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Thursday, September 23, 2021

Health visas help Afgan family leave the country in the nick of time

An Afghan man recounts how he and his family members travelled to India on health visas just before Taliban captured Afghanistan.

Written by Kiran Parashar | Bengaluru |
Updated: August 23, 2021 11:57:08 am
Had I waited for one more day my name would have been among the dead, says a 32-year-old bank manager from Kandahar region who left Afghanistan in late July. (Representational image by Praveen Khanna)

Health visas valid for six months which were issued to Afghan nationals by the Indian government has helped as many as 25 members of an extended Afghan family flee Afghanistan in the nick of time before the Taliban took over of the country on Aug. 22.

“Had I waited for one more day my name would have been among the dead,” said a 32-year-old bank manager from the Kandahar region who left Afghanistan in late July after sensing the Taliban take over when three of his bank colleagues went missing.

Since arriving in India in early August, he has been joined by as many as 25 members of his extended family in the last few weeks. The family, which belongs to the Achakzai Pashtun tribe, managed to get health visas to travel to India by paying hefty sums to middlemen in Afghanistan.

After landing in Delhi late July and early August, the group travelled to Bengaluru and are now staying with a few Afghan students who are studying in Bengaluru on student visas.

“At the end of July when this crisis began in Afghanistan, three of our friends from the bank were killed by the Taliban. When we saw this problem, we made a plan to go to a foreign country. Then, we tried to get visas and in the end we got visas to come to India,” said the man speaking from the Bengaluru residence.

According to him, people who were working with the former Afghanistan government are a prime target of the Taliban and many people have gone missing around the country. Many are suspected to be dead, including his three colleagues from the New Kabul Bank in Kandahar.

He said that the Achakzai tribe was among those being targeted by the Taliban after being identified as enemies. The man said that one of his brothers-in-law, who was a police officer, was among those targeted by the Taliban.

The man said people in Kandahar had started hearing stories of attacks on government employees and politicians in his native Spin Boldak district many days before he fled the country.

“My relative who was a politician fled from Spin Boldak district but the Taliban killed two of his sons just because they were sons of an Afghan government politician,” he said.

He said that visas were being sold for as much as USD 600 by agents as the Taliban began taking over the country after the exit of US troops.

When The Indian Express met the man in Bengaluru on Friday night, he did not want to reveal the location or identity of his friend in Bengaluru for fear of his friend’s family getting into trouble in Afghanistan. The friend, who is a student, fears for his wife and parents who are stuck at Kabul and are yet to find a way out of the country, he said.

The man arrived in India at the end of July with his wife on a health visa and later arranged visas for the rest of his family members who reached New Delhi on August 13.

“What I saw when I was there was that 10-20 Taliban would arrive to meet the head of a town and they would assure capture without a fight. But later, they started butchering people. No one realized that the Taliban would advance towards Kabul at such a quick pace,” he said.

On Friday night at the residence where he is currently lodged, the man received a call that said a relative was missing and is suspected to be dead. The student who has accommodated the man in his Bengaluru home said three of his friends and batch mates who studied in Bengaluru were feared dead because they were working for the government.

“My visa is going to expire in the next six months. I am not going to Afghanistan till the Taliban is wiped out of my country. Or else I will be going there to die in the streets, it is very clear,” the man said. “As a young kid, I have seen Taliban atrocities in Afghanistan. There was targeted bombings and killings and 3-4 people used to die in a week. After 9/11, the US attacked the Taliban and we hoped that we could rebuild our lives,” he said.

“We want the UN and human rights groups and India to focus on refugees who have come from Afghanistan and try to help those who are in Afghanistan. It would be good for humanity. No one is safe in Afghanistan and Afghanistan needs help. There is danger for everyone from this situation in Afghanistan,” he said.

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