Da looked at me strangely--I remember thinking he looked like he was holding back tears--as he explained to me that while it was sweet that I wanted to help, this little girl and her family were probably already dead. He tried as best he could to explain war, displacement and starvation to a 6-year-old girl. I remember crying myself to sleep that night. "Dead" was a concept I'd yet to understand. To me "death" was like sleeping, and I wanted so badly for a prince to find this beauty, so she could live again. And maybe, just maybe I'd find her one day and send her my toys. Then this girl with the haunting eyes would smile.
It is because of Sharbat Gula that the seed of humanitarianism was planted inside of me. Through the years I became actively involved with advocacy for survivors of war, genocide, gender violence and honour crimes. More often than not, being in this field has brought me heartache. Some days i feel like I cannot bear to hear one more story of raped women and babies killed in front of their mothers.
But then I remember that in 1999, as my da and i were watching PBS, there was a special that caught both our eyes. It was the search for the girl with the haunting eyes.
Her name is Sharbat Gula.
She didn't die.
She was 30 when they found her again, married with children. And her haunting eyes burnt as bright as ever, telling me to keep the faith. To stay the course in humanitarianism. For her. For her children. And for their children, and many more children in generations to come.