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MAZAR-E-SHARIF — I met Kobra exactly five years ago, when I was a freshman in university; she was a fun and outgoing person, and also very bold and daring.

That first semester, we were just classmates, but as the days went by we got closer and closer. During the following years we became so close that it was hard to be apart even for a weekend.  Pictures of us together became a topic of discussion on social media platforms.

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As I got to know her better I realized how honest and responsible she was. She would patiently bear all the problems of her family. She paid for her brother and sister’s education, as well as covering the expenses for her family. She would work and study very hard. As the poets say, she managed to create a good life full of kindness and love.

She was very enthusiastic about her work and her art. She did not even attend her own graduation ceremony, because she had togo to Kabul for a photography workshop. Our friendship was so famous that when the vice president of the Balkh University students’ association saw me alone on graduation day, he asked where my other half was.

“You two are an example of how friendship should be, you should always be together,” he said.

Kobra was becoming a professional photographer, after all her travels and efforts. We would leave the house before anyone else was awake to get pictures. We would roam the streets of Balkh until late at night to find a subject. Despite a lot of warnings we received from her friends, Kobra continued her work and I followed her. I remember one time a taxi driver tried to bother us; we taught him a lesson by throwing bricks at his car. He never dared to do it again.

Kobra became known as Mazar’s girl photographer. Everyone would talk about her work; her pictures were displayed in exhibitions and embassies and she published her first photo essayon the BBC Persian website. I think I was even more excited about that than she was.

One day she called  me, saying she was very depressed. She asked me to accompany her to the Rauza e Sharif, Mazar’s famous shrine. Afterwards she said that she wanted to go to the Iranian or Turkish Embassy.

I was shocked.

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, popularly known as the Blue Mosque, in Mazar-e-Sharif, Balkh Province, Afghanistan, April 3, 2012. (37th IBCT photo by Sgt. Kimberly Lamb) (Released)

A photo from Mazar-e Shrif

“You intend to leave Afghanistan, don’t you?” I asked.

She denied it, said she was going to send her mother and sister to Europe, where her uncle and aunt lived. She and he father would stay, she insisted.

But one week later, she called again, and invited me to her house the next day. She said it was important.

When I got there, they were having “Nazri” (a religious ceremony for a specific purpose, in this case, to wish a safe trip to those embarking on a long voyage.)

We were with guests until 3:00 in the afternoon. When they had left Kobra turned to me and said, simply, “We are leaving as well.”

I was too choked up to speak at first.

I could not believe it; it was not until I saw their relatives wishing them a safe trip that I accepted that it was true.

I did not ask her why, I only asked how they would go. Kobra said that they had hired a smuggler, and would travel through Iran. Her family had made the decision, she emphasized, and she had no choice but to give in.

On our last day together, we roamed around the city. We had ice cream — the famous “shir yakh.”

But we could not say goodbye. We did not touch, we just looked at each other with tears in our eyes, and disappeared into in the crowded city.

Now Kobra is in Tehran,  like thousands of other young Afghans. Because of the instability in Afghanistan, she has set out on an unknown path. She wants to create a peaceful life for her family, something that is impossible here.

Kobra may have gained some hope, but Afghanistan is losing its talent and its future.

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Afghanistan lost a talented photographer; I lost my best friend

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