The Taliban takeover of Kabul on August 15, after a rapid offensive through Afghanistan, has left many Afghans in fear. Many are desperately looking to leave the country; some of those who have not been able to escape are distraught at the prospects for their future.
Mohamed Shaheed, 33, is a former Criminal Investigation Division (CID) officer living in Afghanistan who asked to conceal his real identity due to safety concerns. He is in hiding with his wife and children in an undisclosed location within the country, but says that every day he lives in fear that the Taliban will find him.
“During my career I made lots of arrests of men who were Taliban fighters. I had arrested them for making explosives, bombs, stealing and bribing officers,” Shaheed said. “Now they are after me and want to kill me. Since they have taken over, killings have increased.”
Once the Taliban fighters were set free they started to attack Shaheed’s house, forcing him to flee with his family to his brother’s home. He then had to flee once again, packing up his belongings, knowing that the Taliban were on track to hunt him down.
“I managed to escape, but then the Taliban came to my brother’s house and beat and tortured him, but he did not speak or say where I was and so they eventually released him,” Shaheed recounted.
Shaheed served as a CID officer for 13 years, notifying intelligence of terrorist threats. He says after that the former government collapsed, the Taliban prison detainees were free to exert their violence once again on the streets.
“I am living in a nightmare right now. I cannot step out of the house, nor can my family. I cannot even afford to look after my family well. We are all living in fear.”
Shaheed says he knows of other CID officers who are facing the same predicament. Some of their sons have gone missing and may have been kidnapped.
Those who feel threatened face hurdles in communicating that to the outside world. Social media has been heavily restricted to conceal what is happening on the ground. Citizens are not allowed to post videos or photos of misdeeds of the Taliban on Facebook and other social networks.
“Here, life is not good as much as it was before when the previous government was in power. They are treating citizens badly as they punish people every day. I just want world leaders to help us save our lives and allow us to escape from Afghanistan,” Shaheed said.
After the Taliban took control over Kabul, a number of countries launched resettlement efforts to rescue Afghans from the country including the U.K., U.S., UAE, Turkey, France, Germany, and Italy. However, many Afghans still living there under Taliban rule fear that they will never be able to escape. For many, it’s just too risky to leave now that the Taliban have seized full control of the country.
Zaheer, 45 (name changed for safety reasons), is another former CID officer who had arrested Taliban fighters before the collapse of the government. He says he constantly received threats and has had to flee his home. He is now currently in a safe but undisclosed location in Afghanistan.
“I wanted to share my story as if the Taliban find me I will not be alive to tell it. I captured many Taliban fighters during my career but they never forget our faces. All of my colleagues are worried for their lives. Some have already been killed by the Taliban.”
Zaheer explained that as soon as he realized that the Taliban were going to seize control, he decided to flee his home immediately.
“I knew that once they would be let out, they would be after us and I could not do anything about it. Our own president could not deal with them and fled the country so I had to run with my family and get a head start before they come after me,” he sad.
Uncertainty runs high about the future of Afghanistan. Former gatekeepers of order and justice like Shaheed and Zaheer live their lives on the edge, not knowing if and when they will be found by the Taliban.
“We live life waiting for some hope, for someone to help us but I don’t know if that day will ever come,” said an emotional Zaheer.
Fatima, 31 (named changed for safety reasons), is a single mother from Kabul who says that she constantly lives in fear since the Taliban took control of the country. Her husband was murdered by Taliban forces in 2020, leaving her to raise her 6-month-old child on her own.
“I miss my husband and wish to reunite with him in the afterlife. Living under the Taliban is hell for me; we cannot even go out of our house. “The Taliban do not know where I am,” she said. “If they find me they may hurt me and my family, and I cannot bear the thought of them hurting me again. I am just so desperate to escape.”
Still in hiding, Fatima is awaiting the outcome of her application for a visa to go abroad, but is concerned about how she will flee the country if the visa is accepted.
“My situation is getting worse. I feel stuck. I wish that the world would wake up to the suffering we are facing and do more to help us,” she said. “I am thankful I have my parents with me and we are alive and together, otherwise I would have gone mad thinking about all the heartache these people (Taliban) have caused me.”
Holding back the tears, Fatima expressed her concern for her young son, who now has to grow up without a father while his mother spends every day hoping that their lives will remain intact.
“There is no way I want him growing up under the Taliban flag, the same banner that represents the murderers of his father. I pray to God that one day we will be free from these oppressors and we are able to escape.”