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Thursday, September 16, 2021

‘What will happen to my sister?’ Afghan students in India worry about kin back home

Away from the rapidly unfolding events in Afghanistan, these students are safe in India; but that can’t be said for their families in the strife-torn country since the Taliban have taken over

Written by Alifiya Khan | Pune |
Updated: August 16, 2021 4:34:13 pm
Taliban fighters outside the main gate leading to the Afghan presidential palace, in Kabul. (AP)

“They are the enemy of women. What will happen to my sister? She is a teacher. If the Taliban come to know, they will do anything. They are going around asking for such women. If they come to know my father allowed one daughter to come to India and that another daughter is a teacher, they will not spare him,” wails 22-year-old Aziza Sawari.

The MBA student at the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) hails from Ghor province in Afghanistan, one of the worst affected areas in that country since the Taliban have taken over. Her parents, four brothers and sister are still stuck there.

“I am scared for my family. I have not spoken to them in a week. I don’t know what has happened to them. I lost my country, lost my hope for a future. The world is watching, we have become useless to them,” she says.

Sawari came to India four years ago to do her BBA at Sinhgad College. Her sister is only 20 years old. “She teaches at a local school and had applied for scholarship to go abroad for studies this year. But now I just hope she is safe. Growing up, the Taliban burned down our school many times because it had girl students, and we would rebuild it. They were in hiding back then. Imagine what they will do now,” she says between sobs.

Unable to get in touch with her dear ones, Sawari’s main sources of information are the videos she has been watching on Facebook and Instagram, besides disturbing messages from friends studying in Kabul University.

“My generation never saw the Taliban. Mother told me stories growing up. I couldn’t believe it, but all those nightmares are our reality today,” she says, trying to come to terms with the rapidly unfolding events back home.

Like her, 21-year-old Farzana Amiri has been uneasy. The international business student in Pune has had no contact with her parents and a toddler sister who live in Maidan Wardak province.  Another sister and two brothers who are in university in Kabul have been calling her, their cries incessant.

“I am the eldest. My siblings in Kabul and are at risk and there is no one to look after them. My sister is a university student who also works in a TV serial. Can you imagine what they would do?  My father has a government job. He is the principal of a co-educational school,” says Amiri, who has been in Pune since 2019.

“We heard the local people are helping the Taliban to trace people who have government jobs. The locals know everything. If the Taliban find out that my father sent his daughter to study in another country, they won’t spare him. I worry whether he was able to hide. My mother and two-year-old sister are with him,” she falters.

Amiri also fears that she may bring harm to her family. A few months ago, she had started a YouTube channel to chronicle her experiences in India. “In India, the kind of freedom you have… boys and girls are equal, girls have the right of speech. We girls cannot even express ourselves there. I got very motivated and started posting videos, hoping one day my country becomes like this too. Those videos are posted everywhere, what if they get reported to the Taliban?”

That her younger sister, a computer science student, is in Kabul also causes concern. “They are taking girls from my province and sending them somewhere. You know it’s okay even if someone dies, at least they are gone. But if they go missing, it’s worse,” says Amiri, breaking down. “What all would they do?”

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