The eyes of the world are on Afghanistan, which fell under the control of the Taliban in 10 days. After the capital Kabul came under Taliban control on Sunday evening, the influx of Afghans who wanted to leave the country at all costs at Hamid Karzai International Airport created images that will go down in history.
One of the most cited images was the image of 640 people who left Afghanistan aboard a US Air Force cargo plane. One of those on board, Afghan journalist Ramin Rahman, wrote about his experiences at the time for the Guardian newspaper. Here are those moments with Rahman’s narration …
THE DAY STARTS WITH A PHONE
The day the Taliban took control, I got a call from my friend in Germany in the morning. My friend told me to go to the airport immediately. There was a possibility that the German Embassy evacuation plane would leave Afghanistan that day and my friend put my name on the evacuation list because I had previously worked for the German press. In addition, I was in the visa application process for a year.
I didn’t have time to think too much. I was a progressive and outspoken journalist with tattoos; In short, I was the exact opposite of what the Taliban wanted. I didn’t buy anything except my laptop and my phone. As soon as I left my house, I was overcome with fear, I had never felt such pressure before.
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When I got to the airport the first checkpoint was pretty scary. The police had left and almost all the soldiers had withdrawn. There was only private security at the airport, they also checked the luggage. I was afraid of being turned away because I didn’t have a visa, but I couldn’t.
CRYING WOMEN, MEN AND BABIES …
When I reached the international terminal, I was shocked and dejected by what I saw. There were thousands of people inside: women, men and babies crying… They were hesitant to know what to do. They were afraid the Taliban would come. All of these people, including foreigners, went to the airport not knowing what to expect.
People around me panicked when they realized there was no plane they could get on. Even among those who had purchased their tickets, there was uncertainty about the planes taking off.
The people were afraid. In this environment, they started to damage the airport. They broke windows and counters. From then on, the situation worsened. I was also in a panic, but managed to hide in a corner.
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THE PLANE TO TURKEY LEFT AT THIS TIME
When I looked out the window, I witnessed what happened around a plane trying to head for Turkey. People were flocking to the plane, trying to climb by hanging from the stairs. The plane was full. The officers were trying to get people down the stairs. The screams of those trying to board the plane could be heard from inside the airport. “We want to leave, or we will die,” someone shouted. I waited in fear, watching and wondering what my fate would be.
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At around 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., someone shouted that the Taliban had entered the airport. People started to scream and run out towards the track. There was total chaos at the airport, there was no one to control the situation. I always thought the Taliban was coming.
“WE ARE CONTINUOUSLY HEARING TILES”
Everyone around me prayed in fear. No one knew what to do. I called my friend back to Germany. He said the Germans could not start the evacuation until the next day. It was terrible news and I knew I had to decide what to do next.
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I saw American soldiers leading a small group of people towards the military section of the runway. One of the soldiers was saying to a group of foreigners, “This is American soil, the Taliban will not come here. I started running after them with a very crowded group. We were constantly hearing gunshots, and those sounds seemed to come very close.
For a few seconds, I thought time had stood still. All I hear is Americans “Come on, come on, come on!” were his words.
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PILOTS SAY “PLEASE LAND”
I saw a group of people coming towards a plane, and I followed them. It was all I could do at the time. I was rushed onto the plane. There were hundreds of people inside. It was impossible to sit down, everyone was standing. People were hanging on to each other and their children. I couldn’t breathe …
The American pilots were shouting that there were too many people on board, that it was therefore impossible to take off. “Please get off, please get off,” one of them shouted. Then the soldiers came in and started pushing people through the front and back doors. We were in the middle block.
It was a chaotic, uncomfortable and stressful environment. People were jostling each other, there was no air inside. The whole experience was depressing, sad and frightening. When I looked around I saw mothers with their newborn babies in their arms and I felt very guilty. I decided to get off the plane.
THE PLANE TAKES THE AIR
But as I walked towards the door, I saw American soldiers circling the plane in armored vehicles. One of the soldiers told me to stay in my seat because threats had been detected around the plane. So 20 more minutes passed.
Then all of a sudden the Americans told the people around the door to get on the plane. I was one of them. It was our only chance. We hurried on the plane and they closed the doors.
I couldn’t see outside because there were no windows, but I thought in my head that the fighting was starting outside. The plane remained on standby for an hour. During this time, I was thinking about possible future scenarios.
Then all of a sudden, without warning, the plane started to move. We took off. We took off …
Crowds of people on the track are even reflected in satellite images
THE HOURS WITHOUT AIR AND WATER ARE OVER AND FINALLY …
It was one of the happiest times. Everyone was applauding and applauding. The American pilot who made the decision to take off was congratulated. There was a feeling of “We would be dead if this plane hadn’t come”. We were so happy.
The flight was quite difficult. There were a lot of babies inside. Parents tried to hold babies above their heads so that they wouldn’t be stepped on. We flew for hours without food, water, or even a space to breathe.
Finally, we landed at the US Air Force airport in Qatar, and from there we were sent to a military base. When we landed, I experienced many emotions at the same time; happiness, sadness, confusion, exhaustion and frustration. I have tried to explain the situation to people who cannot speak English and to help them get their emergency medication.
I took a chance and tried to change my life in a situation that could have been very bad. I look forward to the next steps and what will happen next. I’m sorry I left it all behind. I am sorry for Afghanistan. But I’m very, very happy to be alive.