Hundreds of people wait in the hope of getting on one of the last planes leaving Kabul  airport, August 17 2021. Photo: Reuters
Hundreds of people wait in the hope of getting on one of the last planes leaving Kabul airport, August 17 2021. Photo: Reuters

After being denied a visa for France several times, Nadia* was finally evacuated from Kabul as part of the French airlift on August 23. From her quarantine in a hotel near Paris, she tells InfoMigrants about the day when she had to leave her whole life behind.

From 2011 to 2012, Nadia*, 28 years old, worked as a cashier in a store on a French military base in Kabul. For years she received threats as a direct result of this job and she had first applied for a visa from the French Ministry of Armed Forces in 2019 -- in vain. She tried again in 2020, but this application was also rejected.

In recent months, Nadia had felt increasingly threatened. She first spoke to InfoMigrants at the start of August, two weeks before the Taliban takeover. "I'm incredibly frightened at the moment," she said. "When I'm going to work, I hide my face and put on dark glasses. I'm afraid of being attacked on the street. When a stranger stares at me, I worry he is going to murder me. I can't sleep anymore. Not long ago my mother heard that my uncle had threatened to kill me without hesitation if the Taliban came to power. He is a former Taliban who lives near me."

"When I was working in the military camp store, I received threats from unknown people who called me. They would tell me to stop working for the infidels, that if I didn't stop, they would find me and kill me. I told the head of the camp several times, but he said there was nothing he could do," she says.

Nadia's threats did not stop with her. Her family also suffered. "The neighbors didn't want to be around us anymore. No one wanted to marry me or my sisters. People said I wasn't Muslim," she recalls.

Nadia eventually found another job at another company and went back to school. But the year she spent as an employee of the French army pursued her and put her in even more danger as the Western armies disengaged from Afghanistan and the Taliban rapidly expanded their hold on the country.

Read more: Third French flight of evacuees from Kabul touches down in Paris

After the Taliban took power in Kabul on August 15, Nadia felt completely trapped. With the help of French lawyers, she was able to get on a flight to France. Less than a week after arriving in Paris, she tells InfoMigrants about her hasty departure, the threats she faced and her heartbreak at not being able to leave with her family.

"On Sunday, August 22, the French embassy called me to tell me that I had permission to come to the airport. I left my home with my family. We were a group of 11 people, including five children. I thought that with the document that the French embassy had sent me, it would be easy to enter the airport. But there were many people. We spent the night in front of the airport gate without being able to enter.

"The next morning, the Taliban savagely pushed everyone back. We went back home.

"At two o'clock in the morning we went back. Like the day before, there was a crowd still waiting in front of the gate. We waited for a long time. A few hours later, the Taliban started pushing people back. I had my nephew in my arms. A Taliban militant jumped on us and whipped us. He wanted to shoot us. But suddenly he dropped his rifle. By the time he got it back, we were able to save ourselves. People were running around and the Taliban could not find us in the crowd.

'I am worried about my family'

"I took refuge with my family in a store. The shopkeeper told us to try to get into the airport through another door. That's when we went to the gate called 'Abbey Gate'. We had to go through a ditch full of dirty water. There were soldiers on the other side of the wall. Everyone was showing them documents to be evacuated. I wanted my family members to be evacuated too. But the soldiers did not allow them to pass through, because only my name was on the documents.

"After leaving Afghanistan, I spent one night in Abu Dhabi. The next day, Tuesday, I arrived in Paris. I am currently staying in a hotel, sharing a room with another Afghan woman.

Read more: 'Autonomy is the next step' for 2,600 Afghans evacuated to France

"I am very happy to have been evacuated but I am very worried about my family who are stuck in Kabul. All our neighbors know that I left the country because I was working with the French. This could put my family's life in danger. I hope to find a way to get them out of the country.

"Right now, I don't really know what to do. I'm confused. I would like to learn French as soon as the opportunity arises. In Kabul, I was a midwife. I would like to do the same job in France too. If I need to go back to school here to be able to work, I would do it with pleasure."

*First name has been changed.

 

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