If you have ever wondered what hell might feel like, ask an Afghan refugee. While you may not personally know any, there is a good chance that if you live near a major urban center in Europe, Canada or the United States, you’ve unknowingly passed someone on the street or stood in line behind someone at the grocery store who has recently fled Afghanistan.
In Washington, where I live and work, it is not uncommon to run into an Afghan immigrant who just a few months ago had a house, a car and a salaried job in Kabul that would have been the envy of their neighbors, but left the country with only the shirts on their backs after the Taliban took power. It is entirely possible that your most recent Uber driver was Afghanistan’s former minister of finance or a former military interpreter. What many of these Afghans would probably tell you is that they would not wish the lives they are now living on their worst enemies.
I have been thinking about this a lot over the past several weeks as I listened to the stories of the Afghan journalists, researchers, university professors and NGO workers I have been working with as part of an initiative designed to help ensure that stories by Afghans about Afghans and Afghanistan continue to be told and heard around the world. A few hours before I sat down to write this column, I spent the morning listening to one Afghan after another wrestle with the hard truth of escaping their country while their mothers, fathers, siblings, husbands and wives are left behind.