Afghan activist dreams of returning home one day
By Llazar Semini | Associated press
GOLEM, Albania – Ghazaal Habibyar is in an Albanian tourist resort, safe with her husband and three children after being evacuated from Afghanistan. But her mind is not at ease, as many others she knows are still in danger from the Taliban.
Habibiyar, 38, is concerned for her extended family and devastated by the more than 180 people killed at Kabul airport just an hour before its chaotic takeoff.
Her family, including a 2-month-old daughter, and other human rights activists drove on a bus for 36 hours trying to find entry to Hamid Karzai Airport in Kabul. Just before boarding the plane on Thursday, they heard “so much noise in the air” that they were told the flight could be canceled. After 40 minutes, they were shoved into the plane, which took off frighteningly vertically to avoid being shot.
The suicide bombing at the airport on Thursday by an Islamic State-affiliated group killed at least 169 Afghans and 13 US servicemen.
“There are times in your life when you feel guilty for being alive. It could have been us, sure, ”she told The Associated Press on Sunday. “These people who lost their lives, they have families, they are very young people.
She and her family are among 607 Afghans hosted in Albania since Friday.
Alexander Soros, vice president of the Open Society Foundations, praised Albania for doing more than accepting evacuees.
“He kissed them. This small country has given a disproportionate welcome to the most vulnerable – human rights defenders, women activists, journalists and artists, ”he said, urging other countries“ to follow suit ”.
Recently heading the Open Society Foundation in Afghanistan, Habibiyar was unable to complete her education at home when she was young, fearing the Taliban’s attitude towards women and education, so she graduated in Australia. Despite opportunities abroad, she returned to Kabul in 2006. Since then, she has held many public positions, including as Deputy Minister of Mines and Gasoline, “trying to make a difference, maybe small, but all I could to make this place a better place. “
She says Afghanistan has changed for the better over the past two decades, saying “it’s not the Afghanistan of 1996”. But in provinces ruled by the Taliban, “girls’ schools have been closed. Women were not allowed to work.
“If this is a testament to what is going to happen to the whole country, we had to leave,” she said.
Yet she criticizes the way the United States and NATO left the country.
“This catastrophe, this human catastrophe that is happening right now, could have been avoided. This whole evacuation process could have been handled much better, ”she said.
Habibyar is unsure of what his immediate future holds, saying that “it will take a long time for us to recover psychologically, mentally and emotionally from everything we have been through.”
He already misses the Afghan capital, Kabul, “the fruit on the side of the street I crossed when I went to my office” and the birdsong in the morning.
Habibiyar made a promise to his son when the plane took off. Hamza, 6, was crying and didn’t want to leave.
“I told her you would make a promise to me: study, be someone and come back,” she said.