The Shoes Least Fit for Travelling
After Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban, a young medical student is forced to say goodbye to her family and confront the challenge of an unwelcome journey.
In October 2021, my former teacher called. She said that since my sister and I were active students at Marefat High School, we were not safe. “If you agree to leave, please send your documents.” My sister and I agreed.
After one week, my teacher sent me a message that I had been selected, but unfortunately, not my sister because she was under eighteen. I was happy for myself but really sad for my sister. My teacher said, “Due to security, you should keep this journey a secret.”
Our coordinators told us that today or the day after tomorrow we would travel. Because I would be leaving soon, I went with my mom to the graveyard where my dad was buried. I said to him, “Your daughter has to make this unwelcome journey. I miss you. This might be our last meeting.”
While I was saying goodbye to him, I cried a lot. Right then I got a call that I had to be at the Eidgah Mosque at 1:00 p.m. I said, “How can I get there in this short time?” The graveyard was about one hour away from my home.
We rushed to arrive home at noon. I felt so hungry and thirsty, but there was no time to share a final meal at home. I put on a long black hijab, a big scarf and my shiny, black, high-heeled shoes.
Among all of my shoes, those were the least fit for travelling, but I liked them. I wore them on first day of medical school. Whenever I wear them, I remember that great day.
Finally, I said goodbye to all of my family and left home with my mom for the Eidgah Mosque. When we arrived, the family I was going to travel with was waiting. Abdul Sami, his wife, daughter and son. This was the first time that I saw them. How can I travel alone with strangers?
My mother kissed my face and said, “Be brave, take care of yourself.” That moment was so hard and painful for me. I was leaving my mom, my family, Kabul and my country with wet eyes and a broken heart. But I sat in the car with that family, and we drove from Kabul to Jalalabad.
Along the way, we introduced ourselves to each other. Abdul Sami’s wife was a dentist and had a job in a Canadian organization, so I felt safe with them.
On the way from Kabul to the Torkham border were several Taliban checkpoints. At one of them, a menacing Taliban militant with a long beard and big gun asked, “Where are you going? Where are you coming from?”
My heart was beating faster and faster and my hands started sweating. If they knew the truth about us and that our final goal was Canada, they might even kill us.
Abdul Sami said, “We are going to Pakistan for medical treatment.” “Where are your medical documents?” the Taliban guy asked.
Abdul Sami showed the documents. Finally, we were allowed to pass that checkpoint. At 7:00 a.m., we arrived at the Torkham border. There was a long line of people waiting to cross, so we also waited—about five hours. Since there was no place to sit, we had to stand for those five hours. I was so tired and my feet hurt because of my high heels.
Finally, at 4:00 p.m., those shoes walked me to safety in Pakistan. I hope I can keep walking in them all the way to medical school in Canada.
Nadera Batori is a medical student at Kabul Medical University. She moved from Afghanistan to Pakistan in October 2021, when Afghanistan’s government was defeated by the Taliban. Now she is in Islamabad and waiting for a visa as a refugee to Canada.
Portrait: Joanne Lyons with Nadera Batori
There is Always a Path
Graphite, charcoal, and ink drawing on wood