An Afghan refugee in Wales, whose teenage nephews were murdered by the Taliban and was herself shot at by them, is begging for help for her family in Kabul.
Shahnaz Hakim’s relatives have gone into hiding fearing for their lives since the Taliban swept back to power this week, stunning the world.
The Taliban have already knocked on the door of another terrified nephew’s home. As a former member of staff at the presidential palace, organising meetings and writing protocols, he went into hiding as soon as the Taliban took Kabul and the president fled. You can read more about that .
“The Taliban are going to people’s houses, They have gone to my nephew’s house and asked if he had weapons and documents. My relatives are hiding, fearing death,” said Shahnaz as she watched events unfold with horror at home in Cardiff.
“No one can trust the Taliban, they are worse than wild animals.
“When they came to power in Afghanistan for the first time I lost my two teen age nephews that were killed together. It seems that history gets repeated and that is very painful. It will get worse than it was 20 years ago.
“For me as a woman who lived under Taliban rule I don’t want to watch this. I had to flee. You cannot believe the Taliban when they say they have changed.”
Shahnaz feels Afghanistan and its people have been abandoned by the international community who urged them to work together to build democracy during the 20-year war.
The former English teacher, who now works as a teaching assistant for Newport City Council, knows too well what life under the Taliban is like. She can hardly believe all the work and lives lost to change that have been for nothing.
“The US and international community have played with Afghan people’s lives. It is shameful.
“Every Afghan family in Cardiff whom I am in contact with are so upset, hopeless and stressed about their families.
“Can the British government help us? Can they help my siblings and family join us? My message to the British government is I beg them to help the Afghan people. Don’t leave Afghan people behind.”
Before the Taliban first took power in 1996 Shahnaz, now 57, was an English teacher. That stopped when the regime banned women and girls from education or jobs.
When the US invaded to topple the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks she went on to work on education projects for the American and British governments as well as for the UN Commission for refugees, Unicef and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) among others. She also worked as a translator.
Fleeing Afghanistan for the UK in 2011 with her 13 year-old son Zahir after receiving death threats, Shahnaz was soon joined by her husband, retired engineer Shapor.
Settled in a small house in Cardiff, Shahnaz got a job as a teaching assistant and Zahir started school. They missed their family and their country, but hoped international forces would keep the Taliban at bay.
That started to unravel when the Trump administration brokered a deal to pull out US forces last year and current US President Joe Biden set a date of August 31.
Describing the terror of living under Taliban rule, Shahnaz recalled speaking to a neighbour from her balcony in Kabul without a headscarf on. Spotting her a Taliban gunman took aim with a round of machine gun fire. The bullets hit the wall, narrowly missing her head.
Seeing the Taliban return she has been suffering panic attacks and fears she will never see her relatives again. For now they have wifi and she can contact them but that may not last.
Shahnaz has tried to comfort her distraught niece who was about to start university but now fears her education will be halted under the regime’s interpretation of Islamic law.
She believes “someone else’s hand” worked to help the Taliban break their deal to create a coalition with the former president who she criticised for fleeing.
Her life in Wales has been good. Zahir, now 23, is studying computer science at Cardiff Metropolitan University and has got married. Shahnaz, her husband and son all now have British citizenship.
But the family can feel little peace knowing the terrible danger and uncertain future their family and others back in Afghanistan are now facing.
To get the latest news from WalesOnline sent straight to your email inbox click
Source: Wales Online