No Means House, Episode One: Life and Loss of life


When the Afghan authorities collapsed final summer time, Summia Tora, Afghanistan’s first Rhodes scholar, used her connections to get her father out. However her efforts to evacuate a longtime NGO employee named Hamid, his pregnant spouse, and their younger daughter led the determined household into the blast radius of a lethal suicide assault.

Transcript

A fast warning: This episode consists of descriptions of violence. Please pay attention at your discretion.

The Airport 

[Sounds of crowds at the Kabul airport and an explosion.]

Hamid: My eyes have been burning. I couldn’t see anybody. My ears may solely hear the crowds. I attempted to open my eyes to learn about my spouse and daughter. I couldn’t open my eyes. I shouted their names with my eyes closed.

Summia Tora: A couple of 12 months in the past, I met a person I’ll name Hamid. He and 1000’s of others have been attempting to go away Afghanistan after the federal government collapsed and the Taliban took Kabul.

Hamid and his household have been navigating via the massive crowd exterior of the Kabul airport, attempting to succeed in one of many checkpoints, when he heard a loud explosion.

Hamid: The ensuing wave hit me within the face and threw me into the group.

Summia Tora: He was about 20 meters, or 60 ft, from the gate the place the American army stood.

Hamid: I don’t know what number of minutes or seconds I spent in there.

Summia Tora: Disoriented, Hamid didn’t understand how a lot time had handed or what was happening till he was capable of open his eyes.

Hamid: And realized that an explosion had taken place. At that second, American forces started firing. Their capturing was so intense that I couldn’t carry my head up. The bottom was filled with blood and human organs.

Summia Tora: An estimated 170 Afghans have been killed by the suicide bomb. 13 U.S. service members have been additionally killed within the assault.

Hamid: My spouse was lacking among the many wounded and killed.

Summia Tora: The explosion and ensuing chaos separated Hamid from his spouse and 7-year-old daughter. He discovered his spouse within the crowd and pulled her nearer to him to guard her from the gunshots. However he couldn’t discover their daughter.

Hamid: And I looked for her with my eyes very desperately. Till I discovered her among the many crowd, screaming scaredly and lined with full blood and flesh. The capturing stopped a couple of minutes later. I ran to my daughter to hug her.

[Theme music]

Summia Tora: I’m Summia Tora, a human rights advocate. That is No Means House, a manufacturing of The Intercept and New America.

On this four-part sequence, you’ll hear tales that have been discovered, developed, and reported by Afghans like me, who’ve been pressured into exile.

Our tales mirror what we noticed with our personal eyes and what we and our households have skilled firsthand for the reason that U.S. army pulled out, the Afghan authorities collapsed, and the Taliban took over final summer time.

That is Episode One: “Life and Loss of life.”

[Theme music ends]

I’m going to let you know about how I met Hamid, however first I have to let you know a bit bit about me and Afghanistan.

Final June, I watched from afar because the Taliban seized territory.

Deborah Lyons (United Nations Particular Consultant): Greater than 50 of Afghanistan’s 370 districts have fallen for the reason that starting of Might. Most districts which were taken encompass provincial capitals, suggesting that the Taliban are positioning themselves to attempt to take these capitals as soon as overseas forces are totally withdrawn.

On July 2, U.S. troops all of the sudden and quietly pulled out of Bagram Air Base, the sprawling outpost about an hour’s drive from Kabul that had been their principal army hub for the reason that battle started 20 years earlier.

On the time, I used to be ending a grasp’s diploma in public coverage on the College of Oxford, the place I’d been finding out since 2020 as Afghanistan’s first-ever Rhodes scholar.

Sitting in my room in Oxford, studying about territory falling to the Taliban and the deaths of Afghan safety forces and civilians, it all of the sudden hit me that my household needed to get out. We’re ethnic Uzbeks, one of many minorities that has traditionally been persecuted in Afghanistan. The Taliban are primarily Pashtun, the nation’s largest ethnic group. However it wasn’t nearly ethnicity. My household would have been on their radar already, due to me.

I’d labored on a menstrual hygiene undertaking for teenage women in Afghanistan — the nation’s former first girl, Rula Ghani, had inspired it — and once I received the Rhodes scholarship, it made worldwide information.

Mary Louise Kelly (NPR): When Summia Tora heads to Oxford College in England this fall, she’ll be making historical past — the primary Rhodes scholar from Afghanistan.

Summia Tora: I used to be fairly positive the Taliban would ultimately come after my household. Would my father be persecuted? At the moment, we didn’t know for positive.

For my household and plenty of different Afghans, this was an outdated story. Each time the federal government collapsed, or there was a battle, you had to determine once more the place you match into the facility construction and whether or not you would survive.

CBC Information “The Nationwide” (Dec. 27, 1979): Good night. Soviet troops fought pitched battles within the streets of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan in the present day. It was a part of a profitable effort to exchange a pro-Moscow president of Afghanistan with a brand new chief who’s much more pro-Moscow.

Summia Tora: In 1979, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and put in a communist authorities. Many Afghans needed the foreigners out. Some joined the mujahedeen: so-called freedom fighters, funded and educated by america, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and plenty of different international locations aligned in opposition to the Soviet Union. And there started a decadelong battle to drive the occupiers to go away.

Greg Dobbs (ABC): Across the nation, insurgents have captured their first provincial capital, a metropolis within the northeast — an incredible psychological blow to the federal government. And elsewhere, additionally in accordance with Western diplomatic sources, guerrillas are mining highways and inflicting actual hurt on the Russians.

Summia Tora: After 10 years, the militants lastly succeeded in forcing the Soviets out, however not earlier than the combating killed 1 million civilians, along with tens of 1000’s of mujahedeen fighters, Afghan troops, and Soviet troopers.

CBS: The American-made Stinger anti-aircraft missile is credited with turning the tide of battle. Armed with the Stinger, the mujahedeen neutralized Soviet airpower.

Summia Tora: When the mujahedeen factions took Kabul in 1992, they couldn’t agree on the best way to share energy. The factions have been managed by completely different ethnic teams — Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks — they usually began combating one another.

CNN: Kabul, Afghanistan. As soon as a metropolis of roses and minarets, now a scene from hell [sounds of gunfire]. That is Kabul after the Soviet withdrawal.

Summia Tora: That’s when most of my household, and plenty of others, fled. My mother and father went to Pakistan, the place my siblings and I grew up as refugees. Within the Nineteen Nineties, once I was a child, a bunch of fundamentalist spiritual college students and clerics emerged from Kandahar province, which borders Pakistan. They turned generally known as the Taliban.

BBC: There was an incredible stir in Kandahar. We adopted the crowds to a mosque within the metropolis middle. The Taliban had been holding an meeting of mullahs from throughout Afghanistan. Now the outcomes have been about to be made public. A holy battle was introduced in opposition to the federal government of President Rabbani in Kabul. The pinnacle of Taliban, Mullah Omar, was declared to be the amir, or chief of all Muslims in all places.

Summia Tora: After coming to energy, they imposed harsh legal guidelines that introduced some measures of safety to Afghans, who have been being robbed, raped, and killed by criminals and members of the warring factions. However the Taliban went on to impose their violent model of Shariah regulation on the remainder of the nation.

C4N: A 12 months after they seized management of Kabul has raised additional considerations in regards to the plight of ladies. They continue to be strictly segregated and banned from colleges and workplaces. Assist companies are struggling to manage in a rustic which can also be within the midst of civil battle.

Summia Tora: My dad says he was one among a dozen ethnic Uzbeks to attend Kabul College in the course of the Soviet-backed regime. He was not capable of full his engineering diploma due to the unrest within the Afghan capital.

Sayed Tora: [words muffled]

Summia Tora: I can’t hear you. You’re blocking the mic. You need to —

Sayed Tora: OK.

Summia Tora: Now I can hear you.

Sayed Tora: Do you pay attention?

Summia Tora: That’s my dad, Sayed Tora.

Summia Tora: What have been you doing in the course of the Soviet regime?

Sayed Tora: I used to be doing my internship, telecommunication ministry, in that point when the Russians invaded Afghanistan.

Summia Tora: My dad was doing a telecommunications internship when the Soviets have been combating in Afghanistan. My mom grew up in a extra distant a part of the nation and couldn’t full her schooling as a result of her household couldn’t afford it. However in Pakistan, my mother and father labored laborious and made positive that their 4 youngsters bought the schooling that they had solely dreamed of.

After the U.S. invasion in 2001, my household lived between Pakistan and Afghanistan, touring backwards and forwards continuously. I left the area in 2014 to attend highschool and faculty in america, returning for visits once I may.

Final 12 months, because the Taliban was gaining floor, my older brother and sister have been attending medical college in Pakistan. And my mother and father have been again in Afghanistan, together with my youthful brother. In late July, I started in search of methods to get my household to america.

My father — a longtime dealer of fruits, nuts, and different items between Afghanistan and the Center East — had labored with a subcontractor to the U.S. Company for Worldwide Growth. I spent two determined weeks attempting to determine which visas or applications may assist him and gathered the required paperwork. Then, one among my classmates instructed me that he’d heard the Individuals on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul have been busy burning paperwork.

CNN: There have been paperwork that have been burned — labeled paperwork. They have been additionally eliminating something that might be used as anti-American propaganda, equivalent to American flags or something that had a seal of the U.S. Embassy on it.

Summia Tora: My father was nonetheless in Kabul on August 15, once I woke as much as the information that the capital had fallen to the Taliban.

Al Jazeera: We’re simply going to convey you these reside and unique photos right here from contained in the presidential palace. What you’re looking at proper now’s Taliban fighters contained in the presidential palace.

Summia Tora: I scrolled via the information on my telephone. The Afghan president had boarded a helicopter and flown overseas together with his household. The Taliban have been throughout Kabul, together with my neighborhood of Kart-e-Say. My mom and brother had made it out to Pakistan, however my father, my uncle, and plenty of associates have been caught.

A few of my associates came to visit, and we began writing emails to everybody we may consider: the White Home, the State Division, the Pentagon, Congress, the Justice Division, members of the British Parliament, the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul.

In contrast to 1000’s of different Afghans attempting to go away the nation and watching helplessly from exterior, I had entry to the Rhodes community, the place everybody knew somebody who knew somebody. I used to be painfully conscious of how fortunate I used to be.

All this time, folks have been sending me messages saying issues like, “I hope you’re OK.” I didn’t open any of them. I used to be scared. I assumed, if I get emotional — if I cry — I’ll get distracted from what I have to do.

Just lately, I requested my dad what he was considering earlier than Kabul fell.

Summia Tora: I keep in mind we had a dialog, and also you thought that there can be a peace deal occurring between the federal government and the Taliban. That didn’t occur.

Sayed Tora: Sure, sure.

Summia Tora: How did you’re feeling? As a result of — have been you shocked when the Taliban simply took over utterly?

Sayed Tora: Yeah, we’re shocked it has occurred in a short while. We anticipated for six months, one 12 months, the federal government and their army forces and different teams will resist Taliban. However sadly in a short while they gave up all issues. And I’ve expertise about Taliban. I perceive them as a result of I’ve skilled them in Mazar-e-Sharif and Kabul and different locations.

Summia Tora: What do you imply by skilled?

Summia Tora: That’s when my father began telling me one thing he’d by no means instructed me earlier than. It occurred in 1998, the final time the Taliban was in energy.

He was heading to the northern Afghan metropolis of Mazar-e-Sharif. He occurred to be touring with the Crimson Cross. The Crimson Cross was heading there as a result of the Taliban had killed an estimated 2,000 folks, probably extra, in accordance with a Human Rights Watch investigation.

There have been additionally studies from the town’s neighborhoods like Ali Chopan, the place girls and women have been kidnapped and raped. Most people they killed there have been Hazaras, an ethnic minority that has confronted centuries of discrimination and violence in Afghanistan. The Crimson Cross employees warned my dad that he too might be detained and killed in Mazar.

Sayed Tora: I’ve been in Mazar-e-Sharif with Crimson Cross. In Mazar-e-Sharif, they killed folks in Ali Chopan village within the metropolis of Mazar-e-Sharif. And I listened in my ear, they declared from Nationwide Radio of Afghanistan, Mazar-e-Sharif, they’ll kill all of the folks of Hazara ethnic. They are saying “tashayyu” as much as their infants.

Summia Tora: They’d kill Hazara infants too, he stated. I knew I needed to get my father out — not only for his security, but additionally to guard my capability to talk freely about what was happening in my nation.

We labored for days. Certainly one of my associates, an American Rhodes scholar, spoke to somebody excessive up on the State Division. They instructed her my dad wasn’t a precedence as a result of he hadn’t labored with the U.S. army. I noticed my father was not going to be evacuated. That’s once I sat down and cried for the primary time.

Quickly after that, I bought a name from Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic group I’d been working with on Rise, an academic scholarship for younger youngsters. They instructed me they have been organizing a constitution airplane, they usually may be capable to add my father to the manifest.

Summia Tora: I do know it was very tough so that you can go away. There have been instances you didn’t need to go away, and I needed to persuade you to go away. Why did you find yourself deciding to go away?

Sayed Tora: Oh, due to the destiny of my daughters and my sons. And I satisfied to go away, however I’ve determined to be there, close to to Afghanistan, and we should always do one thing to persuade the Taliban, to make resist [laughs]. We must always not surrender for them. Don’t go away our folks. OK. However, I don’t know, I’m fortunate I’ve a daughter such as you. And so they satisfied me, and I made a decision for his or her destiny — my daughters’ destiny and my sons — I’ve to go away Afghanistan.

Summia Tora: On August 21, my dad bought a name. He was instructed to go to the Serena, an upscale resort in Kabul. Individuals from the U.S. Embassy greeted him there. It was very organized.

They took him on a bus and thru a gate contained in the airport at evening. A non-public constitution airplane flew them to Qatar after which on to Albania. My father had made it out.

The following day, a Taliban fighter confirmed up at his home, in search of him.

Summia Tora: Would you could have stayed if I hadn’t satisfied you to go away? Since you did face dangers of being persecuted.

Sayed Tora: Yeah, yeah. I’ll go to possibly some areas there was no Taliban. After which I’ll take refuge to neighboring international locations. Possibly I’m going to Tajikistan or Pakistan, someplace like this.

Summia Tora: Individuals heard of our success in getting my father out and began sending us names of others who wanted assist. The record grew longer and longer.

And that’s how I met Hamid.

No Exit

Summia Tora: Final summer time, Hamid was residing in Dasht-e-Barchi, a neighborhood of western Kabul. Like many who reside there, he and his household are Hazaras: the ethnic group my father had talked about who had been massacred by the Taliban the final time they ran the nation. Hazaras have confronted widespread discrimination and among the most extreme violence from the Taliban and different armed teams, just like the Islamic State.

Hamid isn’t his actual title. He labored for a French nonprofit group, known as Geres, that centered on local weather and environmental points. I can’t title him as a result of he and his colleagues should be at risk.

Someday in August, I bought a textual content message from an American I’ll name Michael. He works with households nonetheless at risk of being focused by the Taliban, so we’re not utilizing his actual title both. Michael had lived in Afghanistan for some time and labored with Hamid. Now he was again in New York, and he needed to assist his former colleagues get out.

Michael: Once I first went there, he was one of many first folks to welcome me. And truly, he was one of many those who all the time saved an eye fixed in your security and ensuring that you simply’re fed, you’re sleeping effectively, all the pieces else goes effectively.

Summia Tora: At Geres, Hamid was a undertaking coordinator, working with the federal government and NGOs.

Michael: The one factor that was virtually seamless whereas we have been there was the truth that we all the time felt secure. And we all the time had a vacation spot; the vacation spot was all the time prepared for us. All as a result of folks like Hamid have been laying the groundwork weeks earlier than, days earlier than. And I by no means understood how they saved up with all of the work that we have been doing, nevertheless it was actually unimaginable.

Summia Tora: Michael needed our recommendation about the best way to get Hamid and the opposite Geres employees out. We have been capable of get Illinois Democratic congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi to write down a letter for Hamid. By this time, I knew just a few folks within the U.S. army and folks working as safety contractors who have been attempting to assist Afghans.

Like my father, Hamid had lived via a long time of battle. Like my father, he believed that with schooling and laborious work, and by attempting to rebuild Afghanistan, he would be capable to give his daughter a distinct life.

In mid-2018, after a decade working with nationwide and worldwide companies in Afghanistan, Hamid and his spouse left to review overseas.

Hamid: After finishing our grasp’s levels in late 2020, we returned again to nation with full hope and plan to serve our group. However our optimism sadly didn’t final lengthy, and the Taliban all of the sudden reached the gates of Kabul capital. That’s the reason we deliberate to go away Afghanistan quickly, as I had the expertise of the Taliban regime in 1995. And in addition we have been very anxious that we would be the second goal of Taliban as we collaborated with overseas companies.

I despatched various emails to all companies that I labored with and requested them for assist and help.

Summia Tora: He checked his e-mail each minute, ready and hoping for a response. On August 15, the day Kabul fell to the Taliban, Hamid was at house.

Hamid: Round 8 o’clock within the morning, a buddy of mine known as me and stated, “The Taliban have entered Kabul. And the president and different authorities officers have fled the nation.” I used to be very shocked. And upon listening to this information, my worry and nervousness multiplied. Truly, nobody knew what to do and what would occur subsequent. The state of affairs was very insane, and we felt an expertise — actually helpless.

Summia Tora: After that decision, Hamid went exterior to go searching, and all of the retailers have been closed. Hamid anxiously scrolled via his emails, hoping that somebody would attain out to assist. Assist needed to be coming, proper? As a result of Hamid has spent most of his life attempting to rebuild Afghanistan.

Late that night, his telephone pulsed.

Hamid: A buddy of mine known as me at evening and stated, “Let’s go to the airport. All of the persons are leaving.” I stated, “I don’t have a visa, I can not go anyplace with this.” He stated, “Individuals go away the nation with electrical energy payments and vaccination playing cards, however you could have at the least a passport.” Certain, I’ve a passport. However I can not go anyplace with this. I didn’t imagine him, however later I seen that he was proper: Individuals boarded the airplane with no doc and left the nation, and plenty of fell from the wings of the planes, disappeared, and died.

Summia Tora: Hamid wasn’t positive the best way to get out, so he determined, for the second to enter hiding.

Hamid: Certainly one of my associates stated, “It’s good so that you can relocate and alter your home of residence at the least.” So I moved to a different a part of the town, the place I, my spouse, and my little daughter to be safer. After which we selected a nickname for all us, not be simply recognized by Taliban spies and militants as an individual who labored with overseas companies in Afghanistan.

Summia Tora: Hamid selected faux names for himself, his spouse, and his daughter. He lastly heard from Geres that he and his colleagues can be shortlisted for evacuation.

Hamid: They ask me to ship my particulars and people of my household record shortly. Then they despatched me a letter mentioning that I ought to print it out and take my household to airport and present them to French troopers, and they’ll assist us to get overseas. So I printed out the letter and conceal it within the backside of my socks.

Summia Tora: In the course of the evening, they headed to the airport. Alongside the best way, Taliban fighters beat and harassed him at numerous checkpoints.

Hamid: Once we arrived on the first checkpoint, one of many Taliban troopers pointed his gun on the taxi to cease after which requested me, “The place are you going?” I stated, “We are going to hospital.” He motioned for the gun to go.

Passing via dozens of checkpoints, we arrived to an enormous crowd known as Camp-e-Baran in Persian, “Rain Camp,” and one of many entrances to the airport on the time, as if all of the folks had come there. The women and men have been attempting to get into the airport with their youngsters shortly. It was crowded in all places, with girls and youngsters standing in lengthy strains with frightened and anxious faces, and a few sitting on the facet of the highway.

Summia Tora: Taliban troopers have been combating and whipping folks.

Hamid: They beat everybody. They shot in entrance of the folks and known as folks, “You might be infidels, mercenaries, and overseas spies.”

My daughter cried when she heard gunshots and loud noises. The one choice that I had, I comforted her and lied to her that they’re capturing movies and making motion pictures like those you could have seen on TV earlier than, it isn’t actual.

Summia Tora: Hamid’s spouse was three months pregnant, one thing none of us knew on the time.

Hamid: It appeared actually unattainable to stroll via the group with a pregnant girl and a bit woman, I used to be afraid my daughter can be crushed by folks.

Summia Tora: Hamid had a letter of help from the French group he labored for, the letter from Rep. Krishnamoorthi, and different documentation.

Hamid: And we have been unable to enter the airport via the French forces as a result of they didn’t take note of our letter and didn’t enable us to enter the airport.

So I attempted to succeed in the American forces from the group, I bought into the river filled with rubbish, and I confirmed the letter to an American feminine soldier. She took the letter and browse it after which merely stated, “That is faux. And you bought it from Fb.” She refused and likewise she didn’t let me to clarify that this isn’t faux one. It’s actual.

One Ultimate Try

Summia Tora: At 2 a.m. on August 26, I used to be in Oxford, glued to my telephone. I had barely slept all evening, sitting in the lounge ready to listen to whether or not Hamid was going to strive once more to get into the airport. I saved scrolling via my WhatsApp, sending messages to determine the place he was.

He and his household had spent two nights exterior the airport. They hadn’t been capable of get in, and had lastly determined, the evening of August 25, to return house.

At 8 a.m. Kabul time, my contacts on the U.S. army messaged me to say that Hamid may need an opportunity to get into the airport. So I scrambled to determine if he and his household may make it there.

Summia Tora (voice memo in Dari): Are you able to please inform us by way of voice be aware what your plans are for in the present day? Are you planning to go to the airport? Please tell us.

Summia Tora: I stated, Are you able to please let me know by way of voice be aware what your plans are for in the present day? Are you planning to go to the airport? Please tell us in order that we are able to plan accordingly.

About half-hour later, I heard from Hamid. He stated they have been heading to the airport, going via checkpoints and hoping they’ll make it in time.

Hamid (voice memo in Dari): I’m at present within the automotive going towards the placement that you simply talked about. However I’m not positive if we will make it or not, however we’ll strive our greatest.

Summia Tora: My contact on the bottom requested for pictures of Hamid and his household; the troopers on the airport gates wanted to know what they have been carrying. I requested Hamid to ship particulars I may move alongside to assist them get via the gates.

Summia Tora (voice memo in Dari): Salam, it’s good that each of you’re going there collectively. May you attempt to attain the airport by 9 a.m. as our man/contact particular person is ready for you? Please be sure to take a photograph displaying what you and your loved ones are carrying and ship it to us.

Summia Tora: I appeared on the pictures Hamid had despatched. This was the primary time I’d seen their faces. He and his spouse and their daughter have been standing below the scorching solar exterior the airport, holding colourful umbrellas. It was 86 levels. They wore conventional Afghan garments, and their eyes have been bloodshot and drained. It was all too actual. I had taken duty for his or her lives.

I waited to listen to again from Hamid. I’d later be taught that he had been stopped once more on the Taliban checkpoints. They reached the airport. 1000’s of individuals have been standing exterior. I appeared once more on the picture they’d despatched: His daughter was smiling — however there was worry in her eyes.

I attempted to think about what it should be like for this little woman seeing her mother and father completely helpless. I considered my very own childhood journeys with my household throughout the Torkham border from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

Being at Torkham as a child was scary. The border was chaotic, and should you bought separated from your loved ones, you have been misplaced. American troopers patrolled that border, too — one way or the other, they have been all the time those who determined who may go into and out of my nation.

Survivors

Summia Tora: We tracked Hamid’s location minute by minute, relaying to him directions on the best way to attain the gate by chatting with U.S. army folks and attempting to make sure that after they bought there, somebody would be capable to assist them get inside.

My buddy Jhamat Mahbubani was in school with me. He took the lead in guiding Hamid and his household — and a number of other of his colleagues, additionally touring with their wives and youngsters — towards the gate and the U.S. Marines. Hamid despatched Jhamat a voice be aware, asking for some assurances.

Jhamat Mahbubani: One thing alongside the strains of like, “It’s essential promise us that if we get to the gate, your contacts will come out and get us. As a result of should you go any additional, there’s an actual probability our youngsters will die.” Their youngsters are like 5, 9 years outdated, issues like that. And he wanted that assurance. And this can be a man who had been, you already know, unsuccessfully tried to do that for 3 earlier nights, proper? And we actually believed this was the prospect to get out. It was one of the best probability we had seen over the previous week.

So we spoke to our U.S. Military contacts about it, about sort of giving this assurance. And so they stated one thing which I assumed was fairly a great evaluation at time. I imply, they weren’t gonna give any blanket assurance or one thing, however I believe the response from one among them was, “It’s essential ask the household whether or not the chance of staying in Afghanistan is larger than the chance of attempting to flee right here.”

Summia Tora: Hamid and his household pushed via the crowds in a sewage canal till they have been 100 meters from Abbey Gate. Hamid had the congressional letter we’d helped him get. He was attempting to point out it to the troopers exterior the airport.

It appeared like that they had an opportunity. They have been solely 30 meters away from the gate now, and nearer to reaching an American soldier who, in accordance with our army contacts, may get them contained in the airport.

That’s once we misplaced them.

On WhatsApp, when a message is distributed, a checkmark seems beneath it; a second checkmark exhibits up when the message is acquired. Rapidly, late on the afternoon of August 26, Hamid stopped studying our messages.

There was no second checkmark.

Jhamat Mahbubani: However I don’t keep in mind considering that that they had made it at any level. So I simply keep in mind being on this twilight zone, like ready for an replace, they’re so shut. Sign was horrible.

Summia Tora: Thirty-three minutes later, our contacts messaged to say {that a} bomb had exploded close to the place Hamid and his household had been standing.

Jhamat Mahbubani: They textual content they usually say, “We’ve heard a bomb and probably capturing has occurred on the location.” So instantly, your coronary heart is sunk, to absolute zero. The thought that they might have come to hurt is totally devastating.

Summia Tora: We requested for the precise location. Our U.S. army contacts despatched us a 50-meter radius of the blast, primarily based on the data that they had on the time. We thought Hamid and his household needed to be damage, if not lifeless.

His telephone wasn’t working. They requested us to maintain attempting.

Jhamat Mahbubani: And I keep in mind trying via Twitter — there have been pictures taken on the website of the bombing — to look via the pictures of the lifeless, to see if any of them appeared like Hamid or his household or the youngsters. And there have been like movies of individuals being like helped out and so forth. And I used to be checking the face of everybody, and we have been desperately attempting to succeed in them.

I truthfully thought we led them to their deaths. And it was the worst. I felt like [we had] utterly failed them.

Hamid: All of a sudden a loud explosion of smoke and dirt rose, and the ensuing wave hit me within the face and threw me into the group. I held my breath for a second, for a second; my eyes have been burning. I couldn’t see anybody. My ears may solely hear the crowds, however I nonetheless didn’t know what occurred. I attempted to open my eyes to learn about my spouse and daughter. I couldn’t open my eyes. I shouted their names with my eyes closed.

Summia Tora: At 7:24 p.m., our U.S. army contacts wrote to say that Hamid and his household have been secure. They have been leaving the airport.

Hamid’s spouse and daughter had been so near the explosion that they’d been lined with blood and gore from these killed and wounded throughout them.

Jamila (translated voiceover): I felt like I used to be in a foul dream. I can’t actually keep in mind what occurred. It was my husband Hamid who bought me out of there.

Summia Tora: They made their means house.

Hamid: After the group subsided, we left the scene in garments filled with dust and blood and naked ft, however we have been nonetheless afraid that the second or third explosions would happen. We nonetheless don’t inform the reality to our daughter, however she nonetheless asks questions on homicide and human blood that she has seen there, for which we don’t have a passable reply to her.

We have been unable to go away the nation, and we nonetheless reside removed from the general public eye and in worry.

Summia Tora: Subsequent time on No Means House.

Leila (translated voiceover): I couldn’t sit right down to take off my sneakers, however I may really feel that my toenails have been coming off. I needed to handle my youngsters. I had fallen in a number of locations, and my eyes have been closed. All I may hear was my daughter and son crying. 

Mir Abdullah Miri: When the Taliban seized Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, Leila’s husband, Aziz, shortly began planning the household’s exit from the nation. Their try to go away would irreversibly change their lives — and mine. 

Leila (translated voiceover): Aziz stated, “Had I recognized you might be like this, I wouldn’t have married you.” He even instructed me, “Even when I get killed, I received’t return house. Bury me in Iran subsequent to my father’s grave if I die. I received’t return to Afghanistan.”

Summia Tora: No Means House is a manufacturing of The Intercept and New America’s Afghanistan Observatory Students program.

This episode was written and reported by me, Summia Tora.

Our government producer and editor is Vanessa Gezari.

Supervising producer and editor is Laura Flynn.

Candace Rondeaux is the director of Future Frontlines Program-New America and undertaking editor.

Ali Yawar Adili is the Afghanistan Observatory Venture Coordinator.

Jose Olivares additionally helped with manufacturing.

Rick Kwan blended this episode. Zach Younger composed our theme music. Authorized evaluate by David Bralow. Reality checking by Emily Schneider.

Awista Ayub is the director and undertaking supervisor of New America’s Fellows Program.

Voiceover on this episode by Humaira Rahbin.

To be taught extra, go to theintercept.com the place you will discover transcripts and present artwork. Philipp Hubert is our visible designer and Nara Shin our copy editor.

Roger Hodge is the editor-in-chief of The Intercept.

If you wish to give us suggestions or have any questions, e-mail us at [email protected]

Thanks, a lot, for listening.



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