Thursday, April 18, 2024

Fearing Taliban aggression, Afghan-Mexican couple fight to get family out of Kabul

Mexico made headlines last week when 24 journalists and their families arrived from Afghanistan along with five members of that country’s world-beating girls robotics team. The Afghan arrivals were aided by volunteers and colleagues outside the country to fly to Doha, Qatar, from where they boarded a plane to Mexico City, arriving on Wednesday morning as holders of humanitarian visas granted by the Mexican government.

Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Mexico was committed to providing refuge for people fleeing Afghanistan since the country fell to the Taliban on August 15.

From his home in Mexico City, Kahlil Bakhtiyari watched the news closely. Perhaps his twin brother Yasin, in hiding in Kabul with his young family, could have the same chance to escape.

The Bakhtiyari family is Hazara, a persecuted ethnic minority in Afghanistan that is a target of the Taliban. On Monday, local media reported a massacre of 14 Hazaras in the center of the country.

Yasin Bakhtiyari also faces grave risk due to having been a captain in the national army. Kahlil says his brother was captured with around 1,000 other soldiers when the Taliban took control of Helmand province in the south of the country.

Yasin escaped to Kabul with some of his fellow soldiers.

“I don’t know how he managed but he escaped. And he called me and said please, please just do something to help us get out of the country,” Khalil Bakhtiyari told Mexico News Daily.

Khalil remembers being a young child in Afghanistan under Taliban rule 20 years ago. “They were killing innocent people. They were totally against women. It is going to be the same story again.”

Indeed, Khalil is worried for the women of his country, saying women colleagues he trained with in dentistry with jobs in hospitals and their own dental clinics have stopped working and are staying at home and living in fear.

With his wife Fernanda Olivares, 31-year-old Kahlil has lived in Mexico City since 2019. The couple have a 3-year-old son, Alexander. They met in India where Kahlil studied dentistry and Fernanda worked in international business.

As the situation continues to deteriorate in Afghanistan, Fernanda and Kahlil have been frantically working on options to get Yasin and his family out of Kabul, as well as Kahlil and Yasin’s sister who is also there with her young family.

Fernanda and Khalil contacted Guillermo Puente Ordorica, Mexico’s ambassador in Iran, who advised that if the family in Kabul could get to Iran, they could receive humanitarian visas to travel to Mexico.

Kahlil also decided to make a video for sharing on social media to raise some of the costs of getting their family out of Afghanistan.

The video has been shared over 500 times and some donations have been received.

Fernanda Olivares said she is glad that the journalists working for U.S. media and the girls robotics team members are now safe. She said the key was that they were able to get out of Afghanistan to another country to receive travel authorization and take a flight to Mexico. “Right now it is the people inside Afghanistan who need the most help, they have the most risk,” she noted, saying it is harder for “an ordinary family” to access asylum.

The airport has been the only way out since the fall of Kabul, and getting there has been an extremely complex and uncertain prospect, with Yasin fearing interception by the Taliban if he travels. On Saturday a suicide bomber attacked the crowds of people trying to get out, killing 169 Afghan civilians and 13 U.S. soldiers and shutting down the terminal.

A large group of countries have since secured an agreement with the Taliban to let people leave Afghanistan. Further, Fernanda and Kahlil were informed Monday by the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Mexico that Yasin’s family could receive a travel authorization to come to Mexico if they are able to get to the airport.

Fernanda and Kahlil have also approached the Australian Embassy in Mexico to see if the family in Kabul could secure asylum in that country.

“My brother was trained by Australian army officers and has many friends there,” he said.

Kahlil Bakhtiyari says his brother also worked closely with U.S. and German army personnel.

The U.S. finished withdrawing all forces from Afghanistan Monday as reports from the streets of Kabul showed Taliban fighters brandishing weapons and celebrating victory.

Khalil and Fernanda say that while violence and insecurity in Mexico is a concern, they feel positive about a future in the country, especially compared to what their family in Afghanistan is going through.

Khalil Bakhtiyari is clinging to hope that his family can get to the Kabul airport this week.

“We don’t have much time. Day by day, the situation is getting worse. If they catch my brother, they will kill him.”

Mexico News Daily

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