On 24th December 1979 The Red Army occupies the capital of Afghanistan-Kabul. From this day on, people's life turns into hell. The electricity is cut off. The water stopped. Kabul is divided into war zones. The city remains blocked.
Seven years later, when an ordinary child named Zohre Ismaeli was born, the ramifications of the war are still to be seen everywhere in Afghanistan and particularly in Kabul.
Zohre is a Taliban. Her family lives modestly. It seems that the fairy godmothers predicted a harsh and painful life for the baby girl named Zohre. But as it happens sometimes, mother nature has a different path for her sons and daughters.
Even though the very difficult life in Afghanistan in mid 80s and the total isolation of the country from the world outside, Zohre was happy with her dear mother around.
Her mother was real angel-caring and tender, a woman who will do everything for her young daughter to have a better life than her own.
On the other hand, Ibrahim- Zohre's father was disgusted by the baby girl. He never wanted his wife- Aia to give birth this child. But Aia was with unbending spirit . She wanted this child so much because she feels that this girl will be very special for her and for her country.
-She is the ugliest baby in all Kabul-used to say Ibrahim to his wife and because of his cruel words, Aia soaked into sadness.
The baby was growing in squalid conditions. Her mother didn't work. Ibrahim was a builder but still money was scarce.
. . .
In 1988 Zohre Ismaeli was only two years old when unexpectedly one summer day her dear mom Aia died in a car accident. She was crossing a street and a car hit her deadly. Zohre was so little to fully understand what happened to her mother. Ibrahim only told her that Aia is''in heaven now'' and that was it. No grief and no sorrow of the lost from the father.
Zohre cries at night and wanted her mama. She wonders why she is not with her anymore. When Zohre grew up a little more, she started thinking that Aia left her forever because of her ugliness.
-I guess dad was right-used to say Zohre-I am the ugliest girl in all Kabul.
But Zohre Ismeli was like a princess. She never believed in her being beautiful. Her dad managed to bring her down even from an early age and now young Zohre couldn't accept her own self.
. . .
Already forgot totally about Aia, Ibrahim re-married to a pretty but covetous woman who hated Zohre just much as her father.
. . .
When Zohre was 7 and was in 1st grade, she was compelled by her conservative father to wear a burkah.
-You should wear burkah all the time because you are too ugly for the other people. If they see you, they will be scared!-said the father to the schoolgirl Zohre.
How is possible an evil and untrue words to come out from a father's mouth?
Zohre Ismaeli was in trouble living in a parent like Ibrahim. Only if her mother was near her. Only if she was alive....Zohre would be in safe hands, away from the cruel and cold world.
. . .
Zohre spent all her childhood in fear. Fear and wickedness. She had not what is to be normal childhood. To illustrate Zohre's devastating childhood, is the fact that at age of 12 Ibrahim forced his daughter to marry a man she didn't like. Even the future husband was not a man , but a 17-years old boy who lived nearby.
-You don't need more education-announced one day Zohre's cruel father.
When the tender and sensitive girl heard these news, she started crying and begging her father for mercy. She was horrified by the idea of sacrificing her teen hood to a boy she never met or loved. Her future was doomed and ruined thanks to Ibrahim. Man can read the hopeless anguish in Zohre's tired brown eyes.
It's a tradition in Afghanistan the girls to find husband at early age, but Zohre didn't want to follow tradition and to be like the other enslaved to marriage girls. She wanted to be a teacher or a pet doctor but tha last word had Ibrahim and unwillingly Zohre had to obey him. She wasn't rebellious enough to go against her father.
But sometimes when we long for something strong enough, fate help us achieve it. Luckily for Zohre, a wedding never occurred. The reason for that was that in 1998 Kabul was bombed by the U.S troops. It was a nightmare in the city. Those dark days came again and it was unthinkable staying in Kabul any longer.
Thousands of Afghan people lost their lives. Zohre was only twelve years old and felt more insecure than ever. Ibrahim managed to sell out their house and horse-cart and with no longer thinking, father and daughter decided to take a trip to a much safer place-Germany. They knew that in this European country there are a lot of Muslims and Afghans. Ibrahim gave all his money to Russian traffickers to help them reach their promised land-Germany.
. . .
The escape from their native and troubled country-Afghanistan was far from easy. With no passports or any identity papers, the 12-year old Zohre and his father traveled almost six months before reaching Germany. They both crossed 13 countries. This is around 10 000 kilometers and like a miracle no authorities in all these countries found out about Zohre and Ibrahim who illegally were seeking for security and freedom. There was only one incident. It happened after midnight when trying to cross the border of Slovenia because of the sticky darkness, Zohre almost drowned herself in a nearby river. It was unexpected bad experience and ordeal both for the girl and her father.
This time, maybe for a first time in his life, Ibrahim didn't act like a prick. On the contrary, he did everything to save Zohre's life and was also very scared of the prospect of losing her daughter. But angels were watching over this Afghanistan girl and they will not let anything dangerous to break Zohre's spirit.
. . .
Now, six months later, Ibrahim and Zohre reached the outskirts of the city of Kassel, Germany. With little money in the pocket and with a almost teen girl holding his hand, Ibrahim hired a little room and there in this room, in this city, one ordinary Taliban half-family, after escaping the cruelties and ferocities of the modern war, finally found the long-searching security.
. . .
First years in Kassel were the hardest. Both daughter and father started learning the language and Zohre even started German school. There she was fifth grade because of the differences with her Kabul school but after short weeks, everything was O.K for Zohre. Only the difficult language , with one meter-long words was an obstacle for the girl.
. . .
When the Afghan girl turned 18, together with studying, Zohre worked as a waitress at night in a bar in the city.
Kassel was not very big city. The place is famous not only in Germany but also around the world, for the fact that there, thousands of years ago, lived and worked the Grimm brothers. One sunny day , Zohre and her father went to the city museum of the Grimm brothers and there she recollects how when she was very little , her dear mother Aia used to read her at night before sleep some of the tales of Grimm brothers. They were popular in Afghanistan, too and when she remembers these precious moments with her mother, Zohre sank inside into sadness.
The teen girl never believed that one day she will live the same place where the famous Grimm brothers wrote their stories that her mom used to read to her at night. Who knows, maybe it's time now for Zohre to start writing her own fairytale?
. . .
It was a month before Zohre's graduation. She didn't pay much attention to it but thoroughly worked in the pub where she managed to save money because of the good tips customers gave her. The only thing Zohre have to do before the time of the prom, was to buy a dress.
-I'll go tomorrow after school-she decided.
Ibrahim also earned enough from his job as a builder and countless times he went to the pub where his daughter was working and every night ordered several beers.
Sometimes Zohre was worried that her father drinks a bit too much. Sometimes after his last drink, Ibrahim calls Zohre'' my ugly duckling'' and then with no remorse at all,goes to their rented house.
. . .
The next day, after school, Zohre went for a walk downtown Kassel and started looking for a beautiful dress in the various shop-windows. There was abundance of dresses. The 18-year old girl entered one spacious clothes store and began to look around. She couldn't decide which one to choose. While looking around, a skinny young woman stopped her by the shoulder and said:
-Hi, my name is Serena. Do you know how pretty you are?
Zohre was stunned. Nobody told her she was pretty. She was used to hear only the word''ugly'' around her.
-What?....what did you say I am, lady?-asked hesitatingly Zohre.
-Pretty!So pretty! So damn pretty!-insisted the skinny lady
-Look-she said-I am a model and right now my photographer is looking for fresh new faces and I think he will like you if he sees you!
-Oh, no...I am not into that stuff!-said shyly Zohre.
-You should try....a...what's your name?-asked the skinny model.
-Exotic! Nice!-replied Serena
-Please, think it over. Here's the photographer's visit card. If you wanna be famous....just call him!
-Don't worry... he doesn't bite and besides I 'll be there ,too!
-Thank you, Serena, but...
-No 'but'! I will not listen! Go home, have a good sleep and decide in the morning. Like they say, morning is wiser than the night, right?
-I suppose-replied quietly Zohre and then saw the skinny young lady walking out the store.
- I. Pretty?-asked herself Zohre and then saw her reflection in one round mirror in the store.
-I should stop dreaming!-insisted Zohre and went choosing one of the non-expensive dresses. One hour later, she made the best choice for herself-light blue, knee-long silk dress, accompanied by white heels and silver earrings.
After the shopping spree, several hours later, her night shift at the pub started as always at 20:00h.
. . .
The place was crammed with alcohol-thirsty boys and men. Zohre was busy serving the tables. Some of the men whistled at her and some of them were calling her''gorgeous rabbit''. Influenced by the drinks, many of the men acted like jerks and objectified Zohre like their sex slave.
Around 23:30, the girl wanted to immediately leave the place, because the words and the whistles of the men scared her and made her feel uncomfortable.
-An, I 'll go home! Can you serve instead of me?-asked the Taliban girl her colleague.
-Sure,no problem!-agreed An.
. . .
Zohre went out through the back entrance where thought she will be safe. This evening her father skipped drinking at the pub. For Zohre's bad luck.
Near the pub, two men were waiting and when they saw the pretty waitress coming out, they grabbed her and then one after another raped her. For a first time, Zohre became a victim of her beauty. The two men enjoyed her skin and pretty face and she didn't make a sound. After the sexual violence, Zohre Ismaeli lied on the empty street dazed and confused. Her eyesight was numb, her body was shaking. Did she realized what happened with her?
While made her headway innocently toward her so-called 'home', she took a bold decision in her head-to leave her job, to leave her verbally abusive father, to leave Kassel, to pack her bags and to go to Hamburg and pursue a modeling career.
The day before, she had no intention to call the photographer whose visit card she was holding in the store, but now was convinced by the the most horrible case of events that she needs to start finally writing her own fairytale. Far away from everything familiar.
. . .
Four years later, at the heyday of her career as a model, Zohre was more famous and happier than ever. She was on the cover of fashion magazines and on the catwalk in Berlin, Paris and Rome. She has everything. She wrote brilliant her own fairytale. Zohre Ismaeli also built a non-profit organisation, helping young girls from Afghanistan have a better life and helping victims of rape. Zohre has a big heart for the people. Her mother Aia was right that her daughter who had hard childhood and life, is very special. This is her story.