24 years old
MA in Talent Management
American University of Central Asia
A few months earlier I had proudly returned home with a bachelor’s degree and secured a job. I grew increasingly concerned in the run-up to the collapse, thinking about myself, my family, my loved ones. I used to repeatedly ask friends who followed the developments closely for analysis, and for what one could expect in the coming weeks and months. Everyone seemed to be optimistic and believed that it was impossible for the Taliban to take over Kabul. However, they did believe that they might be in control of the borders and could put pressure on the market.
At around 10:30am on Saturday, 14 August 2021, I was sitting in the Cupcake Café which was newly opened in Qala-e Fatahullah, Kabul. On that day, I had several applications to review for one last time before submission. It took me about two hours to finalize and submit my application. While walking to get a taxi to go home, I noticed that the situation was weirdly different. There were signs of chaos, and people were rushing to ATM machines to withdraw cash. With a close friend of mine, I went to a few of the ATM machines for cash, but none had any cash left. Disappointed, I took a taxi home.
It was around 10:30 or 11:00 am the next day I had many messages stating that all the provinces had fallen to the Taliban. I was shocked and totally numb. In another group on WhatsApp a friend said that she had started hiding all her English documents, laptops, etc. I went out of my room and while my voice was trembling, I shared the news with my family. In an hour, I had decided to collect all my documents and hide some very important ones but burn the rest, but then decided to shred them. I had some certificates from school, and other programs. Before destroying my documents, I took photos of the most important of them and sent them to my sister in Bishkek, and asked her to save them for me. When I started destroying the certificates I couldn’t stop weeping.
I started thinking about applying for the MA scholarship program at AUCA. I applied, got accepted and applied for Kyrgyz visa. On 16 of August 2020, I read about the huge crowd at the gates of Kabul Airport and the evacuation. I do not remember when I first heard about the process of evacuation by AUCA, but those days the only thing that helped me not to lose my spirit was knowing that I would be out of the country soon.
After about a month, and with two unsuccessful attempts to get to the airport, we were evacuated overland through the Torkham border crossing to Pakistan, and from there to Kyrgyzstan. I left for the airport, my heart heavy and my mind busy thinking about what would happen.
The most painful thought was leaving my country and my family forever, not knowing whether and when I could return. I also kept thinking about where my country was headed, and what the future had in store for women and girls under the rule of a misogynist group. It was extremely agonizing, painfully shattering, and unspeakably disappointing. I couldn’t imagine how helpless we all had become – a generation who had ambitious plans and big dreams for changing the country into a better place for everyone. I do not remember how long I wept in silence, for my family back in Kabul and for the country and its people. I wished I had the power to change everything in this land.
Around 7:30 in the morning we arrived at the Torkham border crossing, standing in a queue waiting for the border to open. I made sure to check my hijab continuously to make sure my hair was not visible as that might give the guards any excuse to misbehave with me. One of the fighters approached us and asked for our passports. I started sweating and trembling as my passport photo was without a hijab. They checked the passports several times and left some of them on a chair and came closer to the crowd. It was about 11:00 a.m. that we had our passports stamped with entry permits and we began moving towards the bus waiting to take us to Islamabad. The few days in Islamabad were a relief as we felt safe and did some shopping.
It was almost unbelievable for me and other fellows that we finally made it to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. When we collected our belongings from the airport, we desperately needed a place to lie down and sleep for hours.
I missed home badly, wishing Afghanistan were a peaceful country and families were not forced to be separated. I was wounded deep inside. For days, I felt lost. Nothing was pleasant for me as before. I didn’t feel the weather, the streets, the food, or the environment. My thoughts roamed in the streets of Kabul, in the cafes that I had loved, in the shopping malls that I went to, in the gatherings that I went to, and at my home where I had left a family behind. I sometimes checked on my friends who were still in Kabul, always thinking what would happen to them under the rule of the Taliban.