A 30-year-old Oman (name changed) was buying goods in a shop in Lajpat Nagar, Delhi, otherwise known as Little Kabul, while his father stood nearby, conversing in Persian with some Afghan nationals. One can often find small businesses-confectioneries, eateries, and pharmacies by Afghan refugees, in the Delhi neighbourhoods of Lajpat Nagar and Jangpura, to support themselves.
Oman lives with his father on the second storey of a rented apartment on the colony’s outskirts. Because he has a military background, his family is hiding in Herat, but he is concerned about his visa expiry.
“I came here on 15 August, when the Taliban captured my country. My father works in the military and he was present here for his treatment in Hyderabad. My family is hiding in Herat, Afghanistan. We are here on a medical visa, but our visa is going to expire soon; we need to extend it. Currently, we are not planning to return as the economic situation of the country is poor. I work in the military and so does my father, but we are afraid to return. Taliban forces keep looking for Afghan soldiers, who were previously working with American troops.” he told The Sunday Guardian.
His concerns also include his lack of employment and the threat to his family. His bank accounts have been frozen, and the father-son duo is surviving on $3000. “I also tried to register with UNHCR but haven’t received any response yet. Our bank accounts are frozen and we are surviving on $3000. This money was set aside for my father’s surgery, but circumstances have forced us to postpone the operation,” he said.
On 15 August this year, when India celebrated its Independence Day, the Taliban, which had ruled Afghanistan since 1996 until being overthrown by the US military in 2001, invaded the country. People, who have managed to flee their homeland and seek refuge in other countries, often struggle to manage their finances and look for work in multiple countries. Some military personnel, physicians, and media professionals are terrified to return to their homeland.
The small Afghan colony near the congested Masjid road of Jangpura extension has similar stories to tell. Milana (name changed), who was a student of Mass Communication at Delhi University, stays in Himachal Pradesh with her family. She told this correspondent, “I am here in Delhi to visit my aunt and cousin. My uncle and other cousins, who worked as translators for American forces in Afghanistan, managed to escape and boarded the flight on August 15; they had applied for a visa a few months prior to the Taliban’s detention. My aunt and her two children (a 16-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son) are in India but planning to shift to the USA. My aunt and cousins were here on a medical visa, which has already expired; my aunt has obtained her visa to travel to the United States, but the children have not yet received their visas. My aunt has applied for their visa three times and has yet to receive a response.”
She added, “Most of the Taliban men are seeking for women or girl children to marry. My aunty is scared that they may abduct her daughter, therefore she will not return. My cousins are all in the army, but some are hiding in Kabul, Afghanistan. Their whole family is in jeopardy. Nothing good is left in Afghanistan, no salaries, no food, nothing.”
Another Afghan national, Amjad (name changed), a 40-year-old doctor, staying in India, hopelessly breaks down while narrating the current reality in Afghanistan. He said, “I am here for my wife’s treatment, now I am unable to return. My life is in danger as I am involved in several projects and working for Americans.”
While detailing his expenses for his wife’s medical treatment and lodging, he told this correspondent, “I pay Rs 20,000 for my accommodation. For the first time in my life, I am unemployed and responsible for my bills. Even if I return, I won’t be able to find work. Furthermore, some administrative roles are staffed by people who are neither skilled nor technical. Imagine Taliban soldiers in positions of doctors or managers! Taliban believes that the people who have worked for the previous government will not be loyal to them, so most of them are being removed.”
He is, however, open to visiting other nations such as Europe, the United States, or anywhere else. “The media is completely under the control of the Taliban, people are also reluctant to write anything on social media. There have been numerous reports of persons being kidnapped and slain, including army men and interpreters who formerly worked for the US. Except for some fields like education and medicine, women are not permitted to work in all fields. Female students are permitted to study till the sixth grade in some cities, but not in all sections of the country,” he said, explaining the current state of affairs in his nation.
His opinions on the Taliban have not changed, since he sees history repeating again. He says that their political ideas have shifted as a result of their leaders, but that the future remains an open question. “While there are some positive aspects to their invasion, such as their control over crime and security, I don’t believe they will be able to rule our country for long. With such antiquated policies, another conflict will erupt in a matter of months or years. The economy has already collapsed due to a lack of imports from neighbouring countries. However, I feel they can go a long way if they adjust some of their strategies.”
Another journalist from Afghanistan, who wants to stay anonymous, shares his story with the correspondent. He has been staying in India since August and has no plans to return sooner. He is looking for work in India and abroad. He said, “Currently, Afghanistan is facing several problems-poverty, hunger, joblessness and economic downfall. My family has a shopping complex, which we intend to sell in order to generate income. My father sends money so that I can stay alive and safe. Our family knows someone in Sharai Shahzada, a well-known trading market in Kabul, who transfers money online to a travel agent in Lajpat Nagar, Delhi. After taking the commission, he then gives me the money.”
He added, “As a journalist, I am well aware that the current state of my homeland is at risk. Many police officers and security workers are killed, and the media is powerless to show the truth. I filed for a visa in Europe and in Canada, but have yet to receive an answer. I’ve received threats from the Taliban, so I don’t intend to return, but am willing to relocate to another country.”