'We had to escape': What will the future hold for the people of Afghanistan fleeing the Taliban?

Afghan refugees are seen onboard a bus upon arrival at Skopje International Airport, after being evacuated from Kabul following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan [Getty Images]
5 min read
31 August, 2021

The Taliban takeover of Kabul and rapid offensive on August 15 has left many Afghans distraught and fearful for their future.

‘Aisha’  is a working mother of three, from Kabul who asked to conceal her identity due to safety concerns. “The Taliban have a worldwide network and I fear that if they find out I have spoken they may harm my family members, some of them never managed to escape.”

When Aisha heard that the Taliban was going to seize back control of her home town in August, she decided to flee to neighbouring Pakistan, taking only a handful of clothes for her children, husband and some bottles of water. “There was no time to think, I just told my husband we have to escape,” she tells The New Arab.

 "Afghans cannot trust allies in the West to uphold their promises in truly aiding Afghans who have been through oppression and torture over the years due to the Taliban"

Aisha and her family spent four days trying to enter Kabul airport where she witnessed desperate families pleading with Taliban fighters to let them through. “I am a professional. I will not disclose my job, but the Taliban would have not allowed me to do it or would be concerned about who I have spoken to for my work. They may have killed, executed or kidnapped me or my family if I stayed,” she explains.

The Taliban have pledged to uphold ‘women’s rights’ including allowing them to work but Aisha tells The New Arab that, “This is all a lie in front of the media, they will pretend and say that women can work and have rights but after the media attention settles down they will take those rights way.”

A devout Muslim, Aisha says that the Taliban are operating far from the teachings of Islam, “They are not following Islam. Islam gives women more rights and teaches us to contribute to society but the Taliban do the exact opposite of the teachings of Islam.”

Recently-arrived refugees from Afghanistan seen at a temporary camp at the U.S. Army's Rhine Ordnance Barracks (ROB), where they are being temporarily housed, on August 30, 2021 in Kaiserslautern, Germany [Getty Images]
With tens of thousands of Afghans leaving their homeland en masse, will they now be resigned to a fate of exclusion, marginalisation and precarity in Europe? [Getty Images]

Leaving behind her sisters and relatives was unbearable for Aisha who hails from a close-knit family.

“I don’t know what will happen to my family, they were so scared to even go out of the house.”

Despite the fact that Aisha managed to escape with her husband and children, she feels a sense of guilt for the loved ones she was forced to leave behind.

“I cannot shake this guilt away. I am safe and they are at risk. How can I ever be at peace like this?”

Since the Taliban exerted control over Kabul, a number of countries have begun resettlement efforts to rescue Afghans from the country including the UK, US, UAE, Turkey, France, Germany and Italy.

However former Afghan refugee, Muhammad Asif, said he is upset with the way the UK and US have ‘failed’ the people of Afghanistan. “The Taliban are barbaric killers but the UK and US also have to share the responsibility for what’s happened as they have legitimised the Taliban and failed our people.”

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Asif, fled the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2000 and came to seek safe sanctuary in Glasgow, Scotland, with just the clothes he was wearing on his back.

He is now a director for Afghan Human Rights Foundation and is upset with the situation of Afghans including his own family members at risk in the country.

 “The future of Afghan people is very bleak, we have no future (under the Taliban rule). My wife's relatives are still there in Afghanistan,” Asif told The New Arab.

Asif says that the decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan was a mistake and that they had been there for a long time without achieving a political solution that would have benefited the Afghan people.

“The US could have found a peaceful political solution so we would have fewer Afghans, British and American soldiers killed."

"At the end of the day the responsibility of the future of Afghans lies with the UK and US after they have left they now must ensure a peaceful political solution is reached for the people of Afghanistan"

In 2001, Asif wrote a letter to Tony Blair to voice his concerns over the future of Afghans in the country. The former British Prime Minister personally told Asif in his letter that he vowed that allies would not leave Afghanistan to the hands of the Taliban.

“Tony Blair told me in a reply to my letter that he personally promised they would not abandon the Afghans, but that is what has happened today. Now I know his promise was a lie and the Afghans feel betrayed.”

It has been 20 years since the letter was received, but Asif still feels that Afghans cannot trust allies in the West to uphold their promises in truly aiding Afghans.

“The future now is very bleak, people are talking of sanctions on the Taliban but there is a real worry that people will now die of hunger. People are stuck in the house, the Taliban wait outside and are there with guns and weapons in their hands patrolling the streets.”

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The safety of people in Afghanistan is at increased risk since the Taliban took over the city and many people simply cannot even risk escaping.

“They could put you in a car and kidnap you and nobody will know what happened to you or where you are. At the end of the day, the responsibility of the future of Afghans lies with the UK and U. After they have left, they now must ensure a peaceful political solution is reached for the people of Afghanistan.”

Tasnim Nazeer is an award-winning journalist, author, and Universal Peace Federation Ambassador. She has written for Al Jazeera, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Middle East Eye, CNN, BBC, and others. She was awarded the FIPP the global network of media Rising Stars in Media Award 2018.

Follow her on Twitter: @tasnimnazeer1