The withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan is a critical moment for the millions of Afghans who are cooperating with US forces. A BBC report has revealed that those Afghans have embarked on an incredible journey towards their dream of settling in the United States.
Journalist Anisa Shahid’s report also tells the story of the loved ones left behind by these Afghan refugees.
In August, when crossing a gate at Kabul airport was as dangerous as crossing the Mediterranean, nearly 150,000 Afghans boarded a U.S. plane and crossed a new dream.
About 13,000 of them have overcome adversity in settling at a military base in southern Wisconsin in the United States.
Sakina was one of them who taught in a private kindergarten in Kabul’s Dughbad district.
As he wept, he recalled the days of the Taliban’s occupation of Kabul. On that day, seven or eight Taliban members entered the kindergarten and first hit the director with an AK-47 rifle. Then they started firing randomly. After a while, the panicked children were taken home by their family members.
Later that evening, after an incident at her home, Sakina felt she had to flee. Four men with Taliban identities stormed their home, two of them holding her and her husband, and two others trying to rape her 14-year-old daughter. Hearing her screams and cries, the neighbors came forward and they were saved like that day.
Fear of being attacked and taken away forced them to flee their homes.
The bomber struck shortly after noon in front of a U.S. military base. The blast killed 95 people and injured more than 150. Her husband was among the injured. Three of her fingers were blown off in the blast and one of her legs had to be amputated.
Separated from her husband, Sakina waited at the airport for two days with her six children. They were later able to board a U.S. military plane that took them to Qatar. But before he lost his teenage daughter in the chaos at the airport, he made the difficult decision to leave without her.
Later found out that his daughter was able to escape from there. Fortunately, he is now in Texas, USA, and is in the process of being reunited with his mother in Wisconsin.
Each of these stories related to Afghanistan has some unique features. But everyone said they were troubled by the loss of their loved ones. It is their hope that Afghanistan will prosper.
Many of those who took refuge at the Wisconsin military base are former members of the Afghan army and their families. If they were still in Afghanistan, the Taliban would see them as allies of the enemy. They are terrified that they might be tortured to get revenge.
Many are reluctant to talk about their work and Afghanistan. Many say the Taliban would never have overthrown the government if they had been allowed to fight. Some want to go back and save Afghanistan. But others, tired of fighting, said they no longer wanted to take up arms.
The stories of all the Afghans who took refuge in the military base at McCoy Fort in Wisconsin are so poignant. Many family members are being held captive by the Taliban, and some are living in hiding.
Ahmad Shah Aryan worked for a private radio station in northern Afghanistan. He said the Taliban had arrested one of his brothers and told him that the army commander would not release him unless another brother surrendered.
Talking about the Taliban’s atrocities on civilians, Aryan said one of her nieces had divorced her husband in a Baghlan court a few years ago. Now she (the Taliban operative) has captured Zohra’s father and brother and told them that if Zohra does not marry her (divorced husband) they will not be released.
Hawa, a 55-year-old man with 22 years of experience working for Afghanistan’s national security ministry, fled to the United States in search of a secure life. His two daughters also worked in the same department. She said her husband and two sons were also officials in the Ministry of National Defense.
Before the Taliban came to power, her daughter Sana was in charge of Kabul’s education, training and health services intelligence, Hawa said. Sana’s police officer husband traveled from Kabul to Panshir to join the resistance against the Taliban. But no one has been able to find out whether he is alive or dead after the Taliban took over Panshi. After Sana’s husband goes missing, Sana is trying to go into hiding with her two children.
Of the family members, only Hawa and one of her daughters, Marjan Kahmadi, were able to reach the United States, he said.
Before joining the Ministry of Security, Marjan worked as a nurse. “I wanted to serve the people of Afghanistan and I want to go back one day,” he said, talking about leaving Afghanistan.
But others here are dreaming of building their own future.
A soldier from Nangarhar named ‘Mujibjadeh Talash’ managed to escape to the United States with his wife and five children. Mujibzadeh has only studied up to secondary and his wife is illiterate. His two daughters and two sons went to school in Nangarhar. He said he would work in the United States, but his wife and children would study.