August 10, 2022

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She Smuggled Women In Kabul To Safety. Now She’s Hiding From The Taliban.

Nilofar Ayoubi

Nilofar Ayoubi helped shuttle her workers house after the Taliban captured Kabul.

By Wednesday, Nilofar Ayoubi knew her identify was on the Taliban’s checklist. She had discovered the information from a buddy — the identical buddy who on Sunday had instructed her that the Taliban had been going door-to-door throughout neighborhoods looking for girls like her, the identical buddy who now warned her that it was time to enter hiding. The girls on the checklist had been journalists, politicians, pilots, enterprise entrepreneurs — what that they had in widespread was that that they had been talking concerning the rights of Afghan girls loudly and persistently, on-line and IRL, for years.

Ayoubi is one in all 1000’s of girls who’ve constructed thriving, affluent lives for themselves in Afghanistan over the previous 20 years, however with the autumn of Kabul, their success and outspokenness have come to hang-out them. Though the United States had lengthy insisted that the rights of Afghan girls would be a cornerstone of any peace take care of the Taliban, that promise now lies in tatters. As the Taliban implement their writ on the capital metropolis, Ayoubi and different girls’s rights advocates have been left to fend for themselves.

Earlier that day, Aug. 18, Ayoubi, 28, had smuggled the younger girls who labored for her style manufacturers to their houses from numerous factors throughout the town by automobile. It was safer for the ladies to journey in packs, accompanied by their male work colleagues, who now functioned as de facto bodyguards.

For Ayoubi, one in all Afghanistan’s first and youngest girls to construct her personal furnishings manufacturing firm, the unhealthy information was unrelenting; her community of mates and fellow activists continuously pinged each other with areas the place the Taliban had arrange checkpoints. Seventy-two hours after Kabul collapsed, she stated, she acquired phrase that her house and workplaces had been raided 4 instances by armed males who requested the workers and neighbors for her household’s whereabouts and belongings.

In the start, Ayoubi was reluctant to depart behind every part she had constructed — her flourishing enterprise, her house, her household. But over the previous few days, she has grown determined to take her three kids to security, away from the attain of the Taliban.

“They are everywhere,” she instructed BuzzFeed News. “They learned about us from social media and media, especially those of us who spoke about terrorism during the Doha peace talks.”

Rahmat Gul / AP

Taliban fighters patrol in Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood within the metropolis of Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 18, 2021.

Ayoubi insisted on talking on the report regardless of the risk to her life. “I have spoken up enough times to be on a hit list, so speaking now won’t change anything,” she stated. “I want to let the world know about the current situation.”

Just a couple of weeks in the past, earlier than the Taliban captured Kabul, Ayoubi was on the roof of her constructing, singing along with her neighbors, and tweeting #AfghanLivesMatter. At the time, she was quoted by the French newspaper Le Monde: “If the Taliban come to Kabul, they will burn down everything we have built in these 20 years. As I look around, I wonder, what could I take with me? My three children and maybe some clothes.”

Since the autumn of the capital, girls like Ayoubi have been left scrambling to discover a approach out with their households. Some of her mates have made it out of Afghanistan. But girls on the Taliban’s checklist are strolling on a tightrope the place a single misstep may imply dying. When the Taliban held energy in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, girls and ladies had been banned from training and compelled to put on a burqa outdoors the house. They couldn’t work in any respect, and even depart the home and not using a male chaperone. Punishments for violating this code ranged from public floggings to executions.

A doc has circulated by social media and group chats for folks attempting to determine the right way to depart the nation. The creator, who stated they work as an adviser to a authorities within the area and requested to stay nameless due to the sensitivity of the difficulty, stated that the doc collates publicly obtainable data on visa processes in addition to recommendation on safety and journey logistics that they had gleaned from diplomats and different contacts within the nation.

“People can submit tips, and I’ll verify their accuracy before putting it on,” the doc’s creator instructed BuzzFeed News. “This information is mostly available, but buried. Information accessibility is a huge barrier.”

But the doc, which BuzzFeed News has considered, additionally paints a vivid image of what it’s prefer to navigate the maze of bureaucratic, logistical, and private challenges for Afghans merely attempting to get to Kabul’s worldwide airport.

“You ought to carry as few belongings as doable, no pets,” the doc states. “Only one piece of small hand luggage (e.g. a handbag) is allowed, and this is subject to space limitations – there have been occasions where space is so tight no hand luggage has been boarded.”

Shakib Rahmani / AFP through Getty Images

Afghan folks sit inside a US navy plane to depart Afghanistan, on the navy airport in Kabul on Aug. 19, 2021, after the Taliban’s navy takeover of Afghanistan.

Getting to the airport just isn’t straightforward. The doc advises folks to reach at Hamid Karzai International Airport earlier than the Taliban’s curfew begins at 9 p.m. — however since evacuation staffers are working 24/7, a passenger’s listed departure time may fall throughout curfewed hours. At the second, the doc states, there aren’t any flights out of Afghanistan from wherever besides Kabul.

“The US government has confirmed that they cannot ensure safe passage to the airport: you must make your own arrangements,” it says.

Entering the airport requires displaying sure paperwork folks typically retailer on their telephone, so the doc suggests that folks print out these important recordsdata and carry an exterior telephone charger. “Your Airport Access Pass is your lifeline,” the doc states.

Wakil Kohsar / AFP through Getty Images

Afghans collect on a roadside close to the navy a part of the airport in Kabul on Aug. 20, 2021, hoping to flee from the nation after the Taliban’s navy takeover of Afghanistan.

Yet it warns that among the data it offers may not essentially be reliable, notably the gathering of names and organizations providing to assist folks escape.

“I’ve listed some contact particulars under, however can not 100% vouch for the authenticity of those initiatives,” the creator wrote. “I do not advise relying on these benefactors for any high risk Afghans: remember that anyone can set up these projects and use it to phish your data, including the Taliban.”

Ayoubi said she doesn’t know when she’ll try to flee.

As of Friday, she was hiding in a low-income neighborhood with her children, mother, cousins, and friends as “loyal employees” from her firm guarded the door and introduced them meals, she stated. In the previous, these males had labored for Ayoubi at Niko Design, a boutique retailer that bought ornate front room furnishings, bunk beds for youngsters, garden furnishings, and designer clothes from Ayoubi’s manufacturers — Maria Clothing, Maria Bride, and Maria Carpet, which ships handwoven Afghan rugs worldwide. Now, they’re her final protection in opposition to the Taliban.

Ayoubi’s days are a blur of checking Twitter for updates, venting on-line, trying to find the newest data on protected routes in a foreign country, after which disconnecting the web and serious about “our low chance of survival,” she stated. For now, she is unable to plan for a lot of a future, she stated, however hopes to finally depart Afghanistan, one way or the other.

“This is the complete opposite of the life my kids and I had,” Ayoubi stated. “I built my life from scratch, and now we are back to square one.” ●

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