Local Community Member Fears for Family Still in Afghanistan
In 1998, Samira Khairkhawa fled Afghanistan with her family. Khairkhawa, her brother and mother eventually resettled in Charlottesville; her father died before they made it to the states. Khairkhawa says she applied herself in school to get the education her parents desperately wanted for her. Last year, she earned her masters degree in clinical mental health and is helping others process their traumas.
We spoke with Khairkhawa on the phone about the retraumatizing experience of watching the Taliban retake control of Afghanistan and the fear she feels for her uncle and his family who are still there.
Edited for clarity.
I was talking to him and I was like, is there any way you could just leave Afghanistan and go to a neighboring country and somehow attempt to hopefully come here or Canada or anywhere. We were talking to him and he started bawling. He started crying and he was like, ‘This is our home. Like, for how many years have we Afghans been trying to just leave and trying to seek safety and peace and as humans do we not have the right to have peace in our country?
It's just really heartbreaking. It's really heartbreaking to see your country just shattering to pieces and your people just feel hopeless. And I think for the Afghan diaspora, there's a lot of survival guilt.
We left in 1998, my parents lost hope and we finally fled. The night we left, I remember it was early morning, it was pretty dark out still, the sun hadn’t come up. That was the plan to leave before the sunrise and before the call to prayer.
So I remember the fear. I remember the bus ride to Pakistan and constantly praying. I remember the prayer that my mom had taught us to say in our hearts so we [could] make it safe out of Afghanistan. The past couple of weeks have been like reliving that night for me and I just can't imagine what it is like for my mom, because of course she was a lot older and she lived as a woman in Afghanistan when the Taliban came and took over. She went from being a teacher to a housewife.
As a woman myself, being able to go get an education and have that freedom, and then seeing girls in Afghanistan fighting for the same things [and] having the same dreams as me and wanting the same things as I did when I was young -- to see that may never be a reality for them, is really hard.
Something Afghans would like to hear and see from non-Afghans, is that we’re with you. I think just hearing that we are seen and we are heard and we are supported would mean the world to us.
To find a Virginia based nonprofit resettling Afghan refugees visit www.vpm.org/resettled.
Music in the story from Blue Dot Sessions.