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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Lost all hope after President Ashraf Ghani fled: Afghan MP Anarkali Kaur Honaryar

Anarkali Kaur Honaryar's political career started after her father asked her to contest the elections in 2010. She was a dentist working with Afghanistan human rights commission and visited different provinces to help women and families in conflict with the law.

Written by Jignasa Sinha | New Delhi |
Updated: August 26, 2021 1:00:02 pm
One of Afganistan’s first non-Muslim MPs, Anarkali Kaur Honaryar in Delhi, Monday. (Express photo by Anil Sharma)

“My father and family suffered under Taliban rule 20 years ago but it was different. Now they (Taliban) are stronger, and wouldn’t have allowed us to live there,” says Anarkali Kaur Honaryar, Afghan Member of Parliament who was among 168 people airlifted from Kabul to the Hindon airbase in Ghaziabad on Sunday morning.

One of the first non-Muslim women to be elected to the country’s Upper House, Honaryar has been an MP for almost a decade.

“My grandfather and father spent their entire lives in Afghanistan. My father started work as an engineer and was then part of the Election Commission. My siblings and I worked for the government,” Honaryar told The Indian Express on Monday.

Referring to the Taliban capture of capital Kabul, she said, “When it all started, I planned not to leave my country. But soon everything changed. My mother is still scared. She thinks the Taliban are outside our room and doesn’t want me to leave. We have lost everything…”

Days before leaving Kabul, Honaryar and her family felt they could stay in Afghanistan and wait for the international community to save them. However, on August 15, when Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani fled the country, the family lost all hope.

“I was in office and saw the President a day before. I thought we were going to work and protest for peace. Soon, everyone in office was receiving calls about Taliban seizing Kabul. We had to leave. I was in my car when I noticed people running on the streets,” she said.

Honaryar tried driving towards home but the sound of gunshots grew louder. Eventually, everyone had to leave their vehicles in the middle of the road and run home.

At home, Honaryar’s parents told her that they have been receiving calls from relatives, asking them to leave. More than 50 Taliban men entered one of her friend’s house and asked her to cook dinner for them, and also harassed her, she said.

Honaryar consoled her friend and asked her family to stay. However, hours later, the family woke up to the news of the President having fled.

“Initially, we didn’t know where he (Ghani) was; we later found a video of him. I don’t know what happened but it broke all of us. My neighbours and friends were all in danger — they still are. There were Taliban near our house, threatening us. We thought we could stay with our Afghan friends, or at the gurudwara, but we weren’t safe,” she said.

Honaryar’s political career started after her father asked her to contest the elections in 2010. She was a dentist working with Afghanistan human rights commission and visited different provinces to help women and families in conflict with the law.

In 2011, she won the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for helping women suffering from domestic abuse, forced marriages and gender discrimination.

For a decade, Honaryar and her colleagues worked with Presidents Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani to change policies for women and promote education for all.

Now, she has no idea about her life and no plans for the future.

“I want to return home and live in peace but I don’t know if I will ever see my country again.”

She said, “We thought it would take at least six months for the Taliban to seize everything. We thought we had time…we had plans. (But) I was wrong. They took charge in days and the international community didn’t do anything. We were left alone.”

Honaryar said her heart breaks when she thinks about her friends. Many of them are being threatened, assaulted and tortured. “I feel bad for leaving many people behind but I had no other option,” she said. “I was constantly receiving threats. My parents and I tried hiding from the Taliban for two days but our lives were at stake. We had no food and resources. I don’t know what I am going to do in India now. I feel helpless…”

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