Monday, November 10, 2008

Shuja Means Brave

Shuja is 28, a proud Kabuli, a driver, a fixer, father to four-month-old Shahazad, husband to Kutsia, and survivor of four deaths.

The first was when he was a small boy. It was during the "Hekmatyar Time," so called according to the local custom of dividing Afghanistan's recent history into periods named for the prime causes of the country's agony at the particular time; in this case, after one of the most vile mass murderers in Afghan history, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. A Russian-made missile landed in the little courtyard of Shuja's family home, when everyone was eating breakfast. It didn't explode. It just destroyed some grapevines, and broke a window. The missile was more than half a metre in length.

The second death has left its evidences in small scars around Shuja's eyes. This was also during the Hekmatyar Time, when Shuja was perhaps 11, and Hekmatyar's fanatically Islamist Hezb-i-Islami militants were raining bombs down upon the people of Kabul from the hilltop necropolis of Shahada. A huge missile landed almost at Shuja's feet, just a few metres away. It happened near the Iranian embassy. About 100 people were killed in that one blast, and more than 300 were severely injured.

The third time was in July, 2004, in Ghazni, when Shuja drove over a landmine. The car immediately behind him was turned into a small, crushed and compacted chunk of metal, with a dead man inside it. "I don't know who that guy was," Shuja said. The car Shuja was driving sustained two flat tires. Shuja fixed the tires, and drove on.

Shuja's most recent death occurred near Massoud Square, in September, 2006. At least 16 people were killed. "It was a suicide bomber. He drove right past me in their car, around me. And it went into the convoy. There were shrapnels coming down everywhere, but it did not break my car. It was such a huge blast. The whole plaza. Even the trees were on fire."

Shuja is a good friend to have. He's good fun. He's not to be messed with.

In Dari, Shuja means "brave."


Blogger fjb said...

He must be a wonderful person having experienced what he has, and still keeping his sense of humour.

9:17 AM  

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