A young girl was detained at a checkpoint in southern Afghanistan wearing what officials said was a suicide vest. Spozhmai, who says she is nine years old, is now in the protective custody of the provincial government. This is her story in her own words.
It was late evening, the mullah was calling for prayers and my brother took me outside and told me to put on this vest. He showed me how to operate it, and I said: “I can’t – what if it doesn’t work?” And he said: ‘It will, don’t worry.’
I was scared and he took the vest back from me and he hit me hard, and I felt scared. Then [he gave me back the vest and] left me near the checkpoint where he said I had to operate it.
I realised it was a suicide vest because it was heavier than a normal one.
He said: “If you operate this on the people at the checkpoint, they will die – you will not die.” But I knew it was a suicide vest and I would die too. Then he went back home – the checkpoint is just near our house.
After my brother left me… I slept in the desert and didn’t see anyone that night.
In the morning, a guy from the checkpoint came and took me to the checkpoint and said: “You need to tell your story to our commander.” They found me, I didn’t find them.
When I told the commander my story he told me to go back home and I said: “No, they beat me there and I am not treated well.”
He said: “OK, well if you’re not going home then we have to take you to the provincial capital.” That’s when they brought me [to Lashkar Gah and] I spoke to another commander, the senior commander, and that’s how I come to be here.
Even if the government says it will guarantee my safety I am not going back – the same thing will happen again. They told me: “If you don’t do it this time, we will make you do it again.”
My father came here and told me to go back and I said: “No, I will kill myself rather than go with you.”