A Walk in My Shoes

Rukhshana Ahmadi (+Video)


Aug 15, 2021. A bright young girl went to work as a presenter to talk about her passion: women’s rights and education. She was wearing a stylish suit, makeup, a burgundy head scarf, and black high heels. Later that same day as she walked home, she saw the world had changed. It had become dark, not because of the setting sun, but because of the dark forces that had taken over her city. There was a sense of panic. Smoke filled the air. Carrying bags and suitcases, people were crying in the streets.

With each step, she heard the click-click of her high-heeled shoes. Only moments earlier those shoes had brought joy to her heart, but the Taliban hated high heels. If the Taliban had seen those high heels, they would have killed her, and you would not be hearing her story.

This girl is me: Rukhshana. Are you ready to hear the story about my shoes, my journey and my life?

Today I Iearned the word “suffocated”.

Suffocated: to prevent someone from improving in a positive way
Suffocated: to overpower
Suffocated: to be unable to have and do what you want

As a woman, I could no longer go to school, have a job, or be allowed to leave my home without a man. I decided to leave my beloved Afghanistan because my future there was impossible.

On the day my journey out of Afghanistan began, I travelled with my family to Kabul Airport. To escape, I had to wear a “burqa”, a “tent” covering me from head to toe. I also wore flat black shoes with a little sparkle in them. As we made our way to the airport, there was chaos all around. Everyone was searching for a way out of the country. We waited at the airport for hours. Finally, an American soldier came outside the gates to assist my family and me.

As the only one who spoke English, I sent the rest of my family ahead of me because I wanted to be sure my family got inside safely with no one left behind. But as we entered, there was a huge explosion. I got separated from the rest of my family and was knocked unconscious. When I woke up, all I could see was a police officer and a soldier standing over me. Their lips were moving, but I could not hear them. The doctor said, “You have been in a bomb blast and have lost your hearing. It will improve in time.”

At that moment, I didn’t care if l had lost my hearing. I just wanted my family. I was alone. I started to cry. What should I do? I could return home and risk facing the Taliban, and death, or I could travel to Canada. Perhaps my family was already on their way to Canada. I Iooked down and wondered: “Where will these shoes carry me now?

I was fortunate that my shoes carried me out of Afghanistan to Canada, but what about my family? Eventually, I learned that after the blast, my oldest brother—a beautiful musician whose music fills me with joy—had been separated from the rest of my family. When my mother finally discovered him, he had been severely beaten by the Taliban. My mother pleaded for his life and promised that the whole family would leave the airport if the Taliban would release her son. They left without knowing that I lay unconscious on the other side of the airport.

My brother ended up in a hospital and it took twenty days before I could speak with him, but when I finally did, my heart was filled with joy. Now, the Taliban has made music illegal, so my beloved brother is not allowed to play his healing, hopeful music anymore.

And women are being suffocated once again with no rights or choices. Can you imagine having no choice to even select which shoes you can wear? This story is the story of all women who remain in Afghanistan. They are still suffering and so is my family.

So, look at the shoes I am wearing today. I love these shoes. I am wearing them in honour of my little sister, my aunt and my mother. I hope that one day I can wear these high heels to Toronto Airport to pick up my family and give them all huge hugs.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. One step at a time. This is the first step on my new journey. Nobody can stop me from doing what I want to do. I will be the voice for those women who continue to be pushed down by the Taliban. Every shoe has its own story. Are you ready to listen?


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