Kabul Rockets

Akmal Dawi
3 min readNov 21, 2020


In the morning of November 21, 2020, several people were killed and wounded by rockets fired at different civilian locations in Kabul. Reading the tragic news, memories of an afternoon in September 1995 in Kabul came to mind.

It was about 4:30 in the afternoon and our little apartment in the third part of Khairkhana, north of Kabul city, was filled with the smell of fried bolanis. My uncle was tuning the only radio we had to locate a news station — perhaps the Tehran radio — to kill the one hour left until the fast-breaking time, the Azaan. My uncle and maternal grandparents had sought refuge in our 2-bedroom apartment because of intense fighting where they lived in the south of Kabul, in Deh Dana (the village of the wise!).

In the midst of that innocent buzz, suddenly, everything started shaking and the windows rattled loudly. Someone shrieked “it’s an earthquake!” and everyone hurried outside. In the rush, none of us cared to have our shoes on or my mother to have her scarf on. Outside we joined other paranoid neighbors who had already made it there were congregating at an open spot. The adults, men and women, were loudly praying. An elderly woman who was just brought to the scene couldn’t stand and sat on the land with her hands cupped and raised up asking for mercy from the one up in the sky.

Instead, what happened next was anything but mercy.

As everyone’s senses were entirely focused on the remanent signs of the quake, there came the piercing sounds of rockets flying overhead followed by the landing nearby. Perhaps in our primordial reaction in times of extreme danger, everyone was bowing down, cowering or dropping to the ground. Instantaneously, we could see smoke rising from the nearby impacted area. Surely more rockets were coming, that we had learned from our painful experiences in the 1990s Kabul.

In the midst of this chaos, for a short while, we didn’t really know what to do — return to our homes for safety from the flying rockets or stay outside for safety from the quake?

Surrender wasn’t an option. At least not then. Fear was predominant and in control, and we were in the last phase of what psychologists describe as the three F reactions humans show in fearful situations — fight, flight, freeze.

We didn’t know if the quake killed or injured anyone, neither did we know how many were killed and wounded by the rockets.

An hour went by like a second and soon we broke the day’s fast with half-burned bolanis. We thanked God for His kindness, for sparing us both from His wrath — the quake — and from the rockets. Why was God not enough kind on other victims of the dual calamity, wasn’t for us to ponder over.

Years later, I don’t think God was kind on us that day — I think God was very angry.