September 7, 2023

By Aymun Sajid


This is a blog written by Aymun Sajid, whose father Sajid Mehmood, an IT engineer was forcibly disappeared from his home in Islamabad on 14 March 2016. He remains missing to date and his loved ones have no information of his fate or whereabouts.

The clouds light up orange…pink and then slowly darken. The heavy breath of traffic rises above the streets as it flows past like a tired beast. Birds begin to flit towards the refuge of the trees, and lights turn on in houses as people return home.


They warn you not to make homes out of people.

But aren’t people what turn a house into a home?

I used to wait for my father to come home every day. My sisters and I would be busy with different activities, but at 6pm we would all gather in the living room, waiting to hear the sound of his car pulling up in the driveway. Even our white-and-ginger cat, apparently dozing on his pillow, would keep his ears alert for the same sound.

Every night, he would come home with a longing to be with his family. Every night, we would race each other to the door. He would hug us one by one, enthusiastically asking about our day. We would eat dinner together, joke, talk – be a normal family. Just be home.

Our drawings that he’d taped above his desk, his slippers outside the door, the coat he hung over his chair. All the little reminders that he was home.

When we looked out our window facing the garden, we would often see him on his chair with our cat in his lap. His deep, melodious voice recited the Quran and floated over the wall to our neighbors’.

He would often excitedly call us outside just to show a cool bird or bug he had spotted.

That’s what I had been doing the evening I saw him for the last time. I was 13 then. I’m 20 now. It’s been eight years since two black cars rolled into our street, masked and plainclothes men broke into our house, and abducted him. He never came home.

I realize now, after that day, neither did I.

I often try to explain what makes enforced disappearance so uniquely horrifying. If a family member is arrested with a warrant and put into prison, even if falsely, at least you know where they are. At least you can visit and speak to them. If someone dear to you is diagnosed with a fatal disease, at least you can cherish the days you have left and hold their hand by the hospital bed. If a loved one dies, even if suddenly, at least you have a body to mourn. As you see them being lowered six feet into the ground and watch the shower of sand filling their grave, at least you realize they are truly gone. And no matter how terrible it hurts, at least you have a grave to kneel over and cry on.

At least you can accept they will never come home.

The evening of the same spring day in 2016

I remember that day like it was yesterday. That’s not meant as a metaphor. I mean literally, I can recount every single moment of the most horrific day of my life like it just happened. I was eleven then. I even remember the clothes I was wearing – pink and gray.

They knocked on the door of my room. I was writing a story at that time. A fantasy story where I was the main character, with dragons and ninjas and evil robots.

“Who is it?” I asked, confused. I had not heard anyone come into the house.

“We need to search,” someone said.

My brain went numb, just disconnecting from the rest of my body. I couldn’t process what was happening.

I was still clutching my pencil when I somehow moved my legs and walked out. Our house was ransacked. The cupboards were flung open, things laid strewn around and plainclothes men with masks and guns were everywhere. As I went past the couch and looked over my shoulder, I saw two men – one with a gun – searching through our toys.

Our toys.

What they were looking for, I still do not know. What could they possibly find in our house other than books and computers? I joined my siblings and mom in the living room – the place they’d already searched – and just stood there, dazed.

After a few minutes, the rooms emptied, the doors sounded, and they were gone.

“Where’s Baba?” my then 7-year-old sister asked my mom, as we stood in the middle of our own ransacked house.

I remember saying over and over in my head, “Don’t say it. Please don’t say it.”

Mama looked around the house, expressionless. “They took him.”

I walked back to the living room, my brain refusing to process anything, my heart refusing to believe anything. I found the picture of the stars. The one I had cut out for Baba. It lay amongst the rest of the papers on the ground, as if it was not any more important. As if it did not mean anything else.

I picked it up and held it in my hand. For a moment, I didn’t do anything.

Then my fingers came together, my palm clenched into a fist, and the paper crumpled.

I walked over to the trash can and threw it away.

When someone is wrenched from your home and forcibly disappears, they vanish without trace. Gone without a puff of smoke. No reason, no whereabouts, no contact. Nothing. Are they sick or healthy? Tortured or spared? Dead or alive?

The complete absence of closure is not only what makes enforced disappearance the horror it is. It is also what never lets your heart accept that someone is truly gone. It bracingly, painfully, never lets you give up hope that one fine morning, the door will open and they’ll be home.

It’s exhausting.

As I trudge up the street on my way home from university, I look up at the house I’d grown to love. The cracked, gray marble steps, the ivy creeping up the walls and sneaking around the doorbell, and the gangly apricot tree we grew from a seed.

When a person is disappeared, they are not just being picked up off the street. They are being snatched from a community, torn from a family and ripped from a home. A home that no longer remains a home without him. Because it takes the entire family to make one.

His shoes are not outside the door. When I walk in, his desk still stands there, but empty. I walk slowly through and look at all the changes he doesn’t know about yet. The sofa covers. The new rug on the floor. The scribbles of mine that he would tape above the desk have now grown into paintings.

Every day, I live in the hope he’ll come back. Every day, I die when he doesn’t. Yet I still wake up in the morning. I pray that I never give up. Our loss and grief is heavy in the coolness of the house around me, but so is our resilience and struggle. Yet I know I can only truly come home when he does.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here