Distraught Afghan women in Ireland fear for their families

‘They don’t know when the Taliban will knock on their door. What will happen to my sisters?’

Taliban fighters in the Kote Sangi area of Kabul on Tuesday after they seized control of the capital following the collapse of the Afghan government. Photograph: Hoshang Hashimi/AFP/Getty Images

Taliban fighters in the Kote Sangi area of Kabul on Tuesday after they seized control of the capital following the collapse of the Afghan government. Photograph: Hoshang Hashimi/AFP/Getty Images

 

Fatima Abdullah has not let her mobile phone out of her sight in days.

The Afghan doctor, who lives in Bettystown, Co Meath, with her husband and two young children, is torn between scrolling through distressing live news reports from Kabul and texting her parents who are trapped in the city.

“I have three younger sisters and brothers there too, they’re all housebound and frightened,” she says.

“They don’t know when the Taliban will knock on their door. What will happen to my sisters? They had their dreams to be like me and become something.

“My heart has shattered into a million pieces, I’m beginning to lose faith in humanity. I can’t concentrate, I’m crying day and night. But I have to hide my tears, my kids can’t see me in this condition.”

Dr Abdullah was born in Kabul but fled Afghanistan with her parents as a young child because of the violence and instability in their home country. She was brought up and studied in Pakistan and moved to Ireland in 2014 with her husband.

However, her parents moved back to Afghanistan in 2017.

“They had been refugees in Pakistan for so long, they hoped things had gone back to normal in Afghanistan. They never could have imagined this would happen.

“I wish I knew someone who could help them, I wish there was a way I could bring them to Ireland,” she says, tearfully.

“I know this isn’t just about my family, it’s about an entire nation. But they’re my parents. And I don’t want my brothers and sisters to fall into the hands of the Taliban.

“People are dying, women are being killed, girls are being raped and married to fighters. I want to ask do human rights actually exist? To world leaders, I say shame on you.”

‘Fanatics and extremists’

Meanwhile, Roya Abdullah, no relative of Dr Fatima Abdullah, who lives in Limerick, spent all of Sunday in a friend’s living room watching the news from Kabul unfold on the television.

“I was so upset, I was crying my eyes out,” says the young Afghan woman who has lived in Ireland for four years.

“There was a big community of us together watching the TV and crying. Why are we so upset? Because women and children were happy, they were able to live their lives and be independent. But now these fanatics and extremists are taking over in the name of religion.”

Roya Abdullah says US forces should not have left without ensuring supports were in place to maintain stability and rule of law. “America didn’t need to stay there forever but this wasn’t the way to do it, leaving all of a sudden. This could haven happened in phases.”

On Monday morning she was texting a friend who lives and studies in Herat, Afghanistan’s third largest city, which was seized by Taliban insurgents last week. “She’s in second year of medical college and said the university has closed down. She’s so worried she may be forced to marry.”

Roya Abdullah is keen to underline that Afghanistan was once a very different place.

“I’ve seen so many photos of my grandmother and mother in the 1960s and ’70s wearing skirts. They didn’t cover their heads then, they were free. But women are so scared now, they don’t want to go back 200 years. They want to continue their education and work. We Afghan women don’t want to be used as toys, we don’t want to be their slaves.”

She is also deeply concerned about the type of education that will be made available to children living under Taliban rule.

“They’re going to brainwash an entire generation; that’s why mothers are so scared for their children. The people of Afghanistan are peace loving. The Taliban are insurgents and terrorists, we never glorify them, they’ve just been imposed on us.”