Hyderabad: On August 15, Noor Mohammed (29) had experienced what an independence day celebration in India felt like. Having settled here as a refugee from Afghanistan, it perhaps gave him a sense of belonging in Hyderabad, where he has been living since five years.
However, never in his life did he think that his happiness in Hyderabad would be usurped by intense sadness. As he celebrated India’s independence day, Noor began reading devastating news of the Taliban taking over Afghanistan on Sunday. A native of Mazar-i-Sharif city, it was particularly tougher for Noor as he had served in the Afghan police once and then fled his homeland due to a threat from the Taliban.
“I don’t know what is even happening in my own hometown from the last eight months. Leave a cell phone signal, there is nothing. For me to be able to talk to my family members there, they will have to travel as far as one would have to from Hyderabad to Andhra Pradesh, just for signal. My brother is also back home and I don’t know what is going to happen,” said Noor*, who now lives in Hyderabad with his son and wife, all as refugees.
Hyderabad has a small but colourful community of Afghans who reside here. Some have come as students, while others like Noor came earlier as refugees. Lucky ones have even found employment in local establishments. “In just one day, Afghanistan went 20 years backward,” remarked Hamid*, another Afghan refugee. He added that many students from his country who are here now don’t want to go back due to the current situation.
On August 15 (Sunday), after the Taliban began marching into Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, photos of hapless citizens trying to flee the country flooded social media. Afghanistan is witnessing a severe humanitarian crisis due to the now concluded civil war, which has amounted to great distress among the Afghan civilians. A fierce battle transpired between the Taliban and Afghan forces as the US started evacuating its troops from the country nearly after two decades.
The Taliban, after its victory, is now calling the country ‘The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’. Due to the situation, the US military has taken over security of the Kabul airport to execute the massive airlift of foreign diplomats and citizens after the Afghan government collapsed on Sunday, reported new agency IANS.
Those evacuation flights are processed on the separate, military, side of the airport. The US military extended its footprint to the civilian terminal, where thousands of desperate Afghans, many of whom used to work for the American forces, continued to flock as the victorious Taliban combed Kabul for those who had collaborated with the West.
“We can’t do anything. We are like refugees now and we hope that India accepts us. We are afraid. Ashraf Ghani (former President) sold off Afghanistan. It’s now a big problem. The Taliban has asked students studying abroad to wave their flag now,” said Masood Ahmed, an Afghan student studying in Hyderabad. For the time being, he is safe in the city, but like many of his peers, he is also scared to go back.
(*Some names have been changed in this report to protect the identity of the people. Usama Hazari also contributed for this news report)