Mourning the loss of her homeland, Kamila Geethi recounts leaving Afghanistan behind to escape Taliban rule.
“For a moment, I felt I had fallen unconscious, that I had left my heart, my organs, and all my life behind.”
Just months ago, life was not perfect in Afghanistan, but I was hopeful. I was hopeful that my homeland would bloom with peace and safety. I was hopeful when I saw women and girls in the streets in their colorful dresses, breathing freely. I believed I would see a prosperous Afghanistan in my lifetime, and I was committed to working for my people until my last breath.
In those days, not too long ago, I was hopeful but I was also worried about my country falling into the hands of those who do not have sympathy in their hearts for human lives. Years of emigration have left scars on the hearts of every Afghan, my family included. Just weeks ago, I was planning a trip to visit my friends and family in Pakistan, and I looked forward to hugging my parents tightly.
But then, everything changed on Sunday morning, the 15th of August. My country, my home, my dreams, my wishes, my sisters, my brothers… all fell into the arms of wild cannibals.
My roommate rushed into our apartment. “Taliban, Taliban, Kamila sister!” she yelled. “The Taliban are here on the roads, with tanks, weapons, and their white flags. Kamila, close your laptop, close your documents, they are in the street.”
In a matter of hours, my city, Kabul, was cloaked in fear. Restaurants were empty. There wasn’t a single sign of women or girls on the roads. The streets were choked by silence. My people began packing up their lives, their dreams, their everything into a single bag. I felt I had been living in a beautiful dream, and when I woke I found myself back in the ‘90s. It was not only Afghanistan that collapsed that day, but hope. Millions of dreams, millions of hearts broke into pieces.
I am the first girl from my hometown to complete her higher education. I fought against the odds to build a life and career, but on the 15th of August, I had to burn all those achievements to save my life. The Taliban were violent from day one in Kabul. They searched for women in professional jobs, for any women working with foreigners. They entered the apartment neighboring mine to beat the women who lived there, women who were former police officers. In a matter of hours, my home was a danger zone for me, my sister, and my roommate.
In the week we spent living under the control of the Taliban, we felt as if we were already dead. There was no hope, and we felt we could not breathe. We were imprisoned in our home. I wanted to fly far away, somewhere where no one talked of war, where there would be no signs of bombs or bullets.
I was lucky. I had worked for an international NGO and was shortlisted for evacuation to Spain. Getting to the airport, however, was to play with your life. The moments I spent on the way to the airport are the most horrific moments of my life. Thousands of families had rushed the airport doors, desperate for any possible way to save their lives. Their fear of the Taliban could be felt in their eyes.
I saw children dying, elderly people dying under the feet of the crowd. The Taliban shooting and beating people. I thought that day was the end of my life; I thought that day was the end of the world. For the world watching those scenes, I hope they saw the betrayal in the faces of the Afghan people, the betrayal they felt at the actions of their leaders and world leaders.
It took all our strength to get inside the airport, to reach the Spanish military. I could not stop my tears. For a moment, I felt I had fallen unconscious, that I had left my heart, my organs, and all my life behind. I was leaving my homeland, my Afghanistan, the place that needed me most — I felt I owed it a hundred lives.
For me, after 48 hours in that airport, I was free, I could resist. I could still breathe. I was able to save my life and also my sister’s. But I think of the mothers who lost their babies in the womb, the children who lost their lives, the people who were injured and experienced a trauma they will never be able to forget. In a matter of days, millions of lives lost, millions of dreams, professions, businesses, investments — lost.
I am now in Europe, among kind and protective people, but my heart is pained for the people left behind: for my colleagues, for friends, for my relatives whose lives are in danger. I mourn for the women whose achievements have been disregarded and cast aside. I mourn the loss of military lives who died protecting Afghanistan, who were sold out by our leaders. I mourn for the children who will never see peace.
Motherland, Afghanistan. Homeland, Afghanistan. Loveland, Afghanistan. I am sorry I left you. I will come back one day to clean your tears. I will collect your pieces in my arms and treat you with kindness and show you love.
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