by Sharifa A.

Kabul in better times

It was Sunday 15th of August 2021 and I decided to not go to the office and instead go to the Central Bank for collecting some cash. Me and my husband left home around 6 o’clock and soon we reached the bank. There were many people waiting to enter the bank and collect cash when the bank opened. There was a person in front of the bank who posted a list of the people. He was supposed to call the people from the list to enter. I was standing for two hours on the road, and it was almost 8 o’clock. People jumped in the door of the bank. There was no news of the list. I came very fast to the in front of the gate and after 15 minutes in the crowd with lots of pushing and pulling, I got the chance to enter the bank. But on that day, my husband could not get the chance to enter the bank.

After entering to the bank, we got a number to take our cash by turn. I waited inside the bank from 8 o’clock till 11 o’clock but the head of bank was telling everyone that the bank did not have USD cash and they might receive it from the National bank by 2 PM. I was still hopeful to get my cash.

Suddenly we heard gun shots and people started running away from the bank. Everyone was saying that the Taliban took Kabul city. I forgot about the money and called my husband. When he picked up the phone without any greeting at all, he told me to come out of the bank very fast because Taliban were already very near.

Since I was pregnant it was very difficult for me to run but somehow, I found him. We walked about half an hour to reach the vehicle. On the way everyone including girls, women, boys, men and children were very frustrated. Children were running from their school to home, employees of INGOs and government were just running out of their offices and all lost their 20 years of hope just in the blink of eye. It was the scene of doomsday and everyone was just thinking of their own safety. The city of hope and light for 20 years changed into city of ghosts and deaths.

After 3 hours we came home and it seems that, this home is not anymore for us. We are birds without a nest. We built our favorite nest with bright dreams but the Taliban with their supportive countries destroyed it in a matter of hours.

The day became dark and darker and it was night. I forgot to prepare food because our thoughts were only worries, fears and losing our beloved families.

Around 9 PM we heard an unknown voice. The voice was that of one of the people who destroyed our entire life, and he said that no one was to walk or come out of their homes after 9 PM. The new government would punish those who did not obey.

It was the start of nights and days that we lost our sleeps, families, gatherings, listening to music, dancing, doing jobs, spending time for fun, and many other things that we took for granted. We missed these things very much.

We were awake all that night and around 1 o’clock in the morning my husband said, there is no hope of being alive so let’s go to the airport. I was afraid of getting out of our house because I heard what the Taliban said at 9 PM. So we decided to go to the airport at 5 am and we rented a vehicle for a lot of money and reached near to the airport, but it was very crowded and the airport gate was closed. We stood for minutes on the street among shooting of Taliban and suddenly a man came and took his suitcase from his family, and they started running toward the gate, so we also chased them and successfully without any harm entered the airport and soon Taliban again closed the general gate.

While entering the airport we were faced with thousands of people who wanted to leave Afghanistan and some of them were just moving to any airplane, but that plane was not flying at all because there were no pilots or flight attendants. We moved a little further and the US Army told us to sit down and we sat down among the crowd. Suddenly there was shooting between the US Army and the Taliban and we were all stuck between them. We all laid down. US Army killed one Taliban and he was shooting from the gate. Somehow we ran away from the ground and moved toward the buildings. My feet hurt and I came inside the terminal and waited for some hours. Some people left and went back to their homes.

After some hours again we came near to the US Army and was asking them for help of evacuation but there was no hope. When an airplane landed all people were moving toward it to get themselves in the airplane. I was not able to run fast and was afraid of losing my unborn baby and that’s why my husband was walking along my side. The whole day spent moving here and there but we were not able to reach an airplane.

The day became dark and darker and when I was looking at the number of people, I was not optimistic of their evacuation and I said to my husband that no country wants to evacuate this many people. It seemed that all of the people of Kabul and the provinces had come to the airport for evacuation.

Again, we decided to come home because there was no chance of getting a plane and many people were killed by guns, some fell from the plane as it took off, some were missing and some women and children died in the crowd.

While we were leaving the airport, we saw thousands of other people outside the airport near the general gate who wanted to enter the airport, but Taliban shot at them. Somehow, we left the area and came home without being harmed.

There was not sleep in my eyes or calmness in my heart. Fear and hopelessness took over my body.

Since I grew up in a poor family, I understood that the only solution to overcome the challenges of life is to try hard and get an education. So I studied very hard with the light of candles on dark nights, sometimes not eating food and instead buying pens and notebooks with the money for food. With so many struggles I graduated from school, university and even took my master’s degree from India. I got jobs and did social activities. I was a witness to huge positive changes in me and my family’s life. Recently I tasted the life, and I was happy, but all is lost now.

Since I worked with so many INGOs, I asked them for help with evacuation, but none of them helped me. They all left me behind in a dark well full of hungry snakes.