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After 3 Failed Attempts To Flee Afghanistan, A Family Clings To Hope


The U.S. military has left Afghanistan, ending America's longest war. But what is the state of the country left behind and the people still trying to get out of an Afghanistan now controlled by the Taliban? Syavash is one of thousands of Afghans that is trying to leave. Over the last two decades, he's worked on various projects for both the U.S. and the European Union. Over a month ago, he applied for a special immigrant visa to the United States, but he still hasn't heard back. He and his family tried to leave the country three times last week. Each time, they were stopped by the Taliban or unable to get through the gates where crowds gathered outside the airport. Syavash joins us now.



FADEL: And we should say, we're not using your full name to protect your identity and keep you safe. What have these attempts to leave the country looked like for you and your family?

SYAVASH: Well, it basically starts at home where you can see every day families are leaving. You leave everything behind. And you make the hard choice of, what are the most essential things that you need to take? And you're talking about a life that people have built for the past 20 years, hoping and dreaming for a better future not for just themselves but their children as well. And all of a sudden, you're faced with the dilemma of choosing what you can take in a small bag that should not exceed more than 10 kgs that you can carry. It's extremely, extremely difficult.

FADEL: So you tried three times, and three times, you were unable to get inside the airport.

SYAVASH: I made it to the airport, but through 13 hours of facing extreme, extreme misery and challenges - being pushed and shoved, have to sit down in a pool of sewage water, dragging myself and my family a couple of inches towards Abbey Gate at Camp Baron (ph) that we were told to get to. So that was very, very difficult. And the ordeal was something that my children and my wife couldn't take anymore. I had to stand up and tell the guard there that I'm turning back. And I joined hundreds of people who were going back away from the airport, so I joined them and left for home the first time.

FADEL: And we should note that Abbey Gate is the gate that was targeted by a suicide bomber.

SYAVASH: Unfortunately, unfortunately, yes. Something terrible happened that day. And on my second attempt, I was inching towards the Abbey Gate. But again, spending more than 18 hours, I couldn't get in, so again had to leave. And then people that I've worked with as a journalist throughout these 15, 16 years, former colleagues, they found a safe passage for me through a latter (ph) Eastern Europe. But unfortunately, that too couldn't happen. We spent, like, more than 26 hours on a hot bus that didn't had windows to open, and we couldn't open the door because people would just rush in pleading, begging to be allowed into the bus. And we couldn't. And then there was a threat of attack, so we were asked to leave. So we had to go back home and become so hopeless and so tired and so exhausted, not knowing what to do. My mind just went numb. I didn't know what to do. All I was thinking was the future of what will happen.

FADEL: Are there options?

SYAVASH: We are hopeful that countries have mobilized - France, U.K., Germany, USA itself. They have been talking to the current regime to allow safe passage to those who have documents and those who wants to leave the country. We're still hoping. We are still - because like I said, we need to cling to that hope. We need to think that something better will come, something better will come. Hold on. The night is very dark, but there is a dawn. There will be a daybreak, so that hope keeps us going.

FADEL: Syavash, thank you for your time today. And please keep us updated. We hope for your safe passage out of Afghanistan.

SYAVASH: Thank you so much. Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.
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