In Fremont, also known as ‘Little Kabul’, the Afghan-American community sleeps very little these days. The time difference between the multicultural Californian suburb and the real Afghan capital is half a day: when they just get up here, their relatives have already spent a whole day there. And the messages they read on their phones – after another short night of sleep – become more disturbing here by the day.
Zorah Aziz (32) woke up on Saturday morning to the news that her Afghan husband Nazir is in hospital. The couple married two years ago and since their last reunion last June, she has been pregnant with their first child for four months. As the husband of the US-born Aziz, Nazir (23) already received a visa in June 2020 to come and live in the US. But now that his country has fallen into the hands of the Taliban much faster than expected, he suddenly has great difficulty making use of it.
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“For the past two days, he’s been trying to get to the airport,” Aziz says, while dozens of other Afghan Americans in the school yard behind her prepare for a short protest march through Fremont. “He had already passed the Taliban checkpoints, and after endless pushing and pulling in the chaos, he finally reached the American gate. I urged him to always be polite to them. He did. He had all the papers with him. Even a print of the article Which [nieuwszender] NBC dedicated to me. But he wasn’t on the list, they said. And then the Americans pushed him out of line and he fell on his head.”
Mywand Zazay (29) also woke up on Saturday morning with disturbing news. His father, who fled to the US during the civil war of the 1990s, was visiting family in Kabul this summer when the advance of the Taliban there surprised him. As an (now) American citizen, there was room on an evacuation flight, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. He was able to report to the airport gate.
“But it is now much more dangerous for him to go to the airport than to stay at home with our family,” Zazay said in a room of the local Rotary club where he and other local residents are organizing a solidarity rally for later in the weekend. the preparation is. “So my father said, ‘Give my place to someone who needs it more’.”
The marches, vigils and other demonstrations to draw attention to Afghanistan are currently in rapid succession in the Bay Area between San Francisco and San Jose, which is home to some 100,000 people with Afghan roots. The American military withdrawal from their homeland was imminent, but the chaotic way in which their current homeland is carrying it out is provoking anger and bewilderment within the diaspora.
The most concrete demands made by the protesters currently concern the evacuation operation. The protest signs they carry on their march this morning enumerate: ‘Keep the airport open’, ‘provide safe passage’, ‘save our Afghan allies’.
President Joe Biden pledged Friday that the US will evacuate all US citizens who want to go home. And this includes “those Afghans who worked for us, served for us, or went to war with us.” Biden: “The US is keeping its promise to these people, and other vulnerable Afghans, such as women’s leaders and journalists.”
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But among the demonstrators in Fremont, those presidential promises a day later are hardly believed. There are still tens of thousands of potential evacuees in Kabul and the situation around the airport is highly unpredictable. “It may be that Biden really thinks that,” says Aisha Wahab, a councilor from neighboring Hayward, of her Democratic party colleague. “But when we see how quickly the Taliban have advanced in recent weeks, he must also understand that it is very difficult to make such promises.”
According to Wahab, who proudly presents himself as “the first Afghan-American woman to be elected to public office in the US,” American credibility is at stake. “We as the United States of America must protect our allies. The reason Afghans were willing to come and work for us, that we could recruit them, was because they believed the US government could flee to the US if things went wrong. We must keep our word.”
Zorah Aziz’s husband and Mywand Zazay’s father didn’t even work for the Americans. But if it proves impossible or too dangerous for them to get to the airport, that bodes ill for the former Afghan US employees, who have much more to fear from the Taliban. Zazay: “The Taliban have apparently become a negligible problem for the US. But not only can they grow – like cancer – we fail above all as an ally to the Afghans. That tears me apart.”
Aziz, who has just learned that her husband has been released from the hospital with a diagnosis of suspected concussion, is also bitter: “This is an ultimate betrayal. Just as the cowardly Afghan leaders – President Ghani first – are abandoning their people, so are we running away. Of course we had to get out of there once, but not like that?”
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