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Forgotten Dreams

    Throughout my schooling, I was interested in cameras and in taking photos. My family could not afford to buy me a camera. Teachers’ day was the only occasion at school when things that fell outside the curriculum were allowed. These included music, dancing, taking pictures and eating inside the class.   

    I seized any opportunity to be the cameraman for the class. My friends liked appearing in the pictures I took. I was the only one who was interested in taking photos rather than being in them.

    When I first moved to Babur High School, I thought I was dreaming. The school was equipped with digital cameras. Afghan schools do not have such equipment at all but some international organization had donated some to this school. Students were allowed to use the cameras if the head teacher permitted them.

    Sometimes there were events held for teachers, students and their families. That year, our class teacher was asked to organize the event. He gave me the required documents for a camera. I was able to receive one from the administrative department upon presenting those documents. I took too many photos which I enjoyed a lot. It was the best day of my life until I met a stranger in the garden.

    He asked me to take photos of him in different parts of the garden. I captured dozens of photos of him with different poses. When we finished the shooting, he asked if I could accompany him to his home where we could view the photos together. Given my interest in the photos I had taken, I accepted.

    When I entered his house, it was empty. There was a deep silence in the house. Nothing seemed unusual; it looked peaceful. When we entered the room, he locked the door. I asked if everything was alright. To my shock, he started taking off my clothes. I shouted a lot for help but no one was around to help. He raped me – and for the first time in my life I hated being a boy.

    When he left me, I ran home; tears were pouring down my face. My mother asked why I was crying. I told her that a classmate had hit me. I lied. I didn’t want anyone to know about the incident. I was feeling ashamed and dishonored. I was scared. I didn’t know what would happen to me if I told anyone. I would lose everything.

    I decided to change my school. His house was near the school so I couldn’t walk that way anymore. I was worried that he might tell everyone about what he had done to me. I couldn’t change my school, and the only option was to take a different route.

    Years passed. I never touched a camera again. I hated cameras. It destroyed my life and my self-esteem. Every time I felt a stranger approaching me, I would run away.

    I remained locked up inside myself for several years. But one day I decided to change things. It wasn’t easy. It took a lot of courage but I had to do it. I bought a camera. Now I am a photo journalist with a news agency.