Reflections: Efforts to Save Afghan Refugees in the Wake of Taliban Takeover
It has been more than fourteen months since the Taliban took control of Kabul and once again demonstrated their use of violence and tyranny. As soon as the Taliban captured the city on August 15, 2021, many Afghans fled to the Kabul airport in order to escape oppression. These people paid a lot of money to pass through Taliban checkpoints and reach the airport, hoping to eventually leave Afghanistan.
We also saw numerous women who handed their children over to NATO forces, believing that if they could not survive, their children might have a better future. These scenes on television have left many people sad and in tears.
There were only a few fortunate individuals who were accepted as refugees by Western countries. Unfortunately, no Muslim country accepted any Afghan refugees, and only Qatar provided temporary camps.
Following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, there was a strong fear that these hardline Islamic extremists would kill or force out all other sects and religions, as they had done in the past.
After the evacuation process at Kabul Airport ended on August 30, 2021, Afghan refugees began crossing the borders of neighboring countries, both legally and illegally. These refugees were also treated poorly by these countries.
Our organization has been closely monitoring the situation in Afghanistan, where it is estimated that there are between 15,000 and 18,000 converted Christians. We decided to help these families leave Afghanistan.
It was a challenging task to find these people, as they cannot openly practice their faith. If a converted Christian’s family finds out about their conversion and departure from Islam, they may expel them or, in the worst case, kill them.
However, with the assistance of local contacts in Afghanistan, we were able to locate converted Christian families in different parts of the country. Most of these families had left their homes out of fear of the Taliban and were hiding in secret locations. We received confirmation that the hardline Taliban had a list of all the converts, which made them even more insecure. To their disappointment, when they sought help from Western countries, they were refused.
Our organization decided to help them. We initially planned to save one family so that we could understand how much money and time were needed for each family.
The first family we found was that of Maryam Zair. Maryam’s husband was killed in Nangarhar province in March 2021, and she was working as a midwife at a clinic in Kabul. The family converted to Christianity in 2019 when the Iranian Underground Church began its mission in Afghanistan. Both Maryam and her husband became active members of the Christian community in Afghanistan. In March 2021, their home was used as an underground church. After that, Maryam moved to Kabul with her mother-in-law and two children, where she began working with an Iranian Christian doctor who left Afghanistan in July 2021 before the Taliban took control.
After the fall of Kabul, Maryam and all the Christian families went into hiding until we found her. In the first week of September 2021, we launched a mission to rescue Maryam Zair and her family. After a three-day journey, the family successfully passed through four Taliban outposts and reached a neighboring country. We plan to relocate them to Sri Lanka, where they can apply for asylum with the UNHCR and potentially be resettled in a third country.
Following the successful rescue of the first family, we immediately began planning to rescue six more families in a similar manner. On September 28, 2021, all six of these families were also able to reach a safe zone. We are currently working on relocating these families to Sri Lanka or Thailand, where they can apply for asylum. These families do not have their travel documents, and our contacts are working on obtaining passports and IDs from the Afghan embassy in the country where they are currently located.
Here are pictures of the families we rescued on September 28, 2021.
We are grateful for the support we have received from our donors, as the rescue missions require a significant amount of money. We also want to thank our local contacts in Afghanistan for their assistance in finding and helping these families.
We urge the international community to pay attention to the situation in Afghanistan and to provide support for Afghan refugees. No one should have to live in fear for their lives or the lives of their loved ones. We hope to continue our efforts to rescue as many families as possible and to provide them with a chance at a safer and better future.
Updates coming soon.