The objective is to find the first emergency exit. A small but relentless trickle of fugitives from Afghanistan joins the three million refugees from that country who are already settled in Pakistan. It does not matter that the border crossings are half closed due to the pandemic and for fear of a run over arrival of Afghans fleeing the new regime. MRT has interviewed three of them in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. They are also Shiites from the Hazara minority, especially persecuted by the Taliban and Sunni terrorist groups.
Police officer Razia Hakimi had to burn her uniform and hide under a burqa for the first time to escape. Mukhtar Lashkari was the presenter of the Spanish League on Afghan television who also interviewed on his show no fuss to the Taliban. And Ali Reza Faizi, the professor who saw 34 students from his academy die last October when a terrorist blew himself up and who received a letter a few days later urging him to leave because his life was in danger. Everyone has plenty of fear and hopelessness, but they have decided to stand up and tell their story.
On the run, he tried first to bury everything. But he was not able. So he decided to build a fire. “When I saw those flames, I felt my dreams burning,” says Razia Hakimi with a few tears running down her face. She moans between soft sobs, fighting to keep her throat from blocking. He wants to continue to bear witness. It was Sunday, August 15, with the Taliban already in Kabul and occupying the neighboring presidential palace, he understood that everything was over. As a woman and a policeman, her life was on the wane in the new Afghanistan. He had gone to work, but shortly after arriving the alert went off and everyone panicked at the office under the Ministry of the Interior near Mahmud Khan Square. There was a disbandment under the superior order of not offering resistance in any case.
Gone were five years that began, after graduating from Kabul University, with a six-month training in Turkey. During that five-year period, she relates that, tenacious and excited, she had been rising and earning the respect of the street and her colleagues. “At first they didn’t think we could do the night shift or go to places considered dangerous,” he says, smiling. After overcoming the first reluctance and family mistrust, she had not only managed to be one of the 5,000 agents in the country but also worked in what she liked the most. It had come to the Department of Human Rights and Gender, with special attention to protecting families, women and children. As head of human rights in District 1 of the capital, she occupied second place in the ranks of the 317 members of the body who worked in her office, of which 30 were women. The taunts when they saw them in uniform were less and less and the cases they were solving served to break the thick wall of taboo. When the Taliban guerrillas took the capital, Hakimi had a driver and three assistants, two women and a man.
When he got home, his family had already started gathering his things to make them disappear. The fire devoured documentation, objects, police uniforms … Then, they urged her to go to some neighbors’ house in case they came to look for her. But there it did not last long. They did not want to take risks. “I couldn’t believe what was happening to me,” he continues. The only solution left was to leave the country.
Soon, the Taliban began to search government offices and thus obtained Hakimi’s identity, address, and phone numbers. They even accessed her profiles on social networks, where they had her photos, interviews and all kinds of information that put her at extreme risk. Now, the threats by phone also reach his family, who live in hiding.
This is how on the night of Monday the 16th she covered herself with a burqa for the first time in her life and embarked on a trip in shared transport accompanied by her 16-year-old younger brother. In this way, he says, he could comply with the Taliban precept that prevents women from going without the company of a man. The route to the south is a common escape route in these weeks for those fleeing the new regime, according to various testimonies collected by MRT. In the morning they changed vehicles in Kandahar and thus managed to reach Spin Boldak, on the border with Pakistan. On the road, they only encountered three roadblocks, which they successfully passed. But the Pakistani guards did not make it easy for him. Hakimi’s brother carried off several sticks until they managed to cross paying 25,000 rupees as a bribe.
In addition to her regular work, she trained her colleagues, served as a proud media spokesperson, met with politicians and human rights organizations, and participated in seminars. Everything has been kept these days in the trunk of the memories of this woman who until last month was the only sustenance of the whole family. That distresses her almost as much as her brother’s upbringing.
Hakimi’s face lights up when she talks about the day in 2018 when, along with other authorities, she met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenber. He told her about what it was like to be a policewoman in Afghanistan. He proudly guards the photo that was taken with him and displays it as if it were the necessary safe-conduct for the international protection he implores. An obstacle course in which you compete with tens of thousands of compatriots. All desperate like her.
– What would happen if in the time of the Taliban you saw me combed and dressed like this?
“I would order my people to keep him safe until his beard grows.”
Mukhtar Lashkari knew that the television of which he is vice president was directly threatened by the Taliban. Still, it regularly brought out its sharp beak. This exchange of dialectical shots is just one of many he has starred in. It corresponds to the interview he conducted in 2019 with Mawlawi Qalamuddin, minister for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in the government that kept them in power between 1996 and 2001 and one of the negotiators in Qatar in recent months.
The leader agreed to go to Cactus, a show broadcast every Thursday night with live music and all the incentives to unnerve some recalcitrant guests. In fact, the presenter and producer delved into the wound and reminded him that he was attending a show, like that television show, that they themselves had banned when they were in power. But the guest was undaunted and said that her presence on set was neither a defeat nor a change of mind but that some of those who work on her spread sin. As a farewell, the journalist gave him a souvenir photo of the Buddhas of Bamiyan that they had destroyed after he said that “our leader Mullah Omar had no idea about it.”
On another occasion he managed to bring Cactus to Abdul Shokor Motmaen, another leader and also a friend of the famous guerrilla founder. Lashkari could not think of anything other than to broadcast the program from the Kabul football stadium, which the Taliban turned into a deadly and macabre scene where they murdered and amputated hands in front of thousands of people to impose terror. The presenter asked him how he felt in that place and the answer was that it was “obligatory” to obey Mullah Omar and carry out those executions. “The mullah said that women cannot leave home without their husband or father, how can they be able to play sports in front of the eyes of men?” Defended Abdul Shokor Motmaen.
With this background, it was not surprising that the journalist took his family and, after cutting his hair and hiding behind sunglasses, set out on the road to Pakistan, where he gives this interview in a place that he does not want to be revealed, like the other protagonists of this report.
Lashkari, 34, came from working at Tolo TV between 2010 and 2013. Later, he was signed by 1 TV, the other large private network in the country. He had also hosted and produced contests where money was made and joked with contestants, an offense to radical Islamists. They especially chose some images in which he appeared dancing on the set with Aryana Sayeed, a famous Afghan singer, also a scourge of the Taliban, who managed to leave last month in the first evacuation planes and is welcomed in the United States.
He is also a well-known sportscaster. After the 2010 World Cups, one of his biggest hits in the audience was being the face of the League when 1 TV acquired the rights. “I remember that Neymar was at Barça, who unfortunately won the league that year,” he laughs. His seven-year-old son Mushtaba, who listens to the story, then begins, as if singing the multiplication table, to sing the Real Madrid line-up.
“I have a clear conscience. I think I did my job and fought for the democracy of the Afghans, ”he says somewhat crestfallen and worried about his safety and his future with his family. With the Taliban at the gates of Kabul, the last Cactus broadcast took place on Thursday, August 12. The guest was former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was interviewed by video conference.
Looking back, he remembers Mawlawi Qalamuddin telling him on set two years ago that time would tell who wins and who doesn’t. “Unfortunately, they have won,” ditch Muhktar Lashkari.
Ali Reza Faizi, a mathematics teacher, remembers with horror the noon of Saturday, October 24 last year. A terrorist arrived at the private Kawsar-e-Danesh academy in western Kabul, where students are being prepared for university. He wanted to access the facilities with the explosive charge, but was detected by a security guard. The kamikaze then blew himself up in the alley that leads to the building.
The young man, who was inside, saves on his mobile phone the video of the security camera that picked up the explosion, the scenes with the dead and wounded, the remains of books, clothes, shoes and blood, and a montage with the portraits of the 34 dead. Most were students, but the fatal list was also added to by the guard who discovered the attacker. They belong to the Hazara ethnic group, a threatened and persecuted Shiite minority.
In the place where the explosion took place, the canvas with the portrait of Shamsia, the student who had obtained the best grade the year before in the university entrance exams that had been prepared in that academy, still shines, as reported the next day of the attack Tolo News.
A few days later, on November 2, Faizi received a worrying letter from the local authorities. THE COUNTRY has had access to it. In the letter, with letterhead, official seal and in his name, they inform him that there are “serious death threats” about him. In the aftermath of the bomb attack, “specific people may have been designated to kill you and members of your family. For your own safety and that of your family, leave the country if possible. “
The young man, married and without children, then left the Kawsar-e-Danesh academy, which was not the first time he had been the target of terrorists, and began teaching at another, the Istiqlal High School, in Vardak province, al southwest of the capital. In both institutions, teaching was shared by both sexes, something that Faizi does not believe will continue to occur under the new regime. “They consider it a crime that we teach boys and girls at the same time,” he says.
“The first thing that is needed is security and protection. It is very difficult to know what is going to happen ”, says this graduate in Mathematics in 2013 at the University of Kabul from the place where he is hiding in Islamabad. He has traveled alone and his wife and the rest of the family stayed in Afghanistan. “Right now there is no hope,” he acknowledges, jaded, aware that, at least in the short term, there is not the slightest room for optimism.