We have lost everything we achieved in last twenty years: Afghan youths share their agony

Several of my family members are stuck in Kabul. I am trying to arrange visas for them. Any country. I have also sent SOS to my friends in India, says Arbab

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Representative Image

NH Web Desk

Arbab, Journalist


Several of my family members are stuck in Kabul. I am trying to arrange visas for them. Any country. I have also sent SOS to my friends in India. See, the Taliban leaders says all the good things but their foot soldiers don’t exactly follow it. They are mostly people from the hills who have grown up in a war-torn country. They are rough, have an extremist ideology and are totally different from the kind of citizenry in Kabul or other cities. We can’t trust these people with the safety of our families. It is especially difficult for people who have lived in liberal countries outside Afghanistan.

Nazir Ahmad, Research Scholar and Activist, New Delhi

I am a student activist and have been involved in a lot of youth-related activities such as education programs and other social, environmental, healthcare and many other related issues. My father was the Deputy Governor between 1991 to 1995 during Dr Najibullah Regime before the Taliban took over the first time in 1996. He had to flee to Pakistan, then to Iran. Later, we joined my father, but the Taliban captured my younger uncle instead of my father and tortured him. However, he was released after few years and paying lots of money. We joined my father later. We returned to Afghanistan in 2004 when the Taliban went back to Pakistan. We have seen the horrors of the Taliban first-hand, and this time too, it is no different.

As part of my volunteering and human rights activism, I had to often visit the government offices, the Presidential Palace and other public offices. Last few months, I have been noticing that suspicious people were following me. There were spies all around, the cab I take, etc. I also received a message from the presidential palace to be careful because the Taliban started killing active young people. That's when my family suggested that I should leave. I came to India a month back because I was in danger at the same time, I had an inkling that things were going to get worse, but I did not realize it would worsen so rapidly.

In one week, we Afghans have lost everything we achieved in the last twenty years. Even if the Taliban promises to do the right things, even if they say they will give women rights, the damage the country faced in just a week will take years to recover.

Every institution and system is being broken. Banks have collapsed, the healthcare system, jobs, and infrastructure are broken because the people who run these systems and institutions - doctors, engineers, business owners, industrialists, bankers, teachers - have all left or are trying to leave. The EU, America and other nations are accepting thousands of refugees, which means the entire elite, educated, and liberal class would eventually leave, and only the poor common masses will be left behind. They cannot resist the Taliban even if they want to.

The Taliban can only fight and use guns; they do not have the skills to govern a nation. Where from would they provide the youth with jobs? I will give just one example. Some men dressed in Taliban clothing came to our neighbour's house took away an expensive car. My neighbour went to the “Taliban police” to complaint and seek help, since the Taliban leadership had announced that there will be no looting or revenge seeking. The Taliban police asked, “Do you have a photo of the men? Without photo we cannot find them. There are many groups operating on their own we don't know who they are and how to find them.” This is the situation.

The elite Taliban leadership is announcing one thing, but those on the grounds are doing something else. And there is no system to hold anybody accountable. The elite leadership does not even have the wherewithal to manage those on grounds. Nobody can live under Taliban rule. They tell us what to wear, how to live our lives, they make mosque attendance compulsory.

The world is watching silently as we lose everything. The United Nations (UN) has not even sent the peacekeeping force to manage the situation at the airport. When the government was in power, we had around over 10,000 Talibani and criminals in prison. We did not execute them because the UN body would raise objections that we cannot violate human rights. Today, they are executing us, and the UN body is silent. It seems the UN is established to protect only the rights of Extremists and Taliban, not the ordinary and innocent people. These Taliban leaders are used to travelling to Doha and other places without Visas, but when we are trying to save our lives, we are being denied VISA by the same countries.

Salma (Name changed), Graphic Artist, Kabul

I was going to the Ministry of Labour that day when Taliban came to Kabul. Until that day none of us thought that they will capture Kabul. I had gone to the Ministry office for some work but was stopped by the guard from going inside. I ignored him and went inside only to find the woman guard shaking with fear. Everybody were already asked to leave. Back on the street I saw people scattered everywhere, women, men, children feeling shocked and confused. Most of them were trying to look for a place to hide. I saw some Military scared of their lives hurriedly changing their uniforms and getting into plain clothes. I was able to find a taxi, but all roads were closed. I was in the taxi for two hours and was watching people running all around. All the shops were downing shutters one by one, and the government officials were on the run. I reached home worried about the future.

I am an artist. I did my BA in Fine Arts from Jamia Milia Islamia and wanted to do my masters as well. My home city is Herat but at present I am in Kabul with my mother. My younger sister is in Herat restricted at home feeling scared of her life. She was working in the Court at a very high position. As part of her job she helped many Afghan woman obtain divorce and other rights on divorce from their husbands who were in prison. As soon as Taliban came to Herat those prisons were broken open and now my sister is scared that those men will come to her to seek revenge for providing legal help to their wives.

Day after the Taliban came my sister and other woman employees called a male colleague to ask if they could come to office. The answer was, “No.” “Do not come, it is not safe. We cannot tell when it will be safe.” Her office guard called her to say that the Taliban men had come to her desk. “They were going through your files and other stuff. They destroyed some files too,” he said while weeping.

I tried to go to India the day after Taliban took Kabul. I have a student visa, so I got a ticket but when I went to the airport there was no airport staff to check the documents or check in the luggage. There was a chaotic crowd, people were dying in stampede. Guns were being fired. I got scared and left for home. But I will try again to go to India. Everybody is doing the same. They are waking up every day and going to the airport. Every day the same chaos, stampede and bullets, everyday 5-6 people are dying but the fear of death does not stop anybody from going again and again to the airport in the hope that they will find a way to escape the Taliban.

We are three sisters. My father was in the army, I was very small when he went missing during the regime even before the Taliban came for the first time. The Taliban has a rule that you cannot go out without a male. If they impose those rules again, how would we sisters and my mother live our lives? I was independent woman, traveling alone to India and achieving so many things in life. I dreamt of opening a Graphic arts institute in my hometown. All that is lost.

We have some cash to sustain ourselves for a while, but my sister’s salary has not been transferred. Soon our savings will run out. The banks are empty, the ATMs are empty, shops are closed, government offices are also closed, maybe some of them are opening with Taliban controlling them. The national news channel do not have any woman anchor anymore. I can see the Taliban men patrolling the street even as I speak. This is the story of millions of us. Most of us were in government jobs, now we are without jobs.

I am still in shock, what happened to my beautiful country. When I lived in India for four years as an art student, every day I thought of my country, all my paintings were about the nature, people, culture, and colours of Afghanistan. I came back to my country with lots of hope. Today I am scared and depressed staring at an unknown future. We have a joint family, but my uncles and other relatives are all looking for ways to escape as we all are scared of our lives. We will end up being refugees in different parts of the world, who knows where we would go? Whether we’d meet again or not.

My life have been turned into a zero. I am an artist and Taliban prohibits painting and art. I have no future in a Taliban rule. Life as a refugee in India is also not something I ever wanted. You only have to visit Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar or Bhogal area to see how the Afghanis are living as refugees without jobs or security and being treated with disrespect and hate. I had a good life in Afghanistan, my sister was earning well and she was supporting my education. I thought I would do a masters in fine arts but now that dream is shattered.

India was not like this a decade ago. I had first come to India 14 years ago, it was a different nation then. Everybody loved us, and nobody cared that we were Muslims. But during the CAA protests things changed and I started getting worried for myself as a Muslim. My Hindu landlords were very nice. But even when they tried to show care and concern for me, and repeatedly told me that I have to be careful when I go out, they conveyed to me indirectly that I was not safe since I was a Muslim.

I just hope that wherever I go with my mother and sisters, we can live a life of dignity and safety.

(All names have been changed on request. Compiled by Sanjukta Basu & Asim Khan)

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Published: 30 Aug 2021, 1:56 PM