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Refugees’ book tells of Afghanistan’s tragedy

17 December 20210 comments

A recently arrived Afghan evacuee couple is writing a book on his experiences as the Taliban took control of the capital Kabul and he was forced to flee with his family.

Civil engineer Fahim Farhang and his wife Bibi Sharifa began writing the book while in quarantine in Darwin after escaping to Pakistan in October.

Fahim says it is intended as a summary of the pain, suffering, and challenges of the Afghan people.

“I felt I needed to do something while we were in quarantine, so I started to write this book. I aim to get it published to get a message across to people about what is happening in Afghanistan,”Fahim said.

The book, with the working title of ‘Escape from Oppression and Terror’, also examines the impact of recent events in Afghanistan, including the flight of thousands of Afghanistan’s best and brightest people.

Fahim says he hopes to draw attention to the problems the people of Afghanistan face and connect with the international community to make them aware of the looming humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan.

He says that right up until the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, Afghanis had hopes of a peaceful and prosperous future.

“People were patient, they thought that one day the situation would change and they would have a comfortable life. For this reason, people were living a normal life and hoped with the intervention of the United States and the countries of the region, one day peace will be ensured in the country;  freedom of expression would remain and women would have the right to choose, study and work.” Fahim said.

Even with this hope and the Taliban at bay, life was precarious for most people.

“There were explosions, landmines, assassinations in all provinces, especially Kabul, where three to four landmine explosions occurred each,” Fahim said.

“Innocent and helpless people fell victim, Mosques were blown up, religious minorities were attacked, there were attacks on schools, and even to maternity hospitals,” he said.

In his book Fahim tells of the fear and confusion as Kabul fell to the Taliban.

“There was the sound of gunfire. The sound of helicopters flying could be heard, I saw from the window of our apartment that flights were going from the US embassy and Wazir Akbar Khan area and everyone was fleeing to Kabul airport,” he said.

Fahim tells of his own family’s bid to escape amid chaos and widespread fear.

After several days of unsuccessfully trying to get into Kabul’s airport and on a flight out of the country, Fahim and his family made a dash by care for the Pakistan border.

They were stopped by the Taliban just 80 metres from the border where the Taliban ordered them into a mosque.

“We were all tired, exhausted, and upset, we were not sitting for a few moments when another Taliban came and told all the women to leave the mosque with their children,” Fahim said.

Finally the family was allowed to board a train that seemed bound for Pakistan.

“We encountered Taliban obstacles but after spending half an hour in front of the gate in the cold weather with the children, we were allowed to enter the area and stand in the train with other people,” Fahim said.

“At seven o’clock in the morning the border gate of Pakistan was opened and we started moving again with a crowd of people. The movement was very slow until ten o’clock,” he said.

“But then the train stopped and things become chaotic again as we located just two hundred meters distance from the entrance gate of Pakistan.

“Inevitably, despite the fact that my son and daughter were crying and scared, I sent my wife forward with the children and her mother because the number of women was small and they were able to enter for up to an hour.

“I watched from a distance as my son and my one-year-old daughter cried so loudly that despite their noises and crowds, their voices could be heard.

“I couldn’t do anything, until they went to the gate and reached Pakistan. After two nights and two days, we were able to eat at a restaurant on the Torkham-Islamabad highway. It gave our children a new spirit in the knowledge that we were still alive and that everything would be fine and we would soon go to Australia,” Fahim said.

Fahim was the operations director of Afghanistan’s state-owned water supply and sewage corporation and his Bibi Sharifa had worked with an Australian-led de-mining operation to make former battlefield safe.

Fahim completed most of schooling with a backdrop of war as the son of a military officer. After completing his engineering studies, he worked with construction companies, the US Army Corps of Engineers Project, BORDA-Germany wastewater treatment and management projects; and with the Afghanistan Urban Water Supply and Sewerage Corporation.

Bibi Sharifa is a Physics and Public Administration graduate who worked with Australian Army contractors and the Afghan ministries of education and finance.

Stay tuned for more details of the publication of Fahim’s book.