People in Afghanistan are feeling abandoned

Life in Afghanistan is reaching crisis point. Evacuations, security failures, bombings, Taliban takeover. People in Afghanistan feel they are in a hopeless situation.

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pashtodari
Novice
August 29, 2021 12:35 pm

I am a student of architecture and an environmental activist living in Afghanistan. I am the resident of Jalalabad, the city captured by the Taliban on 15 August followed by the overrunning of the capital Kabul, the day which buried the inspirations, dreams, and hopes of Afghans towards an uncertain future that will be controlled by Taliban who is accused of human rights violations and strict restrictions on civilians in their past government during 1996-2001.

We are in a horrifying crisis. Millions of Afghans are suffering. Banks are closed, government offices, schools are shut down, food and grocery prices have skyrocketed, no news on humanitarian support to displaced people and they don’t have access to shelter, food, water, and sanitation. People cannot find mobile credit cards, mobile and internet signals are weak and even not available in rural areas. I always try to support my family to divert their attention from the current situation but it’s impossible to stop thinking. 

When Kunar, my home province, was captured by the Taliban on 14 August we didn’t know the Taliban will capture Jalalabad as soon but on the next morning Nangarhar province surrendered to the Taliban and they were roaming everywhere. On that day, we just had 1000 Afghanis at home, shops were closed and the prices of everything just raised. However, the Taliban announced banks should open but banks are still closed because they fear looters and thieves who make themselves look like the Taliban. The day the Taliban took over Afghanistan, and the government collapsed my father, uncles, friends, relatives and neighbors lost their jobs. This is the reality of every common Afghan family. 

Some of our neighbors left Afghanistan because they worked with NATO Forces. One person we know who formerly worked with National Directorate of Security is receiving threats from a Taliban militant. He was daily coming to our home to hide and avoid any raid by the Taliban, and just a few days ago he went to Kabul to facilitate his own evacuation from Afghanistan. 

When I was a child, my grandfather, once a solider in King Zahir Shah government, was telling me the stories of how Afghanistan’s different governments collapsed and now when he is 82 years old I daily tell him updates from Afghanistan as I am more active on social media. And he tells me, son, the history of our country is repeating again and again. My mother, who was just doing home chores and her worship, every hour asks me about the current situation because everyone fears what will happen next. With how fast things have happened in the last weeks, no one knows what will happen next. 

We have the fear that the Taliban will not allow our sisters to schools, colleges, and universities and will not let them have jobs. We have the fear of an economic crisis because businesses are stopped and jobs are lost. But at the same time, people were somehow optimistic that the Taliban will end the high-level of corruption present in the last government. In the first few days of the Taliban, no fighting happened in all Afghanistan so we all were so hopeful that maybe lasting peace will prevail very soon. But the suicide blasts in Kabul Airport on Thursday 26 August ruined our positive hope of the future and one of our friend died in Kabul Airport who was trying to leave Afghanistan for a brighter and safer future.

Personally I never thought about leaving our beloved homeland but the situation is getting worse, everyone is trying to leave Afghanistan and many of our friends and neighbors went to American and Europe and some are trying to leave Afghanistan to Pakistan and Iran but they are stopped by both governments and now don’t have access to basic needs. People tried to convince my father to leave Afghanistan but he does not agree because we have a large family and my father doesn’t want to leave his parents, brothers and sisters.

The future is uncertain, everything is beyond our control, a betrayal by the world of the Afghan people. Democracy, human rights, and women’s rights are uncertain here. We have no choice other than to be optimistic. We stay and work for our people to make Afghanistan great again. I always keep a sparkle of hope and argue Taliban to form an inclusive government, allow women for education and jobs, overcome the current economic crisis, bring all government servants back to their job and remove all social and economic barriers. Power and politics can be sorted out later. We want international support to lead the country to peace. Without this, the current social and economic crisis will get even worse for innocent Afghans.

Rayan Tanwar
Novice
August 31, 2021 10:26 am

In 2003 I travelled to London, England. It was a hot summer in which the city was experiencing a heatwave. On some nights I had to sleep with a fan by my bedside. It was the only way I could fall asleep in the heat. I have fond memories of that holiday. Great weather, lots of touristy sites and friendly people. The perfect trifecta for a teenager. Despite all the good memories, one negative incident has stayed with me.

I was traveling on a bus, having seen one of London’s world-famous landmarks and was on the way to another. There was someone sitting across the aisle to my left, with what appeared to be an open can of beer. He didn’t look entirely sober and I could sense he was ready to make a scene at any moment. He just needed a prod. That prod came in the form of three passengers who sat in front of him.

The passengers couldn’t have been much older than me. They looked like teenagers, 1 guy and 2 girls, probably in high school. At first, the inebriated person sitting behind them started complaining. I couldn’t gather exactly what he was saying, but it was clearly directed at the passengers in front of him. He then went into a tirade of how those people in front of him were lucky to be in ‘his’ country. At one point he even grabbed the guy in front of him by the arm, using the words, “I don’t like people from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan – those countries.

As I watched this unfold, I froze. I didn’t know what to do. I was just a kid and I was upset. Like many others I stayed up to date with international news, although my understanding was limited. I knew Afghanistan had been in the news at that time, so I could put two and two together. I was also embarrassed that he could say this out loud in front of everyone, even as I, a South Asian person, was sitting right next to him. What happened next is probably the moment that affected me the most.

The passenger in front shouted back, exclaiming that he was from South America. But the drunkard didn’t listen and continued with his tirade. Finally one of the girls, who was on the receiving end of the tirade, said enough was enough. Rather than calling out his absurd behavior, she tried to appease him with the words, “We don’t like them either.” These words, which probably took a second’s thought, stayed with me for years.

No one on the bus called out the drunkard’s behavior. People sat idly by as he went on the attack. But the girl’s words hurt more. She will never know, but those words made me feel uncomfortable in any Western country for years. Sure, people were friendly. But what were they really thinking?

It also showed me how people conflated the conflict in Afghanistan with the everyday people who had nothing to do with it. I can only hope that people don’t make the same mistake today. The people of Afghanistan, as others have already described, just want a better life. It is not fair to place responsibility on them for the chaos that is engulfing the country.

The conflict on the bus fizzled out as the three teenage passengers got off at the next stop. I remained on the bus, wondering what had just happened, with some of my childhood innocence seeping away. Today, there is no excuse for this level of ignorance. While there will always be some elements of this in every society, I try to challenge it whenever I’m presented with it. I’m also glad to say from a purely anecdotal level, more people seem to understand that the Taliban aren’t representative of everyday Afghan people. It is just like Kim Jong-un’s regime isn’t representative of everyday North Koreans. Pressure from the international community will determine how the Taliban govern Afghanistan. With greater empathy towards everyday Afghan people, there is still hope.

Niharika Khatri
Novice
August 30, 2021 6:49 pm

If you have lived in Afghanistan within the past 40 years, war will have been an inescapable part of your life. The Soviet invasion in December 1979, the ensuing Mujahideen guerrilla opposition, the Soviet withdrawal and civil war in the 90s, Taliban rule in the late 90s, the US-led invasion in 2001, the back and forth fighting between NATO, Afghanistan government forces and the Taliban for 20 years, the US withdrawal in August 2021 and the Taliban’s re-emergence.

Like anyone else the people of Afghanistan have hopes, dreams, aspirations. In an environment of constant bloodshed, terror and war, these hopes are shattered. Being in a place where you see few prospects for yourself and your family, I too would want to get out of there as fast as humanly possible.

If anyone questions why people take such dangerous measures to leave their country, such as crossing the Mediterranean in unsafe boats, it is because the situation in their countries is dire. They would rather risk their life than stay any longer where they are. Sadly we saw this happen in Afghanistan as a teenager desperately held on to a US military plane as it took off from Kabul airport to evacuate personnel. Just think to yourself. What would it take for you to hold on to a US C-17 military plane as it powers down the airport runway and takes off? He couldn’t bear the thought of more war years and his only hope for a better life was to hold on with all his might. Unfortunately even the strongest grip in the world couldn’t have held on.

This is why I get frustrated when there is no sympathy for refugees. That ‘better life’ they want is normal to us. To be free from falling bombs, to earn an income, to have food on the table. An illustrative example is Sayed Sadaat, a former Communications Minister in the Afghan government. He now lives in Germany working at Lieferando as a food delivery courier. He studies German for 4 hours a day and then does a 6 hour shift delivering meals. It illustrates that the better life people want does not have to be extravagant. Just the opportunity to be happy and earn a living is enough.

Quinn Ferris
Novice
August 30, 2021 5:04 pm

The emphasis on Afghanistan right now is on the evacuations, the Taliban assuming control of the country, and violence from ISIL and US drone attacks. These are all making media headlines. However as we know, headlines are quick to change and the media will soon focus its attention elsewhere. For many Afghans the crisis is just beginning. Without the world’s attention focusing on the plight of the Afghan people, it is looking like a bumpy road ahead.

The conditions are ideal for Covid-19 to spread. Social distancing has taken a back seat as the desperation to flee causes overcrowding in airports and camps. According to the World Health Organization, health workers in Afghanistan are being requested to return to their posts but female staff have either resigned or are hesitant to return because of the current lack of security in the country. Only 5% of the population has been vaccinated so far, and now more than ever, the WHO needs all parties to “respect the neutrality of health”.

Aside from Covid-19, Afghanistan still has to contend with cases of Polio. As a Provincial Officer from Balkh says, “Poliovirus circulation does not stop during conflicts, it does not stop during emergencies.” The main point is that although a lot of attention is being put on Afghanistan and its people now, once attention shifts elsewhere, there will still be millions of Afghans needing help. Turkey and Pakistan, by virtue of their location and policies, have hosted 3.7 million and 1.4 million refugees respectively (Source: UNHCR database). We can only expect a greater number of Afghans wanting to flee and Afghan refugees in other countries now unable to return home. Iran has also taken in hundreds and thousands of Afghan refugees, and in fact Pakistan and Iran have taken in approximately 90% of Afghan refugees worldwide. It’s countries like these that need support too.

As much as other countries have stepped up to take in people fleeing from Afghanistan, there will be millions who choose not to leave. It’s the humanitarian crisis for these people that needs to be averted.