Aug 27, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Nine days back to freedom: An Afghan's tale

A girl in a dress with a name tag.
Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The green card that Atifa and her brother used to get back into the U.S. yesterday also put their lives at risk back in Kabul, when the Taliban searched door to door for Americans.

Driving the news: Axios interviewed the 21-year-old and her 18-year-old sibling, who went by his last name, Ahmadi, at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Va. They gave a first-hand account of the journey from Afghanistan to the U.S. — a terrifying, stressful, exhausting trip lasting nine days.

Atifa and Ahmadi had been in Afghanistan visiting family for the month and a half preceding the collapse of the government. It took them three days to make it into the Kabul airport.

  • In the safety of a convention center outside the nation's capital, they were surrounded by over 100 others who'd fled Afghanistan.
  • Among them were children playing with hula hoops, mothers in head scarves holding kids, young men in traditional clothes.

After boarding a flight out of Kabul, the siblings landed at the Al Udeid Air Base in Doha, Qatar, where they stayed for two nights.

  • There was little food, and none that Afghans are used to eating.
  • Their next stop was Germany. After five days, they boarded a 12-hour flight to the U.S.

The expo center was filled with the echoes of dozens of other Afghans who emerged from behind dividers where they had been processed with wristbands signaling their different visa statuses.

  • Hundreds of green cots sat covered with Red Cross blankets, divided by curtains and labeled with hand-written signs designating sections for single women or families — in English and Dari.
  • A curtained area was set aside for prayer.

Outside, a U.S. citizen who lives in New York told Axios' Erin Doherty she was confused about why she landed in Virginia.

  • Other people waited for relatives — or searched for a lost bag.
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