Somaya, her husband Ali, sat down with her and closed her eyes as their flight to Islamabad was about to take off. For weeks, tension had been building within her. It was finally happening: They were leaving Afghanistan, the homeland they had been living in for many weeks.
For multiple reasons, the couple tried to leave since mid-August when the Taliban overtook. Ali is a journalist, and Somaya is a civil engineer who worked on United Nations development programmes. They are concerned about how the Taliban will treat those with these jobs. They are both members of the Shiite Hazara minority that fears Sunni militants.
The most important thing is that Somaya has a five-month-old daughter with her husband, whom they have already named Negar.
Somaya, who was on board the flight with them, stated that she would not allow her daughter to travel in Afghanistan if the Taliban were in control. The couple requested that their names not be used to protect them, just like others who are leaving or trying. They don’t know when they will return.
Nearly everyone in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, will tell you what they want. The same thing happens at all levels of society: in the local market or at Kabul University. The waiter at a popular restaurant with upper-class teenagers and businessmen lists the countries he has applied to visas.
Many claim their lives are at risk due to links with the ousted government and with Western organizations. Others claim their life is impossible under the Taliban’s hardline policies. They are known for restricting civil liberties and interpreting Islamic law harshly. Others are less concerned about the Taliban but fear for the collapse of an already ailing economy.
In the chaotic days that followed the August 15 Taliban takeover, tens of thousands fled to safety. The evacuation was officially ended on Aug. 30, by the United States of America and its allies. The numbers began to slow down after that, leaving many people who wanted to flee but cannot find a way out. Many don’t possess the funds to travel and others don’t own passports. The Afghan passport offices were reopened recently.
Many Afghan youth who wanted to build their homeland are leaving Afghanistan due to the exodus.
Popal, a 27 year-old engineer, said, “I was raised to have one dream: that I study hard and become someone. And I’d return to this country and help.”
“Every dream is destroyed by this sudden collapse.” It is a place where we lose everything.
Popal was five years old when his father sent him to Britain to study with family members. Popal was an engineer as a child and worked in low-skilled jobs. He also sent money back to his family. Popal eventually obtained British citizenship and worked as a nuclear engineer.
Popal went back to Afghanistan a few weeks prior to the Taliban’s takeover in an attempt to get his family out. Popal’s father worked once at Logar Province’s military base, where his mother was an educator. His sisters are studying medicine in Kabul.
These past weeks have been turbulent. The Taliban destroyed his Logar home and forced them to move to Kabul. They believe that it was because they refused information to relatives linked to the Taliban. His sister, who was commuting between Kabul and Logar at the time, went missing and has not been heard of since. Popal said that the family believes it may be related to warnings received from relatives to prevent their daughters from studying.
Popal has been in touch for several weeks with British officials to try and arrange evacuations. He claimed that they had told him he couldn’t bring his siblings and parents. Popal was able to flee Iran in October. Popal, who claims he has not received any help from the British Foreign Office in Iran, is now making his way back home to Britain to try and find a way for his family to return.
In a statement, the British Foreign Office stated that it was working to ensure British citizens in Afghanistan can leave.
An ex-assistant to the ousted Afghan Cabinet minister said that he was looking for a way out. After years of fighting through increasing violence, he made the decision to take his life. A suicide bombing in Kabul in 2016 that killed over 90 people and targeted a protest march was a success. His friends were also killed in an attack on the American University of Afghanistan later that year, which resulted in the deaths of at least 13.
He had been offered opportunities to travel to the United States and Europe in the past. He said that he didn’t accept them because he wanted to stay, he wanted to work and he wanted to make a difference.
He is now hiding in the shadows, waiting for his chance to escape.
American University of Afghanistan is a private university located in Kabul that arranges flights for its students.
A 27-year old student recounted how the school tried to transport evacuees from Kabul to the airport on Aug. 29, which was the second-to last day that U.S. troops had been there. He said that buses carrying students drove for hours through the capital trying to find a way to the airport. They didn’t make it.
For his wife, two children and himself, the student has been waiting over a month for a place on a second flight that was arranged by the university. He hopes to be able to apply for visas in the United States once he is out. His family has taken everything out of their home and covered it with sheets to keep dust from their furniture. His parents are trying get to the United Arab Emirates.
A group of American University students arrived from Kabul and waited at Islamabad’s airport to pass through immigration. They will continue on to Central Asia’s sister schools.
Their families were unable to join them so they are left with an uncertain future.
Meena, 21, a political science student at 21 years old, was left alone. An airport official shouted at her students rudely, making her feel humiliated.
“I don’t know what my future holds.” She began to cry, saying that she had many dreams but didn’t know what the future held.
Because it had the flag of her country, she showed it to her. The Taliban flag has been replaced by it in Afghanistan.
“We have just destroyed our dreams… We are just broken people.”