Thousands of miles from home, Afghan students in India worry for family back home
Rohani was on the last commercial flight from the Afghan capital Kabul to India that left on Saturday.
Ahmad Zia Rohani had gone back to his home in Afghanistan just around a month ago after completing his bachelor's degree in Pune. He wanted to look for a job in his country and stay with his family. However, the events that unfolded in the past month forced him to run for his life, back to India.
Rohani was on the last commercial flight from the Afghan capital Kabul to India that left on Saturday. He came back as he still had his student visa. His family is still back in Kabul, trying to make their way out of the country.
Worried about their future and scared for the safety of their family and friends back home, Afghan students residing in Pune stare at a difficult time ahead of them as the Taliban took control of their homeland two days ago.
"Around 10 days ago, the Taliban took control of Helmand province where I lived with my family. We left for Kabul as our lives were in danger. Since I had my Indian visa, my family asked me to book my ticket immediately and save my life first," Rohani said. He now has to pass his MBA entrance exam to take admission at Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) so that his student's visa is renewed.
"Around 10 days ago, the Taliban took control of Helmand province where I lived with my family. We left for Kabul as our lives were in danger."
On Sunday, the last plane from Kabul to India, an Air India aircraft, flew with 129 passengers. Some of them were Indian nationals, but most were Afghans. "I have never seen the plight of citizens of a country so desperate to leave their land. When they walked into the plane, you could see that desperation in their eyes," one passenger said in a BBC report.
Hundreds of Afghans have been trying to leave the country since the Taliban began taking over some of the major cities. Most of those who had visas managed to leave on time. However, amid violence and evacuations by other countries and suspension of commercial flights, thousands still remain stranded in Afghanistan. On Monday, at least five people were killed at the airport amid the chaos. While there were reports of gunfire, several people also died or were injured in the stampede. A viral video also showed people clinging to a US military transport aircraft as they desperately tried to escape from Afghanistan. Three of them are said to have lost their lives in the ordeal. While evacuations from Kabul continue, commercial flights remain suspended.
"The situation at Kabul airport is very bad. I left on the last flight and soon after, the airport was shut down. People from all over the country have flocked to Kabul. There were thousands of people at Kabul airport. It was so sad to see everyone trying to leave their country. But soon, the Kabul Airport was shut down and everyone was left stranded at the airport," Rohani said.
He has left behind a family of his mother, father, five brothers and five sisters in Kabul. "My family is in danger. My sisters went to school, university. Everything has been shut down now. And even if it opens, will the Taliban allow girls to go to schools anymore?" Rohani exasperates. He is now trying to get visas for his family in India.
Pune has at least 100 or more students from Afghanistan at the moment. The situation back home has left them worried for the fate of their parents.
Pune has at least 100 or more students from Afghanistan at the moment. The situation back home has left them worried for the fate of their parents. As these students are in India on student visa, they wonder what they are going to do once their visas expire.
"The situation in the country is not good right now. I have not been able to get in touch with my family that lives near Kabul. It might be because of network issues, I hope,” says Hamayoon Batoor, a student of Pune University. His student visa is due to expire at the end of August.
“I don’t know what I would do once the visa expires. Everything escalated so quickly that I haven’t had time to think about it. I have already completed my course, so presently, the university has refused to give me a bonafide certificate. I am worried about what would happen if I have to go back now. Just like a lot of Afghan students in the city,” Batoor said.
Afghan students in the state are now planning to meet the Maharashtra Chief Minister as well as other authorities in the state to ensure that their visas continue at least until peace is restored in their country. They will also be trying to help their families get out of Afghanistan.
Batoor was just a child the last time the Taliban had taken over Afghanistan. “I still remember it. It was a nightmare,” he recalls. While Rohani does not remember much of the last time, he says his parents have told him the stories and he does not wish for those to be repeated.
“It’s a tough situation. I have never felt so negative,” says another Afghan student in Pune, who did not wish to reveal his identity for the sake of his family’s safety. “There is nothing more to say. I hope there is peace in Afghanistan in the next few weeks,” he sighs.