An Afghan Woman On The Run In Kabul


Nilofar Ayoubi

Nilofar Ayoubi helped shuttle her workers house after the Taliban captured Kabul.

By Wednesday, Nilofar Ayoubi knew her identify was on the Taliban’s listing. She had realized the information from a pal — the identical pal who on Sunday had advised her that the Taliban have been going door-to-door throughout neighborhoods looking for girls like her, the identical pal who now warned her that it was time to enter hiding. The girls on the listing have been journalists, politicians, pilots, enterprise entrepreneurs — what they’d in widespread was that they’d been talking concerning the rights of Afghan girls loudly and persistently, on-line and IRL, for years.

Ayoubi is one in all hundreds of girls who’ve constructed thriving, affluent lives for themselves in Afghanistan over the previous 20 years, however with the autumn of Kabul, their success and outspokenness have come to hang-out them. Though the United States had lengthy insisted that the rights of Afghan girls would be a cornerstone of any peace take care of the Taliban, that promise now lies in tatters. As the Taliban implement their writ on the capital metropolis, Ayoubi and different girls’s rights advocates have been left to fend for themselves.

Earlier that day, Aug. 18, Ayoubi, 28, had smuggled the younger girls who labored for her vogue manufacturers to their houses from numerous factors throughout town by automotive. It was safer for the ladies to journey in packs, accompanied by their male work colleagues, who now functioned as de facto bodyguards.

For Ayoubi, one in all Afghanistan’s first and youngest girls to construct her personal furnishings manufacturing firm, the dangerous information was unrelenting; her community of buddies and fellow activists consistently pinged each other with areas the place the Taliban had arrange checkpoints. Seventy-two hours after Kabul collapsed, she stated, she obtained phrase that her house and places of work had been raided 4 occasions by armed males who requested the workers and neighbors for her household’s whereabouts and belongings.

In the start, Ayoubi was reluctant to depart behind every little thing she had constructed — her flourishing enterprise, her house, her household. But over the previous few days, she has grown determined to take her three youngsters to security, away from the attain of the Taliban.

“They are everywhere,” she advised BuzzFeed News. “They learned about us from social media and media, especially those of us who spoke about terrorism during the Doha peace talks.”

Rahmat Gul / AP

Taliban fighters patrol in Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood within the metropolis of Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 18, 2021.

Ayoubi insisted on talking on the file regardless of the risk to her life. “I have spoken up enough times to be on a hit list, so speaking now won’t change anything,” she stated. “I want to let the world know about the current situation.”

Just a number of weeks in the past, earlier than the Taliban captured Kabul, Ayoubi was on the roof of her constructing, singing along with her neighbors, and tweeting #AfghanLivesMatter. At the time, she was quoted by the French newspaper Le Monde: “If the Taliban come to Kabul, they will burn down everything we have built in these 20 years. As I look around, I wonder, what could I take with me? My three children and maybe some clothes.”

Since the autumn of the capital, girls like Ayoubi have been left scrambling to discover a method out with their households. Some of her buddies have made it out of Afghanistan. But girls on the Taliban’s listing are strolling on a tightrope the place a single misstep might imply loss of life. When the Taliban held energy in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, girls and ladies have been banned from schooling and compelled to put on a burqa outdoors the house. They couldn’t work in any respect, and even go away the home and not using a male chaperone. Punishments for violating this code ranged from public floggings to executions.

A doc has circulated by means of social media and group chats for folks making an attempt to determine the right way to go away the nation. The writer, who stated they work as an adviser to a authorities within the area and requested to stay nameless due to the sensitivity of the problem, stated that the doc collates publicly out there info on visa processes in addition to recommendation on safety and journey logistics they’d gleaned from diplomats and different contacts within the nation.

“People can submit tips, and I’ll verify their accuracy before putting it on,” the doc’s writer advised BuzzFeed News. “This information is mostly available, but buried. Information accessibility is a huge barrier.”

But the doc, which BuzzFeed News has seen, additionally paints a vivid image of what it’s wish to navigate the maze of bureaucratic, logistical, and private challenges for Afghans merely making an attempt to get to Kabul’s worldwide airport.

“You ought to deliver as few belongings as attainable, no pets,” the doc states. “Only one piece of small hand luggage (e.g. a handbag) is allowed, and this is subject to space limitations – there have been occasions where space is so tight no hand luggage has been boarded.”

Shakib Rahmani / AFP through Getty Images

Afghan folks sit inside a US navy plane to depart Afghanistan, on the navy airport in Kabul on Aug. 19, 2021, after the Taliban’s navy takeover of Afghanistan.

Getting to the airport shouldn’t be straightforward. The doc advises folks to reach at Hamid Karzai International Airport earlier than the Taliban’s curfew begins at 9 p.m. — however since evacuation staffers are working 24/7, a passenger’s listed departure time might fall throughout curfewed hours. At the second, the doc states, there aren’t any flights out of Afghanistan from anyplace besides Kabul.

“The US government has confirmed that they cannot ensure safe passage to the airport: you must make your own arrangements,” it says.

Entering the airport requires displaying sure paperwork folks usually retailer on their cellphone, so the doc suggests that folks print out these important recordsdata and carry an exterior cellphone charger. “Your Airport Access Pass is your lifeline,” the doc states.

Wakil Kohsar / AFP through Getty Images

Afghans collect on a roadside close to the navy a part of the airport in Kabul on Aug. 20, 2021, hoping to flee from the nation after the Taliban’s navy takeover of Afghanistan.

Yet it warns that among the info it gives won’t essentially be reliable, significantly the gathering of names and organizations providing to assist folks escape.

“I’ve listed some contact particulars beneath, however can’t 100% vouch for the authenticity of those initiatives,” the writer wrote. “I do not advise relying on these benefactors for any high risk Afghans: remember that anyone can set up these projects and use it to phish your data, including the Taliban.”

Ayoubi said she doesn’t know when she’ll try to flee.

As of Friday, she was hiding in a low-income neighborhood with her children, mother, cousins, and friends as “loyal employees” from her firm guarded the door and introduced them meals, she stated. In the previous, these males had labored for Ayoubi at Niko Design, a boutique retailer that offered ornate lounge furnishings, bunk beds for youngsters, garden furnishings, and designer clothes from Ayoubi’s manufacturers — Maria Clothing, Maria Bride, and Maria Carpet, which ships handwoven Afghan rugs worldwide. Now, they’re her final protection in opposition to the Taliban.

Ayoubi’s days are a blur of checking Twitter for updates, venting on-line, looking for the most recent info on secure routes in a foreign country, after which disconnecting the web and eager about “our low chance of survival,” she stated. For now, she is unable to plan for a lot of a future, she stated, however hopes to finally go away Afghanistan, by some means.

“This is the complete opposite of the life my kids and I had,” Ayoubi stated. “I built my life from scratch, and now we are back to square one.” ●

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