He Worked for an American Company in Afghanistan. Now He Can’t Get Out.

“Help us. Facilitate the visa process. Send more airplanes to take the civilians who are in danger. Don’t let the Taliban do whatever they want to do.”

Aug 20 2021, 1:02pm

Since the fall of Kabul on August 15, Daud has had to change his home three times. He and his family went from shelter to shelter, like many others in Afghanistan, to escape the Taliban forces that took over their city and declared the country under their control.

“I didn’t feel that my family and I were safe, especially when I saw the news that the Taliban was going house to house, searching for people who worked for the government, the embassies, and NGOs. I feel everything is fucked up—my future, my past, my country, my people, my dreams,” Daud told VICE World News. Daud’s name has been changed for his protection.

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Now, the 26-year-old is living in an undisclosed location, separate from his parents, who are at a different safe house.

Daud is among the many Afghans hiding from Taliban forces, since the Islamic fundamentalist group overthrew the U.S.-backed government on Sunday. Many of those in hiding worked for the government or are employees of companies that worked with foreign contractors. This fear has been heightened by a UN report that said the Taliban are conducting door-to-door raids.

Daud worked for an Afghan company that was registered in the United States. The company worked with the U.S. military, NATO, and relevant embassies, but Daud says he was not part of that division. Despite this, he is still targeted by the Taliban.

A US soldier points his gun towards an Afghan passenger at the Kabul airport in Kabul on August 16. Photo: Wakil Kohsar / AFP

This technicality—of working for a U.S. company, though not directly on military projects—means Daud is stuck in Afghanistan.

“The only way to leave the country is to leave illegally. But it is too risky,” Daud said. “I’ve asked so many authorities. Most of them are asking if we have worked on any U.S. military projects. Most of them from the U.S., UK, and Germany are asking if we have worked with them directly. Since I didn't, I'm not eligible [for evacuation].”

Daud said he applied for an Indian visa this week, but he has yet to receive a response. “I’m more scared than I was yesterday. I’ve been preparing to leave this shelter too, and hopefully leave the country. But even if they (the Indian Embassy) issue visas, I would not be able to leave. Even though I have a passport, my parents and my sister do not.”

Daud and his family have been targeted by the Taliban since the beginning of this year. On one occasion, he said, an unidentified gunman opened fire at him and his father while they were driving. Bullets hit their vehicle, but luckily no one was hurt. 

In July, Daud received a phone call at his office from an unknown number. The voice on the line told him to head to the National Security Intelligence Centre offices immediately. “There, a man who I didn't recognise handed a letter to me and asked me to leave immediately. I returned home confused, and opened the letter.”

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From the letter, Daud learned that intelligence reports had identified a threat against him and his father. “I was targeted for my work with the company.” He said his father was targeted because Daud’s siblings studied abroad and have been falsely accused by the Taliban of spreading Christianity.

After learning about the threat from the Taliban, Daud quit his job in the U.S.-registered company and started looking for countries where he might seek refuge, including Sri Lanka and Canada. 

“I thought it would be easy. I mailed the Sri Lankan Embassy in Kabul but they said that they had closed the visa application until further notice. I also heard that they can deport us at the airport. So I couldn't find an easy way to reach Sri Lanka, and that's a risk I cannot take.”

To date, Sri Lanka has given temporary asylum to about 150 Afghan refugees, many of whom have been in the country since 2015. Its government has yet to announce whether it would take in new refugees.

Earlier this week, as the Taliban closed in, thousands of Afghans lined up for passports in hopes of a chance to flee, fearing the loss of their freedoms under Taliban rule. The passport department remains closed. Others skipped that step altogether and headed straight to the airport. Harrowing scenes have since emerged of young Afghan men chasing planes on the tarmac and clinging to U.S. military planes in desperation, as the aircraft took off. Several have died after hanging on to planes and falling from the sky.  

“Help us,” Daud asked of the international community. “Facilitate the visa process. Send more airplanes to take the civilians who are in danger. Don't let the Taliban do whatever they want to do.”  

Daud said Afghanistan’s neighbors, or any country, should open their borders to asylum-seekers. “It's their basic right to find safe shelter. The situation is unstable. My life is in the hands of people who have never seen [Kabul] their whole lives. At any moment, anyone could be killed.”

Follow Kris Thomas on Twitter.

Tagged:

Taliban, worldnews, world conflict

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