Newborn in a Basement: Father Beaten by Taliban for Working at USAID in Afghanistan (Part 2)
Begs for State Department visa and private group charter evacuation
This is part two in a series of a father who worked at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul but was left behind in Afghanistan after the hasty withdrawal in August 2021. Read part one here: Abandoned in Afghanistan: USAID employee cites 'moral obligation' of America (Part 1)
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“A new baby was born today in a hospital, but I can’t go to the hospital because of Taliban checkpoints,” Arash* emailed me recently.
The frustrated father could not see his new son until his wife returned to the basement where they have been hiding with their toddler son since the U.S. withdrawal in August. Arash held a prominent position working for America at USAID, which has made him a specific target of the Taliban for the past two years.
“See his face and smile?” he asked when he sent me a photo of his son. “Are you gonna let us down in Afghanistan? My wife told me she’s very scared that our son's future is not in our hands, and we can’t protect him here.”
Arash was a financial analyst in USAID’s Office of Economic Growth and Trade in Afghanistan, which is why the Taliban is after him. In 2019, he was captured and beaten. The Taliban member who assaulted him was put in Bagram prison, but released when Kabul fell in August. Now the terrorist is hunting Arash.
He said that the Taliban has been interrogating his friends and looking at their phones for any messages and social media to track Arash. He said the Taliban wants to “find my location and finish me and my family.”
Arash and I have been corresponding since early September when he asked for private veterans’ groups to rescue him. He told me then that his wife was pregnant. With the newborn, he’s even more desperate to get his family to safety.
“Yesterday night, the Taliban groups came to our streets searching for people who worked with foreigners or with the former government,” he wrote. “I think President Biden needs to be shown the thousands of Afghans who served with the U.S. have been killed and injured from the Taliban,” he said.
No reply from the State Department
The American director of his department wrote a letter on Aug. 16 in support of his family getting a priority-1 visa and emergency evacuation.
Click “read now” in the box below to see the whole letter:
The embassy boss wrote that Arash:
received very real threats from the Taliban for his employment [REDACTED] and its partnership with the U.S. Government. In 2019, he was captured by Taliban member [REDACTED] and beaten for his partnership with U.S. Government
This Taliban member was later imprisoned but recently released from Bagram prison with the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul. Given the Taliban member’s relentless targeting of X or two years, he, his wife, and son, are now a target again with the prisoner’s release.
I believe these threats to X and his family to be very real and credible and strongly recommend X, his wife, and son for the P-1 visa and emergency evacuation out of Kabul.
The so-called P-1 visa is part of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program that is managed by the State Department. “Priority 1” are Afghans referred by someone at the U.S. Embassy to the program “by virtue of their circumstances and apparent need for resettlement.” State has not processed the visa request from his American supervisor since August.
He believes that if I can connect him with the right person at the State Department, then he will get a visa and be evacuated. But even if State gives him a visa, it doesn’t give him a plane ride or a land route out of there. He will need seats on one of the private charter planes paid for by American donors for his family.
American private rescue groups
Arash said he has asked for rescue from the veterans’ groups but, so far, none have been able to help him. He said he’s contacted Project Exodus, Tzedek Association, Task Force Argo, Task Force Pineapple and Team America Relief.
“On a daily basis, planes take off from Kabul and Mazar airports. Why not us? Why not my sons?” Arash emailed me after seeing a news report about an American private charter flight with Afghan nationals. “Please take our hands and take us to safety.”
He believes that the U.S. government is choosing who to evacuate, which is not the case. It’s challenging to explain to people in Afghanistan that these life and death decisions are being made by private donors and the affiliated veteran and faith-based groups.
A man hiding in a basement with a newborn because he worked for America doesn’t want to hear excuses.
Arash can’t get work as a financial analyst because the private sector has been closed in Kabul since August. The family is struggling for survival.
“I swear to God we don't even have food to eat because we still live in a basement because we’re under direct target of Taliban,” he emailed recently. “No one encourages us to work, to learn, to reach new opportunities — everyone just says: wait. I’m 30 now, and at least want my son’s future to be not like his father.”
*I’ve changed his name and omitted information that could make him identifiable to the Taliban. He told me to give his real name and former title and department to the State Department.
I checked the USAID in Afghanistan website for Economic Growth to see what it’s doing since Arash lost his job. It says this is its “work”:
USAID partners with the Government of Afghanistan to bolster sustainable, export-driven economic growth, strengthen the private sector, and expand the reach of quality Afghan products to international markets. Our assistance aims to forge a self-reliant Afghanistan where all citizens–including women and girls, minorities, and people with disabilities–have the resources and opportunities to thrive.
You’d think this website just hadn’t been changed since the Taliban took over the country and closed down the economy. But no. This is at the bottom of the page:
Last updated: September 24, 2021.
USAID -- Afghanistan Economic Growth
State Department: U.S. Refugee Admissions Program
State Department press release, Aug. 2: U.S. Refugee Admissions Program Priority 2 Designation for Afghan Nationals
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