Kaihan, a student at Lake Forest University near Chicago, can’t help but feel “guilty” as he watches the Taliban take control of his home country. He knows that his family, who live in Afghanistan, are in grave danger, and need to get out.
“This was unexpected for everybody, even though my father predicted it,” the 23-year-old politics student told The Daily Beast. “He said that once the Americans are gone, the Taliban is going to take over. But nobody expected the Taliban to take over in 7-8 days.”
“I wasn’t surprised that the president left, people know that the government is corrupt to an extent,” he said. “But watching the news and seeing the Taliban roam around the streets that I grew up in, that’s what makes me mad.”
Kaihan—who has been living in the U.S. for four years now after earning a scholarship to a private boarding school in Wisconsin—had grown up fearing the Taliban, and with good reason. Back in Kabul, his father had been targeted for his humanitarian work, including having worked as a translator for an ex-U.S. ambassador, and his name was even on what is known as the Taliban “kill list” for a time.
“My parents didn’t really go anywhere [because of the Taliban] … My dad, because he didn’t have a beard and a turban, was kicked out of med school and locked in a bathroom with no light for two days and two nights… he didn’t go back because of that, because he was worried the Taliban was going to come again. And he didn’t want to live by their rules,” he said.
According to Kaihan, two of his dad’s colleagues have been killed by Taliban members over the past six months. His mother, a teacher, has been prohibited from working by the group. Now, friends of Kaihan are attempting to help evacuate the family, which is made up of his mom, dad, and young brother, to neighboring Pakistan. But the process isn’t easy: the Taliban has enforced a brutal crackdown on those attempting to leave the country, relentlessly attacking prospective refugees at Kabul’s airport.
Kaihan said he has friends who are at the airport right now, desperate to get out. “They’ve been at the airport for six days, they’re camped out. I say camped out, but they don’t even have a camp, they’re just out in the street. And then during the day they try to fight their way in… they probably know that there’s only a 5 percent chance of them getting in, but they’re willing to take that 5 percent chance to get trampled, to be out in the sun, to be hungry.”
When the Taliban first took control of the country earlier this month, Kaihan’s family had to burn his old guitar and his school yearbooks, as both Kaihan and his brother had attended American schools in the country. “There’s pictures of us hand to hand with Americans, hugging Americans, all of this stuff to the Taliban is us being infidels, us being traitors to Islam, the messed up image of Islam that they have,” he said. “Music is against Islam, apparently, according to them.”
“It’s like an inverse world—the right thing is wrong, and the wrong thing is right.”
While trying to get his family to safety, the college student told The Daily Beast that he’s “more sure than ever” about his plan to become an immigration lawyer, which would give the opportunity to help Afghan refugees settle into a life in America.
He’s less sure, though, about the future of his country.
“I came here with the hope of helping my country, and be that from the inside or the outside,” he told The Daily Beast. “But that was when we had a stable government, and we had slivers of hope.”