabul. He was able to tell the bereaved mother about his loss and they both looked very sad. Fais has recounted elsewhere how he witnessed his older brother being murdered in the civil war when he was in Bamiyan Province. He has lost more than one close relative to the violence. These are but two of the untold thousands of stories of loss and trauma experienced by ordinary Afghans from the last thirteen years of war.
There is a wealth of latent talent and ambition among young Afghan men and women waiting impatiently for peace and some education provision so that they can realise their dreams. But this generation are being blighted by lack of opportunity and insecurity, as well as the struggle against the effects of psychological trauma from the endless violence.
We asked the bereaved mother what message we could take back to British people. She answered “create peace and security so that Afghans can have a life”.
I would add, “so that we can all have a life” where ever in the world we are. Tanzeel Merchant wrote about how he was nearly among the casualties at the international meeting which was the Boston Marathon. He wrote
“The US, like many other countries in the world, must and will carry the consequences and responsibility of decades of interference and self-interest that have undermined the histories of other nations. But does wilfully killing innocent bystanders at an event, that is meant to bring people together, really further any cause? What ethic or religion condones matching blood with blood?
By the time the dust settles in at Copley Square, there will be a new enemy, new hatred, and new scars to add to the ones from last afternoon…. And the world will be no safer or better than it was when we woke up [to that] new morning of promise just 24 hours [before].
P.S: I encourage you to share your thoughts… Please be gentle, considerate and kind, both here and to those around you. Life’s too short to be otherwise.” 
The Afghan Peace Volunteers have as their logo a blue scarf which says for them “We are all human beings under the same blue sky”. Why not be friends?