Saturday morning (21), a former interpreter of an American company in Kabul, Afghanistan, plunged into a large mass of people in front of an entrance to Kabul airport, accompanied by her family.
As she was pushed and nudged in the crowd, she moved forward as best she could, desperate to get a flight out of the country for all those accompanying her: her husband, her two year old daughter, her disabled parents, three sisters and a cousin. .
Then the crowd grew. The whole family was pushed to the ground. People were trampling on them, the woman recalls a few hours later.
She remembers that someone broke her cell phone and someone else kicked her in the head. She couldn’t breathe. He tried to tear off his abaya, a long loose tunic.
Struggling to her feet, she searched for her toddler daughter. The girl was dead. He had been trampled by the crowd.
“I felt sheer terror,” said the woman, interviewed by phone from Kabul. “I couldn’t save my daughter.”
After enduring 20 years of war and suicide bombings, Afghans have faced a new and terrifying reality in the six days since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan. Her world has been turned upside down, and something as prosaic as a trip to the airport now inspires terror. Just stepping outside can be scary and disorienting.
Across the country, Afghans who aided the US military effort in the country or the former US-backed Afghan government are in hiding. Many have received death threats from the Taliban. According to human rights organizations, armed men go door to door, search for “collaborators” and threaten their families.
A 39-year-old former Afghan interpreter for the US military and Western aid agencies was hiding in a residence in Kabul with his wife and two children on Saturday. He said the Taliban called him, saying, “Face the consequences. We are going to kill him. “
The interpreter said that after an exhausting, desperate and unsuccessful attempt to overtake the armed Taliban and uncontrolled crowds at the airport, in the interior day, he gave up trying to find a seat on a flight outside the country. . He spends his time calling and texting American soldiers and officers in the United States who are struggling to find ways to save him and his family.
“I am losing hope,” he said over the phone. “I think I might be forced to accept the consequences.”
Another former interpreter for US forces was also in hiding in Kabul on Saturday. He, too, revealed that after two appalling attempts to get to the airport, he had given up all hope of arranging a flight for himself, his wife and their young son.
“I lost hope,” he says. “I have lost faith in the US government, which keeps saying ‘we are going to evacuate our allies’.”
“Evacuation is impossible,” he added.
Afghans who concentrate in crowds outside the airport entrance tend to panic whenever a tear gas canister is dropped or shots are fired into the air to disperse the crowd, said the former interpreter.
“Your child can be stepped on,” he said. “If the United States gives me the entire universe after losing a child, it won’t be worth anything.”
In Kabul’s Shar-e-Naw neighborhood, an Afghan journalist said she finally ventured out onto the street after hiding inside her home since last Sunday (15). Seeking to obey rules randomly imposed by the Taliban on women, he wore an abaya covering his entire body.
“It was so heavy it made me sick,” she said. In the streets “there is no music, there is nothing. The only thing you hear is the Taliban talking on TV and radio.
The reporter said her sister-in-law appeared in front of male relatives with her hair uncovered. Her brother-in-law kicked her aggressively and said, “Put on your damn veil!”
A policeman who had worked for the Interior Ministry was also in hiding and saw Taliban fighters combing the ministry’s headquarters, examining documents containing detailed information about the employees. He feared the Taliban would come looking for him.
“Kabul has become a city ravaged by fear,” he said.
In Kunar province, in the east of the country, a reporter said on Saturday that he was hiding inside his home, fearing to show his face. When the government controlled the province, it reported atrocities committed by the Taliban. Now the Taliban are in charge and are looking for journalists, he said.
“The Taliban will kill me and kill members of my family, just like they killed my colleagues before,” the journalist said.
In the eastern province of Khost, another journalist was also in hiding, moving between his home and that of a relative. Taliban fighters were advancing rapidly through the province in vehicles provided by the United States and taken from Afghan security forces, he said. The journalist feared the Taliban would find him soon.
“I have no more hope,” he said. “Pray for me.”
In Kabul, the woman whose little girl was killed said the family were able to bring the child’s body back for burial. Crying, he remembered how he tried to calm his daughter’s fear every time gunshots were heard in his neighborhood: he told her they were “firecrackers” – firecrackers.
“My baby was such a brave child! She commented. “When she heard the gunshots she would scream ‘firecrackers!’.
The woman said it was unlikely that she and her family would attempt to return to the airport in the next few days. “I would rather die with dignity here at home than die so unworthy.”
In the Kabul house where the 39-year-old former interpreter was hiding, hope was dying. The man said he was grateful for the persistent efforts of the American soldiers he had served in the past to help him, but concluded that there was nothing they could do.
“If the Taliban kill me, okay, I can accept it. I’m just asking you to spare my children, ”he said.