'Amma, how many people got killed this time?'

My dear son Salaar,

You are the joy and purpose of my life. You are an innocent soul who has made our life beautiful and make us smile every day. I can’t even imagine a single moment of my life without you, your little sister, and your father.

Salaar, you are such a wonderful boy with maturity and understanding beyond your age and way ahead of your peers. You go to demonstrations, meetings and vigils with me and are aware of the difficult circumstances we are living in.

You know your mother’s broader family, the Hazara community living in Quetta, is under constant terrorist attacks for more than 15 years because of their faith — with their distinctive ethnic features rendering them more vulnerable. You know terrorists have killed hundreds of Hazaras in Quetta and they continue to be at liberty to hit us at will.


My boy, you have never asked me why we are attending a vigil; rather, you always ask, “Amman, how many people got killed this time?” On your ninth birthday, you whispered in my ear, “I wish terrorists would go away from my homeland so that we can live here without any fear.”

I still remember the words you said two years back when the tragic Army Public School shootings happened: “why doesn’t our prime minister fight these terrorists? When I become prime minister, I will finish off all the terrorists.” It makes me wish you'd one day make this country peaceful and liveable for all its citizens; that would make me the proudest mother in the world.

You always introduce me as a Hazara human rights activist. You are my son and this could easily become an Achilles’ heel for you in a society where a vast majority does not tolerate diversity and has no respect for those who are different from them.

You know, a few days back in Quetta, terrorists killed four Hazara women in a targeted attack. These women were just like me, returning home after running errands. They were going back to their kids like you who would be impatiently waiting for their mothers.

Those children will never see their mothers again. Who would take care of them? Who would feed them? Who would give them a mother’s love when they need it the most? Terrorists did not just kill four women but they also ruined four innocent families — just because of their different faith.

I am afraid that one day, I will also be killed by these elements. My only wish is that you and your sister won’t be with me when it happens. For the last three to four years, I have been stricken with a sense of insecurity whenever I go out with you; my heart keeps racing as I am gripped with the fear of being attacked.

I am not afraid of dying, my son; but I don’t want you to be with me because even if you survive the attack, you won’t be able to rid the emotional and psychological trauma of such an incident for the rest of your life.


Since the APS horror, I'm always stressed when you go to school as I have never been able to overcome the psychological effects of that attack. Each and every day is hard for me when you two are at school. Being a parent in this country means living under constant worry with regards to the safety and security of your children.

My boy, this world, especially here where we live, is full of hate, anger, discrimination and intolerance. People kill in the name of religion, sect, ethnicity, and so on; they don’t seem to have a single reason to live together in peace.

You should never let hate and anger drive you in your life. Never come up with a reason to hate people, never justify actions and words that spread hate. Hating others is easy but loving them is extremely difficult because you have to turn a blind eye to many of their faults.

I want you to select the harder path for your life ahead and become a person who will always love everybody because love is the fulcrum of our individual and collective lives. My blessings are with you.

Your worried mother,

Fatima Atif


The Article First Appeared In DAWN

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