One woman’s account of her personal odyssey from Afghanistan to America
Please consider donating to our “Afghan Ally Rescue Campaign,” to help get “Nina’s” family to safety
Every human being fears waking up in the morning and being confronted with a drastic change. When you’re planning another energetic and hopeful day, but find yourself facing the complete opposite, it’s easy to lose track of what happens next. This is especially severe if you’re a female and you’re aware that this rapid change will mostly affect you because, in this change, women have no place or value.
This abrupt shift reflects the growing authority of those who had previously proven themselves wrong in 1996, demonstrating their cruelty and ineptness to the people. You are well aware that the new adjustment will damage your life and entirely disregard your existence. You know that you, as a man, a woman, a person, you have no place or worth in this new administration. And, like a slave, you just have one duty: to accept what they say or else you’ll be killed without having any support. When you wake up to find that your entire life is going in the opposite direction, it can be worse than a nightmare.
All of this became a reality for Afghans on August 15, 2021. My country was confronted with a disaster that it could never have imagined. The Taliban, those ruthless, barbaric anthropoids, who have no reasoning or thought, and whose religion is violence, have regained control of your country and your life. And once again, ignorance, brutality, immorality, and despotism have taken control in Afghanistan.
Before this collapse, there were indications of war everywhere. There were explosions in schools, in maternity wards, in the streets, and these attacks affected people’s minds and lives in a difficult environment.
But we were a new generation, full of enthusiasm, and we never considered giving up. Aside from many other changes over the last 20 years, with the support and backing of American soldiers, Afghanistan had progressed toward modernization, and education has become the primary objective of every young person. My goal, like that of other students, was to finish my degree at one of the top-ranked colleges in Afghanistan, one that offers a world-class education to the country’s youth. I chose American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) in Kabul.
Despite the fact that my family was quite conservative and I didn’t have the right to attend this university or any English classes, I decided to study English at home, while I was in the last years of high school, since I had a strong desire to learn it. This was not an easy decision, but I stood by my plan and passed the TOEFL test (Test of English as a Foreign Language), putting me on the path to my dreams. With so many goals and dreams for education, which is my top priority in life, I worked tirelessly to raise funds by speaking with and representing AUAF to international and national donors, so that we could help many students who were eager to join our community.
Looking at a new generation avidly attending universities all across the country, and setting their ambitious objectives for establishing a better future for Afghanistan, was a tremendous motivation for me. It always gave me a warm feeling and hope, even on the coldest days of my life. Thousands of students across Afghanistan were attending universities and pursuing an education, despite the country’s turmoil, in the hopes of one day being able to apply the skills they had learned to serve their country. Nothing could break my spirit while seeing so much passion among Afghan youth.
However, on that fearful day, I discovered that my country had fallen into the hands of the wrong people, the Taliban. All of my hopes, goals, and plans for the future were frozen, and all I could think about was staying alive.
Many of us managed to escape that most horrible government, leaving behind our families, our friends, our loved ones, and our souls. Going back three months, after 12 days of darkness, ambiguity, dread, fear, and foggy days in a small flat with no hope, on the last day of that nightmare, at 4 a.m I received a phone call from a friend saying, “Be ready, we’re leaving Kabul today.”
Despite my uncertainty and hesitancy, it was my heart that made the decision. Although it felt like a needle, as though you were yearning for nothing when you realized you were dying, something deep inside me told me I had a long trip ahead of me. After only a few hours, I was at the airport, which was unbelievable.
Just minutes before getting on the U.S. Army plane, to relieve myself of the sadness I felt in my heart, I touched the ground with tears in my eyes and murmured, “I’ll come back, mother”. It seemed as if I was traveling through the world of death and living every minute, having two completely distinct feelings at the same time. For a few moments, I felt enormous joy that I was safe, that I was just minutes away from boarding a plane to an unknown but safe destination. But my heart also felt a deep sorrow at the thought of leaving behind all my dreams and my loved ones.
That was my first flight, flying across the skies in an army plane with no windows. Every second felt like a dream. The plane was encircled by American soldiers. Many young warriors looked after us, as if we were their own family. My brain couldn’t work for a second when the plane lifted off and that soldier said with a smile, “Welcome to Germany”. I felt lively and protected after deep breathing, something my professor mentioned several times during our zoom meeting back in that apartment in Kabul.
I arrived in Germany after 11 hours and saw American soldiers everywhere. I was in the United States in a matter of days. All of this happened in the blink of an eye.
It’s been three months since I arrived in America, but I’ll never forget those soldiers. I’ve never felt so comfortable and secure in my entire life in my nation as I did when I was surrounded by American soldiers.
Now, after spending three months in the United States, which is known as the “Land of Opportunity,” where everyone has equal rights and there is no fear of being a girl, I’m not afraid of getting bullied because of my clothing when I stroll down the street. When I’m out walking, I don’t worry that I’ll be tortured if I take a photo. I’m not scared of a swarm of mad eyes devouring my entire body. I feel liberated, as if I can finally breathe deeply again. I’m in a country where, for the first time, instead of being terrified of the military, I’m moved by their compassion and love. People can be themselves here, free from the culture, religion, or anything else that would be etched on your forehead like a brand when you are born.
When I first arrived, I was sent to an army camp, where numerous girls expressed interest in joining the U.S. army after completing their paperwork. I, too, would love to join them, but I have other responsibilities. Because of the goal for which I came to this earth, I see time racing by, and I need to focus all of my efforts on living the way I imagined one day. I’ve been researching universities in the United States since I arrived. Despite the fact that most of them are excellent opportunities for all students, the one I liked the best was George Mason University. It sets the standard for innovative, forward-thinking education that serves students and communities as Virginia’s largest public research institution. Aside from that, I love the environment at this university. It’s a true sense of being in a wonderful setting. In the next three years, I dream of graduating from university with a bachelor’s degree in finance and a master’s degree in information technology management.
During this period, I want to continue working on my project, which is to establish a university with the top academics from around the world and a beautiful environment with numerous amenities. Afghans are strongly encouraged to join because illiteracy is one of the main reasons why my country is failing. I want to provide my people with the option to attend a university where one of the core subjects is “I Love Afghanistan.” I chose this topic since many Afghans have little knowledge of their homeland. They should be familiar with Afghanistan and be able to represent it to the rest of the world. In addition, my country needs honest and loyal leaders in the future to reclaim control of its government.
The goal of this university, as well as all of my educational efforts, is to see Afghans, my people, able to lead and manage their country with integrity one day, regardless of the president’s ethnicity. In five years, I see myself as a successful business woman whose dreams are to see educated Afghans. However, my dreams are not restricted to this; they are the ones that require the most attention and effort.
Despite our good fortune, we will always be strangers wherever we go, and the suppressed cry of my land and people will be an eternally sad melody to our ears. It’s unfathomable what happened to Afghanistan, a country where people believed they were on their way to the brighter future they hoped for, but now it feels as if someone pressed the reset button, and we’re back in the Middle Ages.
Somewhere deep in the recesses of my heart, a rebellious flame of hope survives, a thing that cannot be entirely extinguished. I will never stop wishing for the day when I may return to my birthplace and work for my people.
(This is Part Two of Nina’s story; Read Part One here)
About “Nina”: A freedom-oriented, college-age refugee from Afghanistan, “Nina” (a pen name, for security reasons) is now in the USA. Through a last-minute opportunity, she was able to board a US military transport plane out of Kabul, before the Taliban gained control of Afghanistan in August 2021.
Nina has been working fervently ever since her arrival in America to help the 15 other members of her family to safety. Her primary focus has been on rescuing her father, who’s being hunted by the Taliban, because of the help be provided to US and Coalition governments.
Learn more about “Nina” and her family at the following bio, written by Jon Sutz, former STW editor-videographer, here:
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