‘I feel helpless, useless and hopeless’: diary of an Afghan evacuee

Mursal Rasa Jamili, a 23-year-old final-year university student and English teacher in Kabul, was evacuated to the UK with her two sisters. Here she explains what happened during her last days in Afghanistan.

Sunday 22 agosto

I can’t stop my tears thinking about my motherland. Our leaders abandoned this country to a terrorist group and I feel helpless, useless and hopeless.

It’s the ninth day since the fall of Kabul and the ninth day that we only had rice for lunch because it was the only food we could prepare at home. The groceries were open but it was not safe for a young woman to go out.

We did not feel safe at home either. The Taliban are searching houses. We knew that our house is no longer a safe shelter for three young girls with no mahram [male guardian] and we were scared they would enter our house and apply their interpretation of Sharia to us. We decided to go to a trusted neighbour’s house during the nights.

But in a chaotic situation no one wants to take responsibility. We felt like we were disturbing them, and became unwanted guests. So we decided to just try to cope with the situation and stay in our own house. We locked all the doors and windows in the warm weather of Kabul and could hardly sleep during the night.

My sister, who loved her job, disse: “I cannot use my education and take part as an active member of society. I consider life under Taliban control as a kind of enslaved life, because they limit my freedom.”

The Taliban already assigned some of the key positions in their government, but there are no women in their political organisation.

Lunedi 23 agosto

Every morning I receive tens of messages from friends, everyone is searching for a way to escape this country and have a normal life. Two of my friends left the country today. “It is not a happy trip,” they said. The new government is about to take shape and there is no respect for minority groups. They announce in Shia mosques that they have to pray five times a day, even though that is not the Shia custom, and they gathered all the imams in a mosque to instruct them in the Taliban interpretation of Islam. Some people were trying to continue with normal life, but for me and my sisters it was impossible.

It’s very hard to wait for a terrorist group to make decisions about our lives. We no longer had the right to choose what to wear, where to go, what job to do and even who to talk to unless the Taliban decreed it. Of course, I never wanted to live such a life, with no job, no university and nothing to live for any more.

We migrated to Pakistan when the Taliban took over Afghanistan for the first time, when I was only six months old, but we returned to Afghanistan the first day the republic was announced.

I never thought it would happen again, but now, for a second time, I have decided to leave my country. Our tragic history is repeating, but this time we do not have our father by our side, and I did not want my sisters to be harmed because of me. [The Taliban last week assassinated a relative of a journalist when they couldn’t find him.]

The UK has always been my favourite country and I always wished to continue my education there, but the news I would be evacuated there did not make me very happy, because I have to leave my country in the hands of people who are not going to build it up. They are eliminating women from society and taking away the little freedom that they achieved.

Tuesday 24 agosto

It is hard to explain what we went through to enter the Baron hotel [the UK processing centre for evacuees]. My sisters and I didn’t sleep the night before because we had problems contacting the embassy, to confirm we were eligible for evacuation. We had already packed, so when we finally got the email, we left home with rush and called a friend’s father to act as our dad and take us to the airport. It is risky to be without a mahram on the streets.

All the main roads to the airport were controlled by the Taliban and international troops, but Zahra Joya, an Afghan journalist who made the journey the day before, guided us by a back route where there were no Taliban checkpoints yet that day.

When we arrived, thousands of people were waiting around the airport hoping to get close enough to the foreign soldiers to show them their documents. Some didn’t even have documents but still hoped to get a flight. The army had no choice but to fire in order to control the huge crowd of people. There were babies among the families and there was a high possibility that they got harmed.

My sisters and I had an email from the British embassy and we were trying to find the British army to show our documents. There was no way to access anyone without going through a dirty canal. Everyone was just wading in so they could reach soldiers from the country that gave them documents, to hand them in.

It was such a bad situation that we even began to feel disappointed we had come to the airport. We stayed in the canal for four hours to get our documents checked.

Finalmente, we could get out of the canal and reached the door of the Baron hotel with the help of two women from the British army.

When we got there, the soldiers were so tired, like us. Some of them were sleeping on the ground and some of them were still busy trying to help Afghan families. I really appreciate all the hard work and support of international armies for saving Afghans.

The British were so kind to us and welcomed us to the camp. There were hundreds of people waiting to see if they were eligible to be evacuated.

It was a very tiring day. We were sleepy, hungry, and tired. Hundreds of families, many with young babies, went through the same process, in the hope of saving their lives.

mercoledì 25 agosto

A sleepless night. It was one of the most difficult nights in my life, we were trying to sleep on the rocks in a very tight and crowded place. There was nothing to eat. Kind British soldiers were providing food for children.

The families around us were asking: “Who are you travelling with? Who is the man of your family?” When we told them that we women were together on this journey they were surprised. As it is unusual for girls to travel without a mahram, they were staring at us like we did something wrong.

There was a long queue and hundreds of families were waiting to hand their documents in to be checked. Many people were sent back home as they did not have the required documents. After waiting more than 26 hours a British officer came and checked our documents. “Take this away and go back home,” he immediately said . It was very disappointing.

We lost our hope for a safe life. But I did not give up. “Sorry sir, but we have received this email from the British embassy,” I said. He replied, "Bene, everybody has it. It is not a valid document.”

Sfortunatamente, some people abused the evacuation process and entered the airport with fake emails, that is why they thought our email was fake. But I was sure that my documents were valid, so I explained the reason that I received the email to a different officer. He checked and reviewed our documents and told us to wait for an interview.

To avoid crowding, only the main evacuee from each family was supposed to stand in the queue, with other family members staying further away. When I came to the line, some men said: “Please tell your men to stand in the line.” “We are the principals of our families,” I replied. The people around us started staring at us. It made me worry even more about living in Afghanistan. Even Afghan civilians cannot accept that women can live independently. tuttavia, a British soldier who was there to control the people gave me his seat and talked to me with respect.

We waited for approximately four hours, and finally after that our evacuation was accepted.

Our flight was from Kabul to Dubai at 6pm. It was the very first flight I have had in my life and it was on a military plane. Hundreds of Afghan families were on the plane, some of whom had never been on one before, like me.

It is so hard to leave our country without saying goodbye to friends. I cannot forget the places where I passed my whole childhood. I hope one day I can return to my country and find it safe and free. I knew leaving my country and people in a very tough situation was a selfish act but it was the only way we could stay safe.

Thursday 26 agosto

On my way to the UK. I have been thinking of everything I left behind to save my life. Students who may not have an education any more and live the life they deserve. My university friends who struggled more than 16 years to have a degree and their dream job, but there is no hope for them any more. I was looking at some lucky Afghan women and children who were evacuated by the British government.

But all my thoughts are with those little children who will be trained by a terrorist group. The women in the military who have lost their jobs. The women who were beaten by the Taliban in Kabul just a few days after it fell. Those orphaned children who lost their fathers in this war. They do not have any breadwinner [now that women can’t work] e, rather than their education, I am worried about what they will eat and where they will live.

As we were on the plane, I started talking with families around me. One person said: “I wanted my children to grow up with our own traditions but I could not let them die. So I had to take them out.”

The UK is safe and I love it but I am far from my motherland. I really wish we were lucky enough to have a safe and secure country, where we could stay and work to improve it.

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