“They are sitting in the house, hearing all these noises. They don’t even know if it’s coming to them or if it’s just around them,” she said. “And I have to read to see where they are going, to tell them to get out.”
She often did not know for hours or even days if her family was still alive.
School took a lower priority. Shahed didn’t care if she missed a class or a test.
“It comes to a point when nothing matters,” she said. “Everyone is dying, who cares if I don’t do this assignment?”
Every time she went online, Shahed feared what she would learn.
The bad news came at the end of the 2012 spring semester, on the Friday before finals week: “I heard what happened and I hope your dad is fine,” a friend wrote.
Her father had disappeared two days before, but Shahed’s family tried to hide the news from her.
Shahed missed her finals and spent the week wondering if her father was being tortured, was lost in the desert or dead.
She wanted to go back home, but her visa had expired, and had she gone, she might not have been able to return to the United States and finish her studies.
“It was so bad that I couldn’t be with them,” she said, “with my mom, and brothers, and sisters.”
Family friends found her father in a military prison a week later and obtained his release.
He was arrested because he had the laptop of Shahed’s little brother in the trunk of the car and he did not know the password.
“They can arrest you just by your name. They don’t have to have a reason,” Shahed said. “Put the gun in your face, take you.”
Her mother wanted Shahed to come home, but now feels her daughter will be safer in the United States.
Her father wants Shahed to come back and help the people.
But Shahed’s hopes are fading.
She feels responsible for her family because they have nowhere to go and have no way to make a living. She hopes to get an internship or a job so she can help them.
Shahed will graduate in December.
Because she is an international student, if she does not get an internship or find a job after she graduates, she will have to leave the United States.
“If I don’t get an internship I don’t know where to go,” she said. “I’m so lost with my life right now.”