Conflicts & War

Uncertainty forces educated Afghans to flee after Taliban takeover

Kabul, Aug 25 (EFE).- A generation of educated, elite young Afghans, which grew and shaped up during two decades of relative freedom, democracy, and exposure to the international community, is now being forced to flee the country amid widespread uncertainty as the Taliban have assumed control.

The so-called “brain drain” began earlier this month as the Taliban took over major provincial capitals before entering Kabul on Aug.15 and shutting down the entire government system and private sector.

Although the insurgents had promised a general amnesty, they have reportedly started going door to door to look for government employees, journalists, and those who worked or were in any way linked with foreigners in the past 20 years.

In some cases, the Taliban have allegedly killed, arrested, and beaten up such individuals, sending a wave of fear and uncertainty among the educated Afghan elite.

“A few days back, I was out for some work, and a Taliban fighter stopped me on the street and asked: Do not you fear God for wearing such clothes,” rights activist Raha Sizda told EFE in Kabul.

“I started stepping back, he was coming closer, until he saw the Tattoo on my hand and started to beat me with a metal wire. He threatened me that if I appear in public with such an outfit again, they will kill me,” she added, narrating how the fighter snatched the phone of a boy who was recording the assault against her.

The activist went into hiding after the incident. The Taliban have raided her house twice since then.

“I am now living hidden somewhere in Kabul. Although I know nothing is more beautiful than living in Afghanistan, I have to flee the country for my safety,” Sizda said.

She stressed women’s presence in Kabul and their role in society had “drastically decreased” since the Taliban takeover.

“Ninety percent of my (female) friends, who were working as journalists or rights activists, are currently hiding due to the Taliban threats and are waiting for the opportunity to flee the country,” said the activist.

Soma, a 28-year-old journalist, had to flee the region and seek refuge in Kabul after being “constantly threatened” by the Taliban for her work.

“They were blaming me for spreading propaganda (against the Taliban). They told me to choose one: staying alive or continuing my work to get killed,” said the journalist, who is trying to find a way to escape the country.

Such threats have led thousands of Afghans, including journalists, rights activists, professionals, and those who worked for foreigners, to flee the country, while others are still trying their luck.

IT expert Kaihan Arian, who worked for the interior ministry on a project contracted to the United States, has been trying unsuccessfully for the past week to flee to the US through the airport.

A massive crowd has prevented him and his family from entering the airport premises.

“I had an experience of 10 years, after this, who will run this complicated IT system for the interior ministry,” he told EFE.

Many other Afghans have tried to escape by road. The Kabul-Turkham highway towards Pakistan has witnessed a massive influx of refugees despite passing through multiple Taliban checkpoints.

One of them, Omar Ansari, told EFE at the Turkham crossing that access to the Kabul airport was “terrible,” which forced him to take the risk of fleeing through the road.

Ansari was relieved to have crossed into Pakistan with his wife and two children after waiting for eight hours at the border due to bureaucratic hurdles. He now plans to travel to Austria.

Even high-ranking government officials, including lawmakers and military generals, have been seen struggling to get evacuated from the country.

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