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Thursday, September 16, 2021

Among Afghan refugees outside UNHCR office, woman assaulted by Taliban

Outside the UNHCR office in Vasant Vihar on Monday, she says, “I do not want the same to happen to my children. I want to go back to them, or I want them to come here...”

Written by Ashna Butani | New Delhi |
Updated: August 31, 2021 7:15:18 am
Outside the UNHCR office in Vasant Vihar. (Photo: Abhinav Saha)

Khatera Hashmi (32), an Afghan refugee living in Lajpat Nagar, has a faint recollection of what happened on June 7, 2020, the day she lost her eyes. She says she was assaulted by the Taliban while she was three months pregnant, and then her eyes were removed because she saw their faces. Outside the UNHCR office in Vasant Vihar on Monday, she says, “I do not want the same to happen to my children. I want to go back to them, or I want them to come here…”

Khatera used to work for the Afghan police in Ghazni before the assault in June 2020. She and her husband suspected that Khatera’s father, who was a Talib, had a role in ordering her assault as he did not approve of her working as a policewoman.

In November last year, Khatera Hashmi and her husband came to Delhi so she could undergo eye treatment. They were unable to return. Her five children are back in Ghazni. (Photo: Abhinav Saha)

Last November, the couple came to India for two reasons: because they had been shaken up by the attacks, and because they hoped that Khatera could undergo eye treatment in India after it had been unsuccessful in Afghanistan. At the time, she was seven months pregnant. Doctors in Delhi too said there was no way for her to see again. In January, she gave birth to her youngest child at Indraprastha Apollo in Delhi.

According to her medical reports, she was assaulted on her head, chest, neck, and back. The records read that she had ‘eviscerated eyes’ and that she underwent a craniotomy. While the scars on her face have healed, she has been on medication for a frontal headache. Another medical record stated that she had a ‘history of bullet injury with some operative history’.

Holding her daughter, Bahar, she says, “This is not the life I had imagined for her… I speak to my five other children; three sons and two daughters, over the phone. They cry a lot… they ask me to come back to get them.”

The children continue to stay in their rented home in Ghazni. She says, “I used to get compensation of around 13,000 AFN (Afghan Afghanis) from the government because I served in the police force… but ever since the Taliban came, I have not been getting anything.”

She hopes to go back to Afghanistan or to a third country with her entire family. Her husband, Nabi (36), spends the entire day taking care of the baby. He says, “We came to India by ourselves… back then, we felt unsafe but we thought we would return to get our children after my wife’s treatment. Little did we know that the situation would worsen and we would not be able to go back.”

In Afghanistan, he used to work as a shopkeeper. They got their UNHCR refugee cards a few days ago. They have also been getting monetary assistance from a family in America.

Khatera says that while her mother and sister visit her children to help them with food, cleaning, and laundry, it has become tougher now: “My eldest son is 15. He takes care of the younger ones… he tells me that people with guns take rounds of the house. They are very scared of guns and want me to go back so that I can protect them.”

Several Afghans have been asking the UNHCR to help look for jobs for them or to send them to other nations with more opportunities.

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