‘There’s No bin Laden; No One Will Come to Our Rescue’
“I’m just stepping out of a funeral meet. It was my friend and his brother. They were killed in the blast,” was his first sentence.
I woke up to the news of Kabul Airport blast. I have been following the developments for a while now and it was unsettling, to see those images.
I thought of calling Abdul. Wondering what emotions he and the people of his country would be going through, I dropped him a message. “Let’s speak for a few minutes,” came his prompt reply.
“I’m just stepping out of a funeral meet. It was my friend and his brother. They were killed in the blast,” was his first sentence. I wasn’t expecting that. There was a silence of few seconds before I could gather my thoughts and ask him anything else.
Abdul Yasini moved to the United States in 2003. He came from Jalalabad, the fifth-largest city in Afghanistan. Although he lives in Fremont with his wife and four children, he has family back home and the past few weeks have been nothing less than a nightmare.
This is a common story of almost all the Afghans across the world. While some are living in fear and facing a crisis first-hand, others are living in panic and uncertainty about their loved ones back home.
When I had spoken to Abdul for the first time a few days ago, he had completely debunked the idea that this time around Taliban, by any means, was a ‘changed’ and more moderate version of itself.
“Almost everyone I have been speaking to, have expressed a common fear – ‘we don’t know whether we will be alive in the next 24 hours,’” he added. “The past 20 years had raised a common Afghan’s living standard. They were living a life that could be called modern by all terms. In a span of few weeks, that standard has come down to mere survival.”
As I spoke to him, I stood at my bedroom’s window. Across the street I could see tiny tots running and playing in their pre-school – making full use of the sunshine that had been avoiding the island for a while. I quietly observed the street and its calmness. But this was a mid-morning calm, where life was going on as usual for everyone around. It was very different from the calmness that had taken over Afghanistan. Abdul was giving me a picture that was beyond my comprehension.
I drifted a bit, into my own thoughts. Perhaps the closest I have ever come face to face with uncertainty is now, when I’m unable to travel and see my family. Yet there is a comfort – that all is well. There is a sense of grounding, that whenever I go back, it will be the same place called ‘home’.
“Home? We are stateless!” Abdul’s voice suddenly brought me back to the moment.
“They (Taliban) are just keeping a soft stand and waiting for the US Army withdrawal. The forgiveness announcement is a mere farce. The real inside news is that the local commandos are just waiting for August 31st. As soon as the US pull-out completes, they will begin their target killing – of doctors, journalists, teachers, NGOs and everyone else who helped the Afghan government and supported the US presence. “
“You must have seen those images of evacuation chaos?” Without waiting for me to respond he continued, “But I am telling you, you would have never seen people like them in your life.”
He was right. I couldn’t deny that. And I hope I never do.
It was as if he read my thoughts. “We don’t have any hope. It’s the beginning of an end. How do you live in a country, where the Governor of Afghanistan Central Bank is an obscure Taliban leader (Haji Mohammad Idris), where the minister of health, and the education minister are not people with experience but Mullahs? In the early years, I studied in a religious school. Some of these Taliban were my classmates. The current leader of Taliban in the eastern province was a year senior in school.”
“Oh! So why..” he didn’t seem to hear me and continued with his flow of thoughts. “I eventually moved to different places. My perspective broadened. They continued studying strict Islamic laws. Over time, they branded us as betrayers.”
There was silence. Emotions were flaring. I felt anger and sadness. I wanted to ask him so many questions. But I could guess the answers to a lot of them.
“1.5 years ago, Afghanistan’s story was about happiness and hope. Taliban was almost defeated and the government was positive. I went home a few months ago. By then tension and gloom weighed heavily in the air. I had to cut-short my stay and return on June 28th 2021, he continued. “They will go back to hanging and killing. Schools will turn into madrasas. Women, who do not wear the burkha, will be beaten up and men, who shave their beard will be put in the jail. This time it will be the darkest it has ever been for Afghanistan.”
“Worse than the first time?” I softly asked.
“Worst time ever in Afghanistan history. It will become a home for terrorist activities. These terrorists will eventually begin to seep into Europe, India and the US. I always say that it was because Osama Bin Laden came to Afghanistan, the world came together in Afghanistan to get rid of him and finish the Taliban. But this time around, there is no Osama Bin Laden. So, no one will come to our rescue. We are left all alone.”
I was short of words and decided to leave it at that.