by Sharifa Ahmadi
My elder brother in another province called and asked where I was. I told him I was home after going to the airport. He told me that since he worked as a New Zealand representative in Bamyan province he got a visa and soon would leave Afghanistan. He said that since I also had worked with a New Zealand organization in Bamyan for more than year I was also eligible to apply for a visa.
The next day, he and my former colleague from New Zealand sent the link for an emergency visa. I filled out the form and attached my contracts plus work certificates and sent them to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT). The next day I received a call from my current office telling me to open my email and fill out the form for the evacuation. I did not expect that they could evacuate us because they were a local organization, but I filled out the forms in the middle of the night and sent them back. My colleague told me he would inform me if there was an evacuation.
The Taliban took control of Afghanistan after 20 years on the 15th of August 2021. They took the capital in a matter of hours. US and other country’s citizens, Afghan colleagues and staff of their embassies were left behind. The US agreed to withdraw their troops by the 31st of August if they were allowed to keep control of Hamid Karzai Airport (Kabul International Airport) until that time. The Taliban accepted these terms.
The 31st of August was getting closer day by day but there was no news from MFAT NZ regarding a visa nor any word from any of the other organizations with which I had worked. After 20 years of freedom, I felt myself in a very tight cage with no hope of freedom and peace. Days were passing, hearing gun shots and staying at home because the Taliban did not allow women and girls to go out of their homes without a hijab and a mahram (a man who accompanies a woman). My days and nights were full of fear and nightmares. There was no sleep during the nights or days because of worrying about staying alive.
One night, I and my husband hosted my sister with her family at our home in Kabul. They had escaped from their province to the capital. We ate our dinner and went to bed. Suddenly, the loud sound of shooting guns began and lasted for more than an hour. The bullets hit the wall of our house and we were on the 4th level of the building. We ran to the basement. Later, we learned that the shooting was a celebration of the Taliban as they had captured Panjshir province. They celebrated their victory as they had taken all 34 provinces of Afghanistan and now Afghanistan was fully under their control.
After almost one month I received an email from MFAT and they sent Emergency Visas to New Zealand for me and my husband. When I saw the email, I became so happy and told myself that my unborn baby was so lucky. If she was born in Afghanistan. She would grow up illiterate and be deprived of all her rights.
When we received our visas at that time there were not any international flights because the US had already withdrawn their troops and the Taliban had control of the airport. It was very difficult to get out of the country. Somehow after many days of struggling we crossed the border and went to Iran. We spent hard days here and there and finally arrived in New Zealand on the 31st of October 2021. Now I live in Auckland, New Zealand and my daughter was born here as well. She is almost 4 months old.
It was not one day or two days of fear, it has lasted from the time the Taliban took control until now, even though we are safe. When I sleep sometimes, I see the Taliban in my dreams, and it is a nightmare I cannot escape from as they are always in my mind. When I see them in my dream, they always want to kill me, or my family and we are just running away from them, and they keep following us.