During the first few months, when the US evacuated its allies, not all the Afghan allies were evacuated. Most were left. While some could manage to leave by themselves others were/could not.
Ahmad, 22 years old, a graduate student from the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) talks about his experience of living under the Taliban’s regime and how he could manage to leave the country after being stuck for more than eight months, and how his life is going on in another country. Before the Taliban’s takeover, it was his last semester at the university, and he was working with one of the international organizations.
When the Taliban took over, he lost his job. For several months he searched for a new job, but he couldn’t find one. He says that compared to the previous months which there were hundreds of jobs per day, it was only 3 to 4 jobs a day. Thus, he faced a lot of economic problems, not being able to support himself or his family. He says that he could find a job, but they offered him only 5000 AFN per month which wouldn’t even cover the taxi or bus fare for a month.
Due to the lack of money, he says that “my family bought a car with our uncle a few years ago. We had to sell that taxi car to support ourselves, and to feed ourselves during the first few months. There was no other option.”
He states that “a friend of mine told me that you are working, and you studied at the American University. I got worried that maybe he was going to call the Taliban. My heart was in fear that it was going to happen.” He adds that “I was following the news and every night I had terrible dreams of what’s happening and what’s going to happen.”
Ahmad tried several times to leave the country. The university and the organizations he worked for promised to evacuate him, but it didn’t happen. He says that “they just left us behind or they selected students based on their preferences.”
He says that after several months he finally found out about a program for students in Russia. He applied for the program and got a student visa after a month of wandering here and there.
He adds that the experience of living there is like being born in another country without a mother or father, you have no one to support you or to talk to you. He demonstrates that the language barrier is a big problem for them since it affects whether one can find a job or not.
“The availability of a job is another problem. Here they are not going to hire you if you don’t know their language. Even in the free job market or the street job, one needs to have basic language proficiency” says Ahmad.
He said that after paying for his education, he went there and saw that there are many other things he must pay for such as food, accommodation, tests, and many other expenses that he didn’t expect before.
He elaborates that there are no organizations to support Afghans. He contacted different organizations even charity organizations, but they are not replying to the emails.
Ahmad says that he hopes the international community helps those inside Afghanistan and those who have left Afghanistan either legally or illegally, particularly those who left illegally face an even harder situation.
Sahel, 22 years old, lives in Pakistan as a refugee with his family. Five days after the Taliban took over, they immediately left the country since they were facing a life-threatening situation in Afghanistan. Sahel was a student at Kabul University. Besides pursuing his education, he was doing some volunteering work with other organizations such as the American Council and the U.S. Embassy.
He says that “I was a very well-known youth activist in Afghanistan.” He organized different educational youth camps for Afghan boys and girls in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and national youth camps in Afghanistan. He says that his father and mother who used to work with governmental organizations received so many calls from the Taliban to give them information, but they are in hiding.
They left for Pakistan five days after the Taliban took over. They had to stay additional four nights in Kandahar, a southern province of Afghanistan that shares routes with Quetta, Pakistan through the Spin-Buldak border.
“In Pakistan, it was about one month that we were busy finding a home to rent and a place to live,” says Sohail.
When they reached Pakistan, they applied for UNHCR to get a refugee status either in Pakistan or any other countries. However, still, which is more than a year there are no updates from them. In addition, from the organization where he was working as a volunteer in Afghanistan, he has a Priority-1 immigration case pending.
Refugees are afraid not to be caught by police officers in Pakistan. One of his friends was arrested by police. Police ask refugees where they are from and if Afghan, they ask for money. If they don’t give them money, the police will arrest them without any legal reason.
They do not have visas since they entered Pakistan by crossing the borders. It’s been more than one year since he is in Pakistan but doesn’t have a visa or work permit. He says that they are facing severe financial problems. Once he got the chance to work in a restaurant and once in a barber shop but the money he gets is very less.
He declares that they cannot go back to Afghanistan because all his family members including himself were working for international and government organizations and that is something that the Taliban are against. They do not trust the Taliban.
He says that the international community already knows what is happening inside Afghanistan. They should act.
Sharif Alizai, who just reached the United Kingdom (UK) a week ago says that when the Taliban took over, he lost his job at the United Nations. He says that “with the education and work experience I had, I never thought I would be jobless, but I was struggling for survival, “with all the experience I was nothing” says Alizai
He obtained his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, his master’s degree in Business Administration and his post-graduate degree from India. He worked for over a decade with many international and government organizations in Afghanistan.
He was trying to leave the country but due to the chaos at the Kabul airport, he couldn’t. He states that “after the evacuation was completed, I was pessimistic.” The organizations that he worked for, promised him support but didn’t do anything practical. He had an India visa, but it was invalidated online.
He says that “banks were closed and at the same time, a visa to Pakistan was costing $1000 and the flight ticket for a single person was $2000/2500 compared to $100 flights before. He mentioned that “only if you sell everything, you will be able to leave. And when you go to Pakistan, which is the only country you could go to, you have nothing. You have no one. You are still facing prosecution. You still face harassment by the police.”
He declares that “in Pakistan, I didn’t have any valid visa, I didn’t have any work permit, I had nothing. I was just thinking if I’m facing this kind of situation with all the knowledge, and experience, what will be the situation of those illiterate.”
When in Pakistan, he says that “in one year’s, time, I only had one initial interview and nothing else. No email, no support, no protection. I sent hundreds of emails until I got my case. After a year and after a lot of follow-ups and a lot of documentation and providing a lot of evidence we were evacuated to the UK last week.”
He says that one of the challenges that he faces now is integrating into a new community, learning a new language, and adapting to a new culture. But these are the problems that one can overcome. He says that “starting from zero, means you are reborn, you need so much to do.”
Alizai says that “Afghanistan went back to centuries, even beyond the century. This is against the will of the people. Something people cannot tolerate.”
Alizai says that “Afghanistan from the last 40 years was forgotten. The international community should really consider the situation of Afghanistan and its people, otherwise, the land may become a ground for international terrorism and drug – something that will be out of their control tomorrow. They should realize this reality and act as soon as possible.”
By: Susan Azizi
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