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Afghan evacuee Jalal Ahmadzai writes about how hope endures despite the fact that the Taliban’s seizure of power has left the dreams of an entire generation in tatters

17 December 20211 comment

Abrupt change, uncertainty and the unknown often strike fear into the hearts of humans. When events take a turn for the worse at a time when one had been planning the complete opposite, it naturally puts one in a state of shock, blurs one’s judgement and makes one lose track of events that follow. The swift collapse of the Afghan government on the 15th of August, 2021 made all of that a reality for all the Afghan people. Our worst nightmare came to reality when the capital city of Kabul fell to the Taliban on a grim Sunday afternoon.

Four and a half decades of war and bloodshed has shattered the dreams of three generations. The never-ending war has touched everything and everyone in Afghanistan. The momentary and temporary period of “stability” raised hope in people, only for those hopes to come crashing down in matter of seconds. They say there’s always light after dark but it seems the sun never rises for the ordinary Afghan men, women and children, who have never been allowed to live in peace and have always been struggling with a war forced upon them by their neighbors and world powers.

War has been a part of our life for a long time now. Dealing with hardships has been part of our daily routine. After nearly 10 years since the government of Dr Najibullah was toppled by the Mujahidden, there was once again a new government in place backed by the international community that showed the promise of a better future ahead. The establishment of various reconstructive projects and the re-opening of schools and universities gave hope to the Afghans that perhaps their country was once again on path towards modernisation and competing on an international stage.

When the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan came to power in 2004 after the 2001 intervention of the United States in Afghanistan, the temporary state of stability was once again established. After that, the younger generation of Afghan girls and boys born amidst the war were once again attending schools and universities where they received an education and the anticipation for a brighter future for themselves and their war-torn nation. The swift collapse of the Afghan government put an end to those dreams, anticipations and plans.

As a student at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF), I was lucky enough to be part of the AUAF community, Afghanistan’s highest-ranking university that provided world class education to the young generation of Afghanistan. Like me, there were hundreds of students at AUAF and millions of young people across Afghanistan attending various universities all of whom had goals, dreams and objectives that they wanted to reach after graduating. We, the younger generation of Afghanistan, were constantly defying the odds and getting an education amidst the unrest in the country and hoping that one day they would be able to serve their country with the skills they had learned and secure a promising future for themselves.

Despite the continuous conflict that raged in different parts of the country, our parents and elders did their best to give us everything they never had. Our generation was raised with dreams and visions of rebuilding our country and bringing a positive change. In the past 20 years, many were able to contribute to this cause and we believed we were going towards a better future. We are children of war but we were never hopeless.

However, now that better future we were always dreaming about lies beyond the bounds of possibility. All that we see now is an endless gray horizon of uncertainty and helplessness. It hurts that we couldn’t protect what we had achieved and had to leave them in wrong hands. It wasn’t just the fall of a country, but of a whole generation, that had worked itself to rise and were committed to this nation.

Many of us succeeded in escaping the darkest regime, leaving behind our families, friends, and loved ones. Not only that, we left behind our lives, our dreams of graduating and serving our country. We all can continue our lives outside Afghanistan peacefully, but there always be a sadness engraved deep in our hearts. We will be strangers wherever we go and the feeling of being homeless will never leave. I thought we were very close to the better future we believed could exist, but now it feels like someone hit the reset button and we are back at beginning of the tunnel.

My mother always said that one’s country is like one’s mother, and must be treated the same. An Afghan must take care of their country like their own mother, respect it and love it the same. The events of the 15th of August, made me understand this concept very deeply.

Yet somewhere deep in the unknown corners of my heart, a rebellious spark of hope lurks, a thing that cannot be quite obliterated. I will always dream of the day I can go back to my home and wander through the streets of Kabul.