From sleepless nights to uncertainty, a reporter shares her experience of leaving Afghanistan during the Taliban takeover, voices her concerns for what she left behind, reveals her hopes for the future
By Kamryn Sobel
On Wednesday, November 17th, the Center for Women & Gender Equity (CWGE), Women’s & Gender Studies Program, Ethnic Studies Program, and the Muslim Student Associated (MSA) partnered to host journalist Khwaga Ghani, who shared her experience of leaving Afghanistan during the Taliban takeover, voiced her concerns for what she left behind, and revealed her hopes for the future. Dr. Myrna Santiago and Sharon Sobotta facilitated the discussion.
“It was chaos,” Ghani stated, as she explained the beginnings of what it was like to leave Afghanistan. “There were so many people on the street trying to get in the airport, so many cars. It took us around 3 to 4 hours to get to the gate.” After staying two nights at the airport waiting for a military plane to take her and her family to Qatar, they finally made it onto a plane with approximately 400 other passengers. In the airplane, Ghani described that there were no seats, leaving the ground of the plane as their only option. After reaching Qatar in 4 hours, the passengers remained inside the hot plane for another 7 more long hours. As another day passed, a soldier reported to her and the other people with her that they had to leave. Her next stop was Germany, meaning another week of waiting for where they would be going next.
After waiting for where their next step would be, Ghani and others arrived in Washington D.C., and from there, they were sent to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, where they stayed for a month and a half and were given Humanitarian Parole status. Ghani shares she still isn’t clear on what that status actually means. “We went through so much. But I can’t complain, we had all of the emergency facilities that we needed. The only thing that was missing from us was clothes,” said Ghani. Fortunately, Ghani explained how she had family in California who were able to send them clothes, as the weather in Wisconsin was cold with rain. Ghani continues with her worries about others that were in the same position, “How are they going to survive? There were many people that didn’t know the language and they didn’t understand rules, regulations, and how this country is, geographically. Nothing.”
Dr. Santiago asked, “What are your main concerns for the ones who are here and the ones who couldn't leave?” To this, Ghani answered that financial problems for her family still remaining in Afghanistan were her biggest worry. With not being able to work and provide, “everyday life has become miserable in Afghanistan.” Without financial stability, she worries that those in Afghanistan will die from starvation or from the weather changing in the colder months. She continued to voice her concerns for the people remaining in Afghanistan in terms of the lack of medical supplies. “They don’t have medicine. They are out of everything.” Ghani worries about medical attention for her diabetic mother, as her insulin supply is running low and they are struggling to find more.
Life in the last 20 years in Afghanistan consisted of women having the opportunity to speak up and be educated about their rights, however, Ghani states that there was a need for another 20 years of American presence in order for them to keep progressing as a country. Currently, after the Taliban took over, women are now scared of even leaving their houses without a male companion. “Everything fell apart so quickly,” said Ghani. Life for Ghani and her family now consists of uncertainty and wishes that there was a better system for those arriving in the United States from Afghanistan. “We don't know where we are and who is going to help us. They do not have any information when they come here.”
“I am trying to understand everything. I have a hard time thinking about what I went through and what I left behind. I hope that one day I can go back and do what I was doing,” Ghani concluded.
For those wondering how to help, the Afghan Relief Effort asks those with an extra cell phone to donate them, as Afghan refugees are in need of a form of communication. Posting on social media and donating to the various fundraisers are also helpful, as this supports those suffering directly.
Madison Sciba '24,