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'It's a disaster': City's Afghan community 'terrified' for loved ones back home

Peterborough's Afghan community says it is "fearful" and "heartbroken" for their loved ones back home. 
Afghan families in Peterborough are fearful for their loved ones as the Taliban seizes control

Shocking scenes of people clinging on to an aeroplane at Kabul airport in a desperate attempt to flee the country and save their lives have been causing heartache around the globe. 

It comes as the Taliban seizes power over the country following the US exit after almost 20 years of its presence in the country. It is sending down fear among civilians who say it will now bring in a brutal regime, with women losing many of the rights they have enjoyed over the past two decades since western troops took over the country in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. 

Hundreds of Afghan families in Peterborough say they are "experiencing sleepless nights" over the situation in their home country and are worried for their families and friends who they believe are in danger. 

Some people from the community who spoke to Peterborough Matters described the situation as "disastrous". They want world nations to do more and come forward to protect the local people. 

Hameeda Husseini and her family originate from Afghanistan. They moved to Peterborough to flee conflict and have been living here since 2006. 

A law graduate from Cambridge, 27-year-old Hameeda is now working for a Peterborough-based solicitor's firm.  

But she fears many girls and women from her country might not be as fortunate and possibly will have to give up their careers now. 

She said: “I have a lot of family in Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif.  

“It’s heart-breaking and we are very worried for them. 

“What I have heard in the last two weeks - my cousins, young girls who studied in university, studied law and journalism and even medicine but they won’t be able to do anything. They are scared of the restrictions that come with the Taliban. 

"We are hearing that woman can’t work, can’t go out without a male member of their family. They probably even won’t be allowed to study. They will put restrictions on the women’s lives. 

“My friends I spoke to today, they said people from the Taliban have been going around the houses asking about what they do, where they work, and how much they earn. They are coming to people's houses to see if anyone is working with the Afghan government. 

“My friends in the outskirts of Kabul were saying they have been going around houses looking for girls - forcing them to marry them or taking them away with them. 

“Life was... improving in Afghanistan, society had come a long way in accepting women and seeing them lead a normal life. But it’s going to go back to how it used to be decades ago. Life is going to be very difficult. 

“I have heard from my family and friends that all businesses, all shops, schools, everything is closed. People are very scared to go out. Beauty salons are quite popular and busy in Kabul but they are closed and people are painting them so that the Taliban doesn't know it’s a beauty salon. 

“I am hearing that there is no money in banks there, people are really struggling. 

“It’s heart-breaking to see my country get shattered in front of our eyes. I think it’s an absolute disaster. Nobody knows what’s going to happen - what future awaits them. It was so sudden. Everyone is terrified. 

“I just want other nations to sit together and come up with a good plan like they have done in the past. Try and protect people.” 

Nations have launched evacuation operations to bring back their countrymen from Afghanistan. The US and the UK have also sent troops to bring back their citizens and diplomats as the crisis deepens. 

Kamila Mohammadi is the chair of the Afghan Hazara group in Peterborough and works with the government. She came to Peterborough along with her parents and three brothers as a 11-year-old girl in 2010. She just graduated from the university of Coventry with a law degree. 

A very emotional Kamila said: “There are nearly 300 Afghan families in Peterborough. All they can currently do is to watch their country shatter into pieces before their eyes. My own family lives in Afghanistan, and the fear of something happening to them has left me so anxious that I have been losing sleep at night and concentration during the day. 

“Afghanistan has fallen under the Taliban. This now means that the Taliban will now rule Afghanistan by installing their Sharia law. Women will no longer be able to study, work or even go out of their house freely. Children will now be taught how to use a gun instead of sent to school. People of other religions will be killed and discriminated against. Anyone who had been working in the government, journalists and actors/singers are in danger of being killed.  

“There are worse things taking place such as girls as young as 12 years old being forcefully taken by Taliban fighters to become sex slaves.  

“My aunties, my grandmas, my cousins, they all live in different parts of Afghanistan. People are helpless. We are fearful of what news we will receive about our family and friends.  

“My uncles live in Iran so that they can provide for families back home because the economy is very bad but it’s going to be completely destroyed now. I heard yesterday that even the price of bread has gone up 10 times.   

“Hundreds and thousands of people are displaced and suffering in the country. I have been told people are staying on fields, parks, any place they can find. The help being sent if any is not enough. I have been seeing videos of children crying because they are hungry, they have lost their families. 

“Our people are being killed and starving... hundreds displaced. The situation is very bad. 

“My friends have [been] informed they are looking for women journalists around Kabul. They have lost all of their identity in the society ones again, the TV stations in Afghanistan have now removed all female presenters and reporters. The universities have asked female students to not attend university for the time being as their life might be in danger. My cousin have told me that women have ones again disappeared from the streets of Kabul, there’s hardly any women in the streets or in the workplace and educational settings. The women of Afghanistan need support, they have lost their status and identity ones again in Afghan society


“We keep thinking about what’s going to happen to our families. As Hazaras, we as a community are the most targeted people. For example, one of the Sharia rules under Taliban is that men should have beards. But as Hazara people, because of the genes, men can’t grow beards as well and are targeted.  

“Islam offers a lot of rights to women. But if you ask anyone from the Taliban group - their idea of Islam is very different. 

“An interesting observation is they call themselves practitioners of Islamic law but they actually know nothing of Islam. They don’t even speak the local language so don’t know who they actually work for. They are from other countries. These Taliban fighters are being trained and brainwashed and are being sent to Afghanistan. Boys as young as 15 are fighting for the Taliban. 

“We are speaking to our family every day to just update us on the situation. My grandma is now saying people and especially children are getting sick because of the tension and fears they are experiencing. One of my aunties is pregnant and under stress.  

“So, it’s very worrying. We just hope all the time it’s not our family who is their next target. 

“The world has overlooked the sufferings of the Afghan people all this while. Only now when they saw such desperate scenes of the planes and airports, that’s when it hit the world how serious this conflict is. These are human beings, young children - going through this and the world is silent. 

“I want people to raise awareness of the situation. Hold our leaders, the governments accountable for thi s- the vulnerable people in Afghanistan should be protected: journalists, government workers, they are all at risk.  

“Canada has accepted 20,000 people but we need more help. Millions of people are in danger. People are desperate for their lives, so please support the Afghan people and accept refugees. Other nations need to open their borders to Afghan refugees." 

Following taking control of the country, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told a press conference in Kabul that “after 20 years of struggle, once again we have emancipated our country”.

Speaking to the media in the capital, the group’s spokesman said: “This is a proud moment for the whole nation.”

He said nobody should be “worried about our norms and principles” and that the rights of women would be respected within the “frameworks of Sharia”.

He said: “Our women are Muslim, they will also be happy to be living within our framework of Sharia.”

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has vowed to get as many as possible of the Afghans who worked with the UK out of the country as the Taliban stood poised to take control of Kabul. 

With President Ashraf Ghani having fled and insurgent fighters surrounding the capital the prime minister said the situation was “extremely difficult”. 

After chairing a meeting of the government’s Cobra contingencies committee, on Monday (August 16) he said the UK was determined to work with allies to prevent the country again becoming a “breeding ground for terror”. 

But he faced a backlash from MPs who said the West had been humiliated by insurgents armed with just basic weaponry. 

MPs are expected to vent their anger and frustration when they return to Westminster on Wednesday for an emergency recall of Parliament to discuss the crisis.