In 2001, when the Taliban’s rule over Kabul ended, Yonus Akbari was only around a year old. “I have no memory of what the situation was like then, but my parents and the older generation do. Things had developed so much up until now, but the sudden change is shocking,” Yonus tells The Better India.
The 22-year-old is a BBA student in a university in Goa, and has only one more year to go before he finishes his education and has to return to his home country.
But as 15 August 2021 saw the Fall of Kabul, and as the horrific events in Afghanistan continue to unfold rapidly before our eyes, Yonus and students like him in India are scrambling to figure out what the future now holds for them and their loved ones.
“I came to India two years ago on a scholarship offered by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). This is my final year,” he says. “I lived in Kabul before I came here. My parents live in the Daykundi province, which was earlier secure, but now has fallen under the Taliban as well.”
Yonus’s parents are safe for now, as the Taliban have said that they won’t harm the locals. “But what will happen in the future, no one can say,” he notes. “I’ve barely managed to stay in touch with them, and it’s mostly through others living in the area who are able to give me updates about how my parents are doing. I’ve spoken to them once in the last two weeks, as there’s very poor connectivity and network there.”
“What’s happening in Afghanistan right now poses a threat to all of us — from children to senior citizens. In the last two decades, many things changed — people’s mindset, their expectations from life, their lifestyles, social interactions, and the way we saw women and their own agency. But all of that has come to a sudden standstill. It’s impossible to lead that life under a regime that is so conservative and traditional,” he says. “There are no exceptions to who will suffer.”
“Women and little girls are scared to death,” he adds.
Yonus has many friends and extended family back home. “Those who could flee did so. But most of my family is still there. They’re all praying for their lives,” he says. “Now that the Taliban have regained control over Kabul the question that remains for those back home is, ‘Will our lives be spared? Or will we be killed?’. The other concern is that we’re travelling back 20-30 years. Our culture and values had evolved. The Taliban’s thinking, meanwhile, is nowhere close to that. Some of my friends and family are trying to leave. But most don’t have any other choice but to stay. We just hope and pray for the best. Nothing can be done.”
After Yonus’s final year ends, he has to start thinking about where he will go from here. “I live with three friends of mine. Lately, we’ve been discussing what we’re going to do after we’re done with the course. We’ve put years into studying hard and trying to change our country, but what’s going to be the outcome? How will we be treated now when we return? No one can answer these questions. Absolutely no one expected such a situation to arrive in such a short time. It took one week for our whole system to collapse,” he says.
He adds, “Other countries have just sat and watched the Taliban take control of our nation. Those who have left cannot come back. Afghan students cannot remain here just waiting around for an opportunity that will help us. We probably have to support ourselves in this fight. India can offer us a lot of aid to help us out of this dangerous situation. It can provide us opportunities and employment. But it all boils down to whether or not the nation wants to. How honestly does one want to help?”
How can we help?
- Pune-based NGO Sarhad, known for its work among Kashmiri students, has set up a helpline for Afghan students. For assistance, Afghans living in Maharashtra can send a WhatsApp message to 80070 66900 for any kind of assistance. (Source: Indian Express)
- IIT-Delhi has also launched a helpline for Afghan students at the institute. They can contact the institute at +91-011 26591713, +91-9811091942 or via email at email@example.com.
In this hour of crisis, IIT Delhi stands in solidarity with our students and alumni from Afghanistan. We are doing every thing possible to get the students return to the campus.
— V.Ramgopal Rao, Ph.D. (@ramgopal_rao) August 16, 2021
3. IIT-Bombay has allowed Afghan students to return to campus and resume their studies.
Meanwhile, many on Twitter are now volunteering services to provide accommodation, food, help with visa extensions, and so on.
Faculty and students at universities and institutes across India, what we can do is reach out to Afghan students on our campuses, and let them know they can reach out to us.
Let’s be unobtrusive but visible in our support. 🇦🇫 🇮🇳
— Karishma Kaushik, MBBS, MD, PhD, Mom (@KaushikLab) August 16, 2021
Chennai Twitter, do your thing.
If anyone has contacts of Afghan students in Chennai needing help regarding visa extensions or anything else, please kindly DM. Certain good-hearted samaritans I know are planning to get them help.
Please amplify. Thank you. #AfghanistanCrisis
— Archishma (@archishmaaa) August 17, 2021
Delhi Twitter, an Afghan who is here on a study visa stares at uncertainty as her visa expires in a week and she is no position to head back to Kabul for obvious reasons. If any one can help her get the visa extended or suggest alternate options. #Afghan_lives_matter @msherzad
— Debayan Roy (@DebayonRoy) August 17, 2021
If any Afghan individual or family in Delhi NCR is looking for assistance with accommodation or food, it will be absolute pleasure to help them.
— Nadir Raza (@MortyNaughty) August 17, 2021
SFI is assisting Afghan students in India. This is a favourable & timely gesture by a students' federation to help out the students from Afghanistan. Hello g them with their visas & pursue their education without hindrance is a necessity now.
In solidarity with Afghan students.
— Arya (@RantingDosa) August 16, 2021
Edited by Yoshita Rao