A girl who dared to learn in the face of death

By: Declan O’Toole

In 2021, Sobia Abed feared that she would be either shot or kidnapped. But what had she done? Gone to school. Sobia Abed is a Junior here at Godwin High School, but at the time she was living in Kabul, Afghanistan when the Taliban were taking over.
Her family moved to Dubai only a few months after she was born due to her father’s job. She lived in Duabi for most of her life and attended an American school that was set up there. As a result of the international nature of the city, Abed found that school is similar in the United States as it is in Dubai
“The only reason we moved to Dubai was because my dad had his companies over in Dubai, so we had to leave our home in Kabul.”
After Abed’s family had been in Dubai for over a decade, they had to return to Afghanistan in 2017 due to financial problems. They returned to Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, and began to reintegrate with their home. For Abed, school was challenging. The system was very strict with its rules, especially with girls and what they wore. Abed had also grown up speaking English all her life and could not speak Farsi fluently. It made it difficult for her not only academically, but socially as well. Abed was put down by peers and teachers for having to re-learn her native language.
“They didn’t care if my feelings got hurt, and because I came from Dubai, they told me I wasn’t educated enough because I had to learn my own language all over again, so they would make fun of me. I didn’t let that bother me.”
On Aug.15, 2021, Abed had just finished taking a test in her biology class and was preparing to go home. School let out and she began to walk home when she noticed large groups of people running away. Many ran into buildings and closed doors and windows. Store fronts closed. She heard a mix of screams and car horns in the distance. Six cars then drove up to where Abed was walking and stopped. Inside the cars were armed Taliban soldiers, an extremist group with very conservative Islamic beliefs. The Taliban do not believe in womens’ education and oftentimes take extreme and violent measures to prevent it, and Abed was currently wearing her school’s uniform while facing them. She feared for her life. Terrible thoughts rushed through her head. She was afraid to run because if she did, they would most likely shoot her, and if she did not do anything, they might just kidnap her.
“I was confused, I didn’t know what to do because I was a girl in a school uniform, something they hate. The first thing I thought when I realized who they were was that if I ran they were going to shoot me.”
Eventually, Abed broke away from the cars and ran to her home. Luckily it wasn’t too far from where she was. Immediately, Abed and her family began to pack their belongings. Recently, her aunt had moved to a new home, a good place for them to lay low for a while. Abed’s father had done work for the U.S. government which made him and the family a target for the Taliban. The Abeds removed the SIM cards from their phones so that the Taliban couldn’t track them.
“My aunt had moved a few days prior, so her home was an unknown location. Before we left, we took all the SIM cards from our phones so the Taliban wouldn’t track us because my father used to do work with the U.S. government.”
Abed’s family stayed with her aunt for about a week. They realized that there was no reason for them to stay there as they weren’t being tracked. They returned to their home, but her father was already planning a way for them to get out of Afghanistan. Since her dad had worked for the government, he could get their family into the Kabul Airport where the U.S. Military still had control. That same night, Abed and her family went to the Airport where a massive crowd of citizens was attempting to enter.

The group was verbally harassed and physically assaulted by Taliban soldiers. Abed and her family joined the crowd in an attempt to enter the airport. The men of the family formed a wall to not only protect their family but also so they wouldn’t be separated.
“The men, my dad, my brother-in-law, and older brother made a wall where they connected their hands. All the girls were in the middle and we were trying to get into the crowd.” Unfortunately, their first attempt failed.
Abed’s family was shoved around and hit multiple times which led to her father to have major bruising. Abed’s family had to all the way back to their home and prepare to try again the next night.

Once again her family were unable to enter the airport due to complications. Abed’s younger Sobia, brother had suffered a
heat stroke and needed attention from the family.

“It was very hot, but that’s what I remember now, because of all the tension and the stress I I forgot the weight of
the backpacks and all of the heat from the Hijab with the things I was wearing.”

On their third attempt, Abed’s father and older brother went alone so that they could have a better chance at getting into the airport.

The two of them went at noon to get their spots secured. Abed and her family waited for hours but heard nothing back from them. Abed and her mother feared that the worst had happened, but they held onto hope that they might hear back from them and be able to leave. It wasn’t until 1:20 a.m. that Abed heard from her father telling them to come to the airport.

Immediately, Abed and her family set off again. When they arrived at the airport, they saw Abed’s father with a U. S. Marine. The Marine helped move the crowd so that Abed’s family could make their way into the airport.

He helped them across the large river that separated the airport from the main crowd and brought Abed’s family up the side wall. Abed’s family rejoiced as they finally made it to the airport. They finally felt some semblance of safety.

“I felt safe in the airport. We cried because we were just happy to be there.” Abed’s family, seated in a section of the airport, had to wait for the Marines to tell them when they were going to board a plane.

They sat for a whole day waiting and into the night. Around mid-night they learned of a potential bomb in the very area that they were sitting. Quickly, Marines stopped checking documents and shut everything down to hunt for the threat, delaying
plane boardings. They resumed checking the documents in the morning to move people out of potential danger and
keep a steady flow out of the city.

Abed’s family was approved and were all moved onto a plane. “We spent a full night there. I didn’t sleep the entire time I was so anxious. Her message is to appreciate more of what you have, whether that be your educationor your freedom that you have.

Take a moment to see it from her perspective with how hard she fought so hard for something that we have so freely in America and that now she finally has it.

Abed says, “Don’t take it for granted, make the most of every opportunity because not everyone gets one.”

Abed speaking at the met in New York City

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