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Afghan evacuees in UAE recall horror, tears as they fled Kabul

Anjana Sankar /Abu Dhabi
anjana@khaleejtimes.com Filed on August 28, 2021
Meelad Usmani and his wife Washma with their niece. KT Photo: Ryan Lim

The families are currently in the Emirates Humanitarian City in Abu Dhabi


The frenzied crowd was pushing its way through the Kabul International airport when Meelad Usmani, 28, managed to reach the gate.

He was helping his brother Mashood and wife Romika who were desperately trying to escape Kabul after it fell to the Taliban on August 15. In his arms, he held the couple’s two-month-old baby as they elbowed ahead, inch by inch.

“I don’t know what happened. We got separated in the chaos and the baby was with me,” Usmani told Khaleej Times from the Emirates Humanitarian City in Abu Dhabi, where he is staying temporarily after he was evacuated from Afghanistan.

His newly-wed wife, Washma, kept stroking the child that was fast asleep on her lap, oblivious to the fact that her world may never be the same.

Hundreds of Afghan families were evacuated by the UAE in coordination with US forces over the last week. They are currently being hosted at the Humanitarian City.

More than 8,500 Afghan citizens are in the Capital in transit to their destination countries and the first batch of evacuees has already flown to the US, according to the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. The UAE has helped evacuate more than 28,500 people so far.

Recalling the horror at the airport, Usmani said he started calling out his brother’s name but his screams were drowned out in the mayhem, as thousands like him tried to escape their war-ridden country.

“I was not supposed to be there. I went to the airport only to help my brother and wife get onto a plane. But fate had it that I flew with the baby and my wife instead,” said Usmani who was working as a security personnel at the US embassy in Kabul.

“I handed over the baby to the US army personnel and managed to call my father-in-law. I asked him to bring my wife to the airport. Maybe she was lucky. I think she was… We managed to board a flight and reach Abu Dhabi,” said Usmani.

He and Washma, who he married two months ago, are hoping the rest of the family can join them soon.

“We will take care of the baby. But we really hope she can be with her parents soon,” said Washma.

“Even if I were earning a few thousand rupees, I would have never left my country. But now there is no peace or law and order in Afghanistan.”

Families that Khaleej Times spoke to shared their tales of tears and desperation in leaving behind their home and everything they had.

Saifu Rahman Kohistani, 39, and wife Bibijan managed to escape Afghanistan with their 13 children. His eldest son Mirwais is 23 and the youngest daughter is five.

“I am relieved. I still cannot believe we are safe,” said Kohistani.

“My elder son was working with the US in their special task force. We were sure that the Taliban would come after us,” said Kohistani. “We never thought we would have to leave like this. But I will start a new life and work hard for my family in the US," he said flashing his US green card from his wallet. He had worked as a taxi driver in the US a few years ago.

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Recalling the risks the family took, Mirwais said they stayed in the airport for five days without any food or clothing.

“We could not bring anything with us. Not even an extra pair of clothes. All we wanted was to get out of the country,” Mirwais told Khaleej Times.

Most of the families are in some ways associated with the US embassy, having worked there as translators or clerks.

author

Anjana Sankar

Anjana Sankar is a UAE-based journalist chasing global stories of conflict, migration and human rights. She has reported from the frontlines of the wars in Yemen and Syria and has extensively written on the refugee crisis in Bangladesh, Iraq and Europe. From interviewing Daesh militants to embedding with the UAE army in Yemen, and covering earthquakes, floods, terrorist attacks and elections, she has come out scathe-free from the most dangerous conflict zones of the world. Riding on over 14 years of experience, Anjana currently is an Assistant Editor with Khaleej Times and leads the reporting team. She often speaks about women empowerment on her Facebook page that has 40,000 plus followers.





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