A Journalist Narrates the Fall of Kabul

It has been more than three months since the beginning of our efforts to flee Afghanistan, but so far, it has not yielded a positive result.

The claims of the military officials of the government were wrong. The Taliban were advancing rapidly and could attack the capital at any moment. The weather in Kabul also seemed different from every other day. People were talking about the rapid advance of the Taliban and the possibility of the fall of Kabul.

For reporters whose lives were tied to reports of war, violence, and intimidation, every word of these sentences seemed an important topic.

Sunday, 15 August 2021

I walked to the office and wanted to chase the chaos with my other co-workers. On the way, right in front of the southern gate of Shahrnoo Park, I heard the sound of gunfire. The people seemed upset.

Over the past few days, most strategic provinces had fallen to the Taliban, making the group more likely to enter Kabul. Moments later, I learned that the bullets had been fired by people on the banks. However, I hurried to the office. The office alarm had sounded, and everyone except the guards had been taken to a safe room. As soon as I entered the office, one of the guards led me to a safe room. I saw my colleagues. Their appearance was a narrative of lost hopes. I said there was no need to be afraid, the bullets were fired by people attacking the banks. It was not long before we were told to evacuate the office immediately. We had to get out of the office in droves, during which most media outlets, including ours, stopped broadcasting. I asked the office security officer, what was going on? He said the Taliban had reached the entrances of Kabul and were getting closer to the city center at any moment. I could not believe it. I have always believed that Kabul, with its 300,000-strong army and advanced military equipment, will never fall to the Taliban, even if the government’s security system is paralyzed, foreign forces will intervene and prevent Kabul from falling.

I left the office, and one of my colleagues and I headed home. Outside, everything had changed dramatically. Everyone was talking about the arrival of the Taliban in Kabul. It was difficult for me, a journalist who was fascinated by relative freedom and its cafes, to watch Kabul in such a state of disarray. I was moved and said to myself, “I would die and I would not see Kabul so disturbed.” I saw with my own eyes that everything changed drastically. I hurried home and closed the door.

No one dared to leave the house. Everyone was clinging to their phones and flipping the Facebook page up and down to get details of the events. Meanwhile, we learned that the president had fled and handed over the country to the Taliban. Moments later, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the Supreme National Reconciliation Council, confirmed the news with a video message.

With the escape of the president, everything ended. The Taliban entered the city and took over everywhere. At that time, our only happiness was the lack of clashes between the Taliban and the country’s security forces.

The Sun sat, darkness prevailed everywhere, and thus the August 15 became a dark day in the history of Afghanistan, and the impure presidency of Ashraf Ghani came to an end.

Scrambling to Leave the Country

At around 8 o’clock in the night, my cell phone rang, and as soon as I answered, I was told to go to Kabul Airport immediately and leave the country. I was surprised and did not take this issue seriously. Because I thought the airport might not work anymore.

Less than an hour later, the same person called again and insisted. I shared this with my friends who were with me. Everyone laughed at me and said, “even the members of parliament, ministers, and the president cannot leave.” They were right. All my friends had acceptable documents and reasons for leaving the country. Some of them were collaborators and translators of foreign forces and some of them, including me, were journalists. However, it was hard to imagine anyone being allowed to fly to Europe and the United States without a visa or even without a passport or valid document.

However, I insisted that we go to the airport at least once and follow the story closely. Until we called another friend who we thought was at the airport and asked for details. “I am currently on a Canadian military plane with 20 family members and close relatives, and we will be flying in a few minutes,” he said.

I asked, how do you leave Afghanistan? He laughed and said that you no longer need a visa and a valid document. You will leave the country for the United States and Canada as soon as you arrive at the airport. My friends who had been mocked by this news a few moments ago suddenly jumped – the decision to go to the airport was made.

I got up, changed my clothes, took my passport, ID card, money, and everything I thought was necessary, and left for Kabul airport with my three friends. It was 11 p.m. More military vehicles were on the roads of Kabul than on any other night. Military vehicles that once made people feel calm and safe were no longer seen as scary monsters.

We took a taxi and passed three Taliban checkpoints until we reached the gates of Kabul Airport. The accumulation of vehicles made it difficult to cross the gate, but it was not impossible. Most of the vehicles were parked around the airport by their owners, and their owners, most of them former government officials, were forced to leave the country.

As I was passing in front of the airport, a street child called me. I replied: Uncle, you are going to America, give me your phone. I smiled and continued on my way. When we reached the airport terminal, there were no obstacles. Taliban fighters have not yet reached the airport. People gathered around the terminal and wanted to enter the terminal. Security forces prevented airstrikes. Minutes later, security forces could not resist, and everyone rushed to the terminal.

Things were different there. Foreign forces were all on standby to control the crowds and to facilitate the landing of the planes. A large section of the population was made up of former government officials, including the deputies, ministers, MPs, and media and cultural figures, most of who were masked and difficult to identify.

We also joined these people, waiting for the military planes to land. The influx of people made it more difficult. The foreign forces kept saying, “Don’t worry, we will move everyone from here; But people did not seem to pay attention.

I saw how embarrassed the people, most of whom were the employees and officials of the previous government, were to get help from foreign forces. With all this humiliation, they intended to leave the country.

I was impressed. Why are people so eager to leave their homeland? The day before Kabul fell, our office had asked for all employees’ passports and travel details. In the weeks before that, it had talked about the transfer of employees abroad in harsh situations. I was constantly thinking. Is the condition of leaving the homeland ‌ humiliation, insult, and downsizing? Why not leave the country with dignity and together with my other colleagues? So far, I have not informed any of the office officials about this issue. All these questions and worries encouraged me to leave the airport.

Our Plan to Leave Afghanistan Failed

My friends, who were NATO collaborators and had more hopes of leaving the country than I did, agreed. We all left the airport together and returned home at 3 pm. The next night, some people fell from the wings of the plane, making headlines inside and outside the country, and the situation around the airport was getting worse by the minute. We were constantly monitoring the evacuation process from the web pages and the media, and we were intensively checking our WhatsApp and SMS messages so that we would not be left uninformed.

With each passing day, the evacuation process intensified, and every few hours, our friends and acquaintances reported their departure and arrival at a safe place. We were happy with the health of our friends and worried about our fate. We asked each other why we have not received any updates about leaving the country from the responsible institutions so far?

Social media was full of news and pictures of ordinary people boarding planes as reporters or people at risk. Perhaps it was fortunate that they had such an exceptional opportunity in their lives, or perhaps, the intensity of the evacuation process and the ability to distinguish ordinary people from those at risk from foreign forces. Although I called the colleagues and the department’s director for a moment, none of them had a definite answer. Their answer was: “They say, efforts are underway, be patient.”

It has been more than three months since the beginning of our exit efforts, but so far, it has not yielded any positive results. My friends met the same fate as me and have not been able to leave Afghanistan so far. Every day, some journalists leave the country due to a lack of immunity. But we are unlucky. During this time, many journalists were either beaten or threatened. With this situation, however, I was repeatedly reprimanded by my friends and colleagues for the decision to leave the airport, which they called “unwise”. I have been suffering severe psychological unrest during the last three months.

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