As told to BackChannels —
Tirah Valley, Khyber Agency, Pakistan, Around 2013-2015 — The operation had started against so-called militants in the valley. The army had only a little bit earlier ordered a general evacuation in advance of the fighting, so all who were not Taliban were still leaving their animals, businesses, and homes in a hurry.
The Taliban were there and would stay to fight the army.
I don’t know how many Taliban or army soldiers died in that fight, but there was an old man above 70, older than usual for the region, who told me that most were strong enough to cross the mountain but due to having less energy or power, he had thought he might be unable to cross the mountains with his daughter who could not walk. Still, he would try. He would carry her on his back.
The old man continued, “I took her on my back and started climbing the mountain, but after reaching some height, I had to stop.
“She knew what was happening — or what was going to happen — and she started to cry.
“– Baba, don’t you know what the army or Taliban will do to me?
“What do you want me to do?
The old man started crying.
“I buried her in the mountain.”
It was cold the day the old man told me his story. He had no jacket or socks.
BackChannels would suggest that memories live in aural and visual and other sense-based impressions, i.e., what we most remember are moments, not the day and hour of their making or what we had for breakfast in proximity to them — and then what makes a “moment” a long-term memory may be its elevated emotional aspects, and that made so by ethical, moral, or sensual experience.
The Tirah Valley has seen more than its portion — however God may determine these things — of conflict violence. Because the day and hour were indefinite in the memory of the blog’s source, BackChannels may place it (as a suggestion) around March 25, 2015 in light of The New York Times headline, “Pakistani Army Begins Offensive to Drive Militants from Tirah Valley” (Ismail Khan). However, Pakistan Armed Forces fighting with the Taliban in association with the Tirah Valley predates the 2015 offensive.
Shinwari, Wali Khan. “In Pictures: Pakistan’s troubled Tirah Valley.” Al Jazeera, July 9, 2014.
The New Humanitarian. “Fighting in Pakistan’s Tirah Valley displaces 40,000 people.” April 1, 2013.
For those living with peace, security, and perhaps some prosperity, there may be “good war stories”, ever courageous, inspiring, and noble, but, really, there are no good war stories that are not also deeply tragic and frequently disturbing — but that’s why we read them and, perhaps, choose to evolve.