Australians with family in Afghanistan have shared their despair and anger at the unfolding chaos in Kabul, saying they feel powerless as they watch on.
© Provided by The Guardian Afghans desperate to flee the country crowd the tarmac at Kabul airport, as US soldiers stand guard. Photograph: Shakib Rahmani/AFP/Getty Images
As the Taliban took control of the country with lightning speed, members of the Afghan diaspora have been watching on with the rest of the world, hanging on to every update and attempting to comfort their friends and family in Kabul.
“Honestly, I just feel numb,” said Huma Mia, a grandmother and migrant who arrived in Australia in the 90s. She said her sister, brother and cousins all live in Kabul and have been in hiding for four days.
“They’re just hiding in their own homes, like hostages. They can’t go anywhere. They won’t leave even for basic things, like water, milk or bread. My cousin said everybody is just wondering when they’re going to die. And how they’re going to die.
“I speak with my sister, and I just try and give her hope, I tell her, ‘everything will be all right, don’t be so afraid’. Just things to make her a little calm, and give her some hope.
“But I really don’t know, I’m just lost.”
Mia said the speed of the Taliban’s campaign had taken her family by surprise, and that they now lived in a constant state of paranoia and fear.
We have only one hope, and that is in prayingHuma Mia, Afghan migrant in Australia
“It’s taken everybody by surprise. Nobody knew this was going to happen, how quickly things would change.
“I just pray for the best. Because we’ve lost trust with the world, with the superpowers. Even with Australia, even with our government. They abandoned Afghanistan.”
Mia said her family were desperate to leave the country, but felt they had nowhere to go, with borders around the world closed and with Kabul’s airport in disarray.
“They wish to leave, but where will they go? All the borders are closed, and they can’t go anywhere. But they wish they could leave.
“We have only one hope, and that is in praying.”
Sahar Ansari is a student, paralegal and community advocate, and said she struggled to describe the pain her family and community were going through.
“Its indescribable, these feelings of heartbreak, anguish, disappointment and anger. You can’t really pin it down to one,” she said.
“We’re watching it unfold and we’re losing sleep. I get updates every second of my day, and we watch it live on BBC or Al Jazeera.
Survivors’ guilt [is] really eating at a lot of us. Why are they suffering and not us?Sahar Ansari, Afghan student in Australia
“In my house, it’s extremely sombre, you can just feel the heaviness in the air. When you speak about it, you just feel like you’re about to cry. Last Friday, I just couldn’t take it any more, I just cried after hearing one of the cities had fallen.”
Ansari said there was a sense of “survivors’ guilt” in her community, of a recognition of their privilege in being away from the chaos, but a guilt at their relative safety.
“We just feel so helpless, and we feel like we can’t do anything, like we’re privileged, in that way. But I think that’s survivors’ guilt and it’s really eating at a lot of us. Why are they suffering and not us?”
Ansari said many in her community were disappointed at the reaction of the Australian government, saying developments in Afghanistan were inevitable to some degree, and that more should be done to support citizens stuck there.
“We all anticipated, to be honest, when we saw that American troops would withdraw, because Afghanistan was not at any point at a point of stability.© Provided by The Guardian Stranded Afghan return to their homeland at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman on Monday as the Taliban took control of their country. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
“And it’s absolutely a disappointment for us to see our government not stepping up and giving that humanitarian assistance. The community feels that Australia needs to step up to their moral obligations and do something about the crisis.”
She said members of her community had been organising to send letters to their local MPs, imploring them to lobby to accept more refugees from Afghanistan.
“We’re waiting on the government to step up and do something because we obviously don’t have the capacity to do something ourselves.”
I think that dream is gone for my generationAfghan worker in Australia
A worker in migration from the Afghan diaspora, who wished to remain anonymous, said the refugees and migrants from Afghanistan they worked with felt they were in an impossible situation.
“I think they feel helpless and very frustrated,’’ the worker said. “They are afraid becau