Desperation as Afghans seek to flee a country retaken by the Taliban


Saturday morning, a former translator for an American company in Acceptance She fell into a mass outside the Kabul airport gate with her family.

Although she was scrambled and elbowed by people in the crowd, she pushed forward, desperate to secure a trip out of the country for everyone who accompanied her—her husband, two-year-old daughter, two disabled parents, three sisters, and a cousin.

Then the crowd escalated. The whole family was slammed to the ground. And the woman remembered just hours later that people had trampled on them where they were lying.

She remembered someone smashing her cell phone and someone else kicking her in the head. Unable to breathe, she tried to tear off her robe-like cloak.

She said she was struggling on her feet, searching for her little one. The girl died, and the mob trampled her to death.

“I was completely terrified,” the woman said in a telephone interview from Kabul. “I couldn’t save her.”

In the six days since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, Afghans have negotiated a terrifying new reality after enduring 20 years of war and suicide bombings. Their world has been turned upside down, and something as strange as a trip to the airport inspires terror now. Just walking out the front door can be annoying and confusing.

As the situation grew increasingly chaotic, the US Embassy warned US citizens to stay away from the airport, citing “potential security threats outside the gates.”

Across the country, Afghans who served the US military effort in Afghanistan, or the previous US-backed government, are hiding, many of whom are threatened with death by the Taliban. According to human rights groups, armed men moved from house to house, looking for “collaborators”, threatening their family members.

The 39-year-old former translator for the US military and western aid groups was hiding in a house in Kabul with his wife and two children on Saturday. He said the Taliban phoned, telling him, “Face the consequences – we’ll kill you.”

The translator, whose identity has been withheld like others in this article for safety reasons, said he gave up trying to secure a flight after a horrific and ultimately futile attempt to make his way in front of Taliban militants and unruly gangs at the airport the day before. He’s been spending his time calling and texting American soldiers and officers in the United States struggling to find ways to save him and his family.

“I’m losing hope,” he said over the phone. “I guess I might have to accept the consequences.”

Another former US military interpreter was in hiding in Kabul on Saturday. He also said he gave up any hope of getting a flight for himself, his wife and young son after two horrific trips to the airport.

“I have lost hope,” he said. I have lost faith in the US government, which continues to say, ‘We will evacuate our allies’.’

“Evacuation is impossible,” he added.

The former translator said that Afghans crowding at the airport gates tended to panic every time tear gas was fired or bullets were fired into the air to disperse the crowds.

“Your child can be trampled,” he said. “If the United States gave me the entire universe after I lost a child, that’s worthless.”

To deal with the expected influx of Afghan refugees, the Biden administration wants to enlist commercial airlines to fly those arriving in the Gulf states from Kabul to take them to countries that want to offer resettlement.

In Kabul’s Char Naw district, an Afghan journalist said she has finally ventured outside after hiding inside since last Sunday. In an attempt to comply with the restrictions imposed by the Taliban indiscriminately on women, she wore an abaya that covered her entire body.

“It was so heavy that it made me feel sick,” she said. On the street, she said, “There is no music, nothing. All you hear is the Taliban talking on TV and radio.”

She said her sister-in-law appeared in front of the male family members with her hair uncovered. Her brother-in-law kicked her and said, “Put your bloody scarf on!”

A former Interior Ministry police officer who saw Taliban fighters digging up the ministry is also in hiding, combing through papers containing detailed information on the staff. He was worried that they would come looking for him.

“Kabul has become a city of fear,” the officer said.

In eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province, a journalist said he was hiding inside his house on Saturday, afraid to show his face. He had reported Taliban atrocities while the government was in control of the province. Now, he said, the Taliban are in charge and roaming journalists.

“The Taliban will kill me and my family members, just as they killed my colleagues,” the journalist said.

And in the eastern province of Khost, another journalist was also in hiding, commuting between his home and the home of a loved one. He added that Taliban fighters were roaming around the province in US-supplied cars captured from Afghan security forces. He was afraid they would find him soon.

“I have lost hope,” he said. “pray for me.”

In Kabul, the woman whose daughter was murdered said the family was able to return the girl’s body for burial. She would cry as she remembered how she would try to calm her daughter’s fears whenever she called gunshots in their neighbourhood: I told her they were “crackers” – firecrackers.

“My child was a brave kid,” she said. When she heard the gunshots, she was yelling, ‘Breakers! “

She said she and her family are not likely to return to the airport anytime soon. “I would rather die a dignified death here at home than die in such an unkind manner.”

Inside the house where the 39-year-old former translator was hiding in Kabul, hope began to fade. He said he was pleased with the continued attempts to help the American soldiers he once served, but concluded that they could do nothing.

“If the Taliban kills me,” he said, “well, I can accept that.” “I just ask them to keep my children.”

Jim Hoylebrook, Sherif Hassan, Fahim Abed and Fatima Faizi contributed to this report.

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