She’s in California, Her Husband is in Afghanistan
American says U.S. government needs to be held accountable for evacuation and rescue disaster
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Maryam and her husband in Afghanistan are on the phone unless one of them is sleeping. “It makes me feel better to keep him on the phone so I know he’s alive, even if we’re not speaking, just hearing him,” she said.
Still, she can’t sleep. “I wake up every hour and freak out. I call him to make sure everything is okay. I just feel so helpless to get my husband out of there and start our life here.“
Maryam has been trying to get her husband to the U.S. since they got married in 2019. The most recent effort was to get him on one of the last flights out of Kabul.
Maryam, 32, got an email from the State Department (below) on Aug. 16 for her husband Bibi to go to the airport to fly to America. She also received a visa with his name on it. He followed her instructions and got beat by the Taliban.
“American military said to my husband, ‘No, go, move.’ And if he didn’t move, then the Taliban would come and push and beat him out of line,” she said, having heard it all through the phone. “We are a super power, and we asked the Taliban to control these lines?”
Maryam said Bibi went to the airport five days in a row, each time following the instructions she was getting from the State Department emails.
“He goes to a specific gate, 20 minutes later, I get an email to go to another gate. With 3,000 people shoving you, it’s almost impossible. But he gets to the next gate, and then it’s closed,” she said, sounding exhausted. “It’s almost as if his path was deliberately being blocked.”
Read about the Americans turned away from Kabul airport in those final days in my post that is updated daily here:
Bibi, who works for a U.S. contractor, was an official in the Afghanistan government before the fall. His boss left the country. So he was risking being recognized by Taliban when he kept going back to the airport with a valid U.S. visa and gate pass.
“He got hit by Taliban, burned by the sun. And when he got to the gate, he was kicked back out— despite having a gate pass that shows his full name,” Maryam told me by phone from her home in California.
“My husband lives in Kabul -- and even he said he’s never seen chaos like the airport,” she told me by phone. “He saw an elderly woman die in front of him. He got stepped on . He saw a child die. He lost his shoe, for goodness sake.”
On the sixth day, Maryam told her husband to stop trying. “I told him, ‘I would rather you hide out in your home because chances are better than you get killed in that chaos at the airport.’”
When the U.S. military withdrew from Kabul airport on Aug. 30, Maryam become despondent. “I don't know how to get my husband out anymore. The Taliban says we’ll let people leave in a dignified manner, but how do we trust that?” She’s referring to this claim by the Taliban’s spokesman:
Maryam said that without the U.S. there, no one will care if the Taliban keeps its word on allowing people with the right papers go to America. “Who is going to hold the Taliban accountable?” she asked.
Maryam was born in Afghanistan. When she was 5-years-old, her parents escaped the Taliban by going to Pakistan. She got to America when she was 7-years-old. Her parents and her younger siblings are all American citizens. She works in the medical device industry.
She always wanted to go back to visit her relatives, so she took a trip to Afghanistan in 2017. (She didn't tell her parents in advance so they wouldn’t worry.) It turned out to be a romantic trip when she met Bibi through her mother’s family. They fell in love.
Two years later, Maryam went back to get married. The young couple assumed it would be a regular order to get a spousal visa to live in America. But nothing went as planned. She applied for the visa, but the embassy didn’t do the interviews in 2020 due to COVID. When the interviews started again in 2021, there was a backlog of cases.
In May, the interview situation was almost impossible because the U.S. was trying to get all the SIV holders out first, so the family visa applicants, like Bibi, were put on hold. However, Maryam said she wasn’t worried: “They told us Kabul wouldn't fall.”
“We just easily gave up— to a terrorist group. It’s just a slap in the face for generally everyone that was involved. Not just the civilians,” she said. “Eventually war has to end, but it should have been more accountability on how you left and the proper measures taken.”
The retired special operation operator, who I’ve called Mark, connected me with Maryam. He’s been working to get her husband out of Afghanistan through “Project Exodus.”
Maryam asked to talk to me because she wants the public to know how the U.S. government has failed its citizens.
“It’s not just my husband over there who can’t get out. I know permanent residents - a whole bunch of people who qualify,” she said. “These people are not refugees.”
She has family members who live in California and were visiting Afghanistan when Kabul fell. They are green card holders. She said they never got a call to evacuate. When they tried to go to the airport, they were turned back and told to go back and wait for a call.
Two other family members who are U.S. permanent residents were visiting family for a wedding when the country unexpectedly fell under Taliban rule. Anther relative was in Afghanistan to get married and now is stuck there.
“All I’ve heard is a commitment from Joe Biden, but I can’t find anything on a government website.” Pres. Biden said Tuesday that:
we are joined by over 100 countries that are determined to make sure the Taliban upholds those commitments. It will include ongoing efforts in Afghanistan to reopen the airport, as well as overland routes, allowing for continued departure to those who want to leave
Also, Maryam reached out to her congressman and got a back the “most basic response and cut and pasted”
That’s why she asked Mark —- a retired special operator who is running the group “Project Exodus” — to rescue her husband.
“We really need to hold our government officials accountable. They need to be aware so people like my husband and other allies to our government are safely evacuated and they make a better contingency plan to let people leave who have the proper documents,” she said. “They need to not rely on the Taliban to be so ‘dignified.’”
*Names are changed for their safety.
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Thank you to my paid subscribers for funding this work and allowing me to spend time this week coordinating the “Project Exodus” work to rescue the Americans and allies left behind in Afghanistan.