This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
It was about 1 a.m. when a group of men banged on the front door of a mud-brick house in a village in central Afghanistan.
Startled, 15-year-old Qamar Gul jolted out of bed and grabbed her younger brother. Awakened in an adjacent room, her parents carefully approached the door.
It was the Taliban.
The militants ordered Gul’s mother and father to open the door. They refused.
A few minutes later, the group of armed fighters crashed through the door.
“They dragged my mother outside and shot her dead,” said Gul, speaking to RFE/RL by telephone. “Then they dragged my father outside and killed him, too.”
As her parents were being executed, Gul went and grabbed an AK-47 Kalashnikov rifle. When the Taliban fighters tried to reenter the house, Gul and her 12-year-old brother opened fire on them, killing two militants and wounding another.
“I managed to kill two of them,” said Gul, adding that pro-government militiamen who had rushed to the area fought off the remaining Taliban fighters.
Gul said her family was targeted by the Taliban because her father was a pro-government tribal elder.
But provincial officials said the gruesome incident — which occurred on July 16 in the Taywara district of Ghor Province — was triggered by a family feud.
Saif Rahman Malekzada, the deputy governor of Ghor, said one of the Taliban attackers was a local man named Mohammad Naeem who he alleged was Gul’s husband.
“The Taliban came to abduct this girl because of a dispute,” Malekzada told RFE/RL, adding that Gul had run away from her husband and returned to her parents’ home.
This has been disputed by Mohammad Rafiq Alam, the district governor of Taywara, who said a Taliban fighter by the name of Naeem was killed but was not married to Gul.
Speaking to RFE/RL after arriving with her brother in the capital, Kabul, Gul also said she had “no relations” with any of the attackers.
The governor’s office in Ghor also claimed that Gul’s slain father was a member of a pro-government militia in the area, which was denied by officials in Taywara.
The Taliban routinely kills Afghans they suspect of being members, sympathizers, or informers for the government or security forces.
“I’m proud to have killed Taliban fighters,” said Gul, who, along with her siblings, has been relocated by the provincial government to a safe house. “I killed my parents’ murderers. I will fight the Taliban until my last drop of blood.”
The incident occurred on July 16 in the Taywara district of Ghor Province, a mountainous and remote area in Afghanistan’s central highlands. It was only reported by the government on July 20.
The province is one of the most impoverished and unstable areas in the country. The provincial government’s power extends little beyond the capital, Firoz Koh.
Gul called on the government to better protect civilians from such wanton attacks by the Taliban.
“We call on the president to ensure our security so that we can have a good life and future,” she said.
Mohammad Rafiq Alam, the district governor of Taywara, told RFE/RL that Gul and her brother were moved to the district center and would be transferred to Firoz Koh.
“We are proud of these two heroes,” said Alam. “They taught the attackers a lesson.”
Alam urged the government to award Gul the Malalai Medal, one of the country’s highest civilian honors.
During a cabinet meeting on July 21, President Ashraf Ghani hailed Gul’s bravery.
“Qamar Gul is a female hero,” said Tariq Arian, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, in a tweet on July 20. “The cabinet has praised the courage of Qamar Gul.”
Afghans have saluted Gul as a hero on social media. A photo of Gul, donning a head scarf and holding an AK-47 Kalashnikov rifle, has gone viral.
Taywara has been the scene of fierce clashes between Afghan security forces and the Taliban, which has overrun the district on several occasions.
The Taliban and dozens of illegal, armed groups run by former warlords and militia leaders are active in Ghor — a key transit route for shipments through Afghanistan of weapons and opium.
The Taliban continues to stage regular attacks across the country, despite signing an initial peace deal with the United States in February.
That agreement was intended to pave the way for direct talks between the militants and the Afghan government over a permanent cease-fire and a future power-sharing deal.
But those talks have stalled over the implementation of a major prisoner release.
Civilians — as is usually the case — are bearing the brunt of the escalating violence.
Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission said last week that in the past six months, 16 people have been killed or wounded every day in the country, on average.
According to the commission, 1,213 civilians have been killed and 1,744 others wounded in 880 security incidents during the first half of 2020.