Afghanistan: in Kabul, flight or hideout



Sitting in front of the TV on continuously, Samim (1), his sister and his mother have their eyes fixed on the Afghan channels, a pale remedy for the anxiety-provoking wait in the middle of the living room of the family who has hosted them in Kabul for a week. In the back of his mind, the Francophile translator reviews the scenarios for fleeing Afghanistan for the umpteenth time: how to dodge the Taliban administration, how to climb on one of the rare humanitarian flights, how to contact the French authorities, who have already evacuated his brother and his second sister …

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Samim is circling around like a caged animal, nervous. He no longer goes out, for fear of being questioned during a control. Its business has been a reflection of economic life since the return of the Taliban: at a standstill. All his collaborations with international agencies have ceased. His nights are restless, he has lost the taste for meals. “I feel like I’m standing on the edge of the abyss, he confides, reached from Paris. I don’t even know when or how we can get help. “ He is reassured by hearing daily about such and such another who has managed to leave the country.

Rejection of the fundamentalist yoke

Journalists, human rights defenders, artists, performers, businessmen, committed women, former elected officials… How many are these members of the small Afghan middle class who want to reach abroad while leaving everything behind? Tens of thousands, no doubt. Most are graduates and speak at least one foreign language. Some reject the yoke of fundamentalists, when they do not simply aspire to a better life in the West. Others fear in addition to suffer the vengeance of the victors against the former army, the ex-employees of the foreign forces and the international organizations, all accused of having collaborated with the enemy.

French-speaking and graduated, Samim’s family suffered its share of attacks long before the return of the followers of the late Mullah Omar. Their troubles began with anonymous appeals against the younger brother, who had served as a translator for French soldiers from 2004 to 2012. Then the family home was machine-gunned in June 2019. Six months later, Samim’s brother narrowly escaped to an attempted murder. Injured in the leg and stomach by strangers a few meters from the villa, he eventually obtained asylum in France, where he moved in March 2020. His sister, a French teacher at the French Lycée Esteqlal, was evacuated in the spring, but not her second sister, also a teacher in the same establishment, nor her mother nor her brother. On August 15, Samim was living in the large family house when he heard a neighbor shout: “The Taliban entered Kabul. “ He hopped in a taxi with his mother, picked up his sister from the French high school and moved in with relatives.

Erase traces of his past

He sighs at the memory of his hasty flight: “No one expected the Taliban to come so quickly. “ In a hurry, he forgot to erase the traces of his past as an interpreter, content to slip a hard drive and a laptop in his bag. While searching the family home, the new masters of the country probably found his diploma with the blue, white, red letterhead, the title of which – “Professional tactics in intervention” – recalls his work with a French police sergeant. .

As the days passed, rumors of settling scores intensified in Kabul, reaching the house where Samim, his mother and sister were refugees. These cumbersome guests were invited to seek another shelter. The trio hesitated to slip into the midst of the crowd rushing towards the airport where the last western planes were taking off. ” Too dangerous “, warns their brother, kept informed since his exile in France. Events will prove them right: on August 26, a suicide bombing by Daesh in front of the departure hall kills 72 people, including 13 American soldiers.

Prison, or even worse

Pushed outside by their cousins, they decide to rent an apartment to sleep in on the evenings when they cannot find a host family. A mistake : “The Taliban administration has found our trace thanks to the owner”, thinks Samim. In their absence, a stranger slips a summons to court under the front door. The rental is immediately abandoned. They have to pick up the comings and goings, a week with one parent, a week with another, moving at dawn or dusk.

→ UNDERSTAND. In Afghanistan, the difficult exit from the shadow of the Taliban

The interpreter no longer opens his professional mobile since strangers invited him to report to the new authorities. He is sure of it: prison or worse awaits him if he obeys. “They believe that they are within their rights by killing those who have worked with the infidels”, he insists. The Taliban may have declared a general amnesty for Afghan government or military officials, a confidential UN report released in September says they are tracking down those who have worked with foreign forces. Several summary executions of journalists, opponents or representatives of the Shiite minority have been documented.

Flee, but where?

We must flee, therefore, but by where? The land borders with Iran, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are closed, unless you risk the smuggling routes by paying hundreds of euros. The road to Pakistan seems very uncertain, with its roadblocks manned by the former armed rebels, and in addition the trip is expensive: 1,200 dollars (1,039 €) per person, plus 346 € a Pakistani visa on the black market, only solution if we want to get the precious sesame as quickly as possible. There remain flights to Pakistan, one of the few commercial destinations that has opened since the fall of the Afghan government.

The candidates for exile bought tickets at 1,400 €, a sum in cash all the more difficult to collect as bank withdrawals are currently limited to 190 € per week in order to alleviate the shortages of cash. “Life is priceless”, insists Samim, who spent his last savings on a still uncertain theft. Once in Pakistan, they want to make an appointment at the French embassy in Islamabad where visa applications from Afghanistan are processed, since the closure of offices in Kabul.

Fragile hope

The family clings to the fragile hope that their case will be treated positively and as a priority. The National Office for Veterans claims to have transmitted their case to the crisis center of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Asked, he did not want to comment on their fate. “The Afghans particularly threatened because of their engagements will be evacuated as soon as possible”, adds a diplomatic source recalling that 3,300 Afghan nationals were received between April 2021 and today.

→ READ. Afghan refugees: Europe wants to help, but from a distance

On October 6, thirteen French nationals and their Afghan relatives were thus evacuated by a humanitarian flight from Qatar. Samim heard the news with the feeling that he had missed the right car.

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