“As soon as the Taliban took over, we quickly abandoned our home,” her parents told BuzzFeed News in an email. Their neighbor had told them that militants had broken into their house while they were out and searched the place, asking about them. On the day the Taliban swept through Kabul, Wajdi saw TV reports of people going to the airport, and there were rumors of Afghans getting on planes just by being in the right place at the right time. It was dangerous, but given the threats, staying behind could be worse.
Wajdi’s parents decided to take the risk. Along with their young children, they left everything behind except a few bags of food and drink, asking a neighbor to keep an eye on the house. For days they stayed in the areas near the airport, sleeping rough so as not to miss any opportunities and moving from door to door based on rumors they had heard about where the people were allowed in. Waving papers, they shouted for help to foreign military officials and interpreters. Nobody would intervene.
They continued to run out of water at the airport, Wajdi said. “Only people can pass – it’s just you with your documents and your children. No bags, no luggage.
The family spent days camping near the airport, praying to be evacuated. (BuzzFeed News is withholding their names to protect their safety.) Wajdi spent her nights on the phone with her mother, who was charging a cell with a power bank. Both of his parents kept saying the same thing, “Son, there’s no progress.” He spent his days phoning everyone who could possibly help him: the foundations that had supported him, journalists and friends in the United States and Europe.
When the terrorists bombed Thursday at Hamid Karzai International Airport, killing at least 170 Afghans along with 13 US service members, Wajdi’s family was outside the airport – but at another gate, where they could hear the explosion but not feel its impact. They are hidden again. Wajdi heard about the bombing on the news – he immediately tried to phone but could not reach his parents. “I was so worried,” he said. Eventually, when the cell signal returned, he was able to make contact.
Now that the United States has withdrawn from Afghanistan, Wajdi is trying to hold on to hope. The Taliban promised to allow Afghans who hold visas for other countries or foreign passports to leave, but Wajdi does not believe them.
“It’s very hard,” he said. “When you see the situation on television, when you see the future of your country, it looks really dark. You think, what if one day your parents were executed before your eyes?
These days, his mind is filled with assumptions. Wajdi deplores the overly optimistic projections made by the Afghan and American governments on Kabul’s stability. “That’s why my mum and dad didn’t have passports yet,” he said. “We were not mentally prepared to leave the country.” If Wajdi hadn’t trusted a friend in the Afghan government who sought to allay his fears that the Taliban would quickly defeat the army, he might have seen it coming.
“It feels like we’re still in a dream,” he said. “How is it possible that things are changing so quickly? I never thought it would all fall apart so easily.