My Uncle Said, “I Can't Cut Off Anyone’s Head”

They took my uncle and he’s been gone for six years.


Editing by Twila Bird

Photography by Lindsay Silsby


When I was five-years-old, my family left Afghanistan and went to Iran to escape the Taliban because they wanted my uncle to join them.  (My father was afraid they would want him, too.) My uncle said, “I can’t cut off anyone’s finger. I can’t cut off anyone’s head.” They took my uncle and he’s been gone for six years.

My father went back to Afghanistan four times to look for his brother. On the fourth time he asked, “Where is my brother?” And they tied his hands and legs sitting in a chair and they beat him. After one week tied to the chair, they said, “If you ever come back to Afghanistan, we will kill your family and you. First we will kill your family because we want you to watch how we kill them and in the end we will kill you.”

One more time my father returned to Afghanistan and the Taliban took my father’s cousin — he was 21-years-old and was getting married that day — and they cut his fingers until he died. [Parisa made a slicing motion with her hand cutting all the way up her arm.] And they took his eyes out and gave them to his wife. She was so angry and so sad, she cried a lot.

My father, he came back to Iran and the Iran police sent us back to Afghanistan. My father was very scared. But we came back to Iran again; we were smuggled. And my grandmother said to my father, “You should go to Europe. If the Iranian police find you again, they will take you back to Afghanistan and the Taliban will find you and kill you.”

So six months ago we started this journey. When we got to the sea in Turkey, we stayed for three days walking in the water up to my waist. I have a brother who is fifteen-years-old and a sister who is nine-years-old. And my youngest brother is four-years-old. He sat on my mother’s shoulder. And my sister sat on my father’s shoulder. For three days we stayed in the water. We did not get out because of the police. When we finally did get out of the water, our clothes were very, very cold. My sister and my brother had a fever.

Then we went on a boat to Lesbos. And now we are in Europe [Greece], but my father is still very scared and very sad. He still worries that the police here will deport him back to Afghanistan. And he worries that maybe the Taliban will find my grandmother and grandfather there.

Not long after this interview, Parisa’s father was killed in a fight with a smuggler at the Macedonian-Greek border. Parisa and her family have now been granted asylum in Greece and she is hoping to soon begin her university studies.

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