Content warning: This article contains mentions of various sensitive themes, including violence and death

Most people have probably heard and seen the heartbreaking stories and images of Afghanistan’s current situation: the Taliban taking over the presidential palace, girls fearfully burning their exam qualifications, and the horrifying scenes at Hamid Karzai International Airport. However, like many Afghans in the UK watching the news, for me, these reports hold an unimaginable weight. As I powerlessly watch the escalating humanitarian crisis, my fear for my friends and family who have been left behind only increases. They tell me about the Taliban performing door-to-door searches, stealing  girls away for child brides, and murdering ‘traitors’ who have worked with ‘the West’. And as they tell me these stories, I feel a sense of betrayal: the West has abandoned the Afghan people to suffer the inhumanity of the Taliban.

“Even though many of the Afghans in the Cambridge community have spent their entire lives in the UK, like me, they will always be tied to Afghanistan”

The tragedies currently taking place in Afghanistan pose an unavoidable question: why is this happening? The Taliban, a hard-line military group preaching an extremist ideology, were last in power from 1996 to 2001. During their rule they committed countless human rights violations, including banning girls over the age of nine from pursuing an education; persecuting minority groups; punishing people with amputations and stonings; and completely removing any semblance of political freedom. Their terror and oppression have forced thousands of vulnerable Afghans to leave their entire world behind.

However, their rule ended after 9/11, when the USA and NATO allies fought alongside Afghans to defeat the Taliban. Unfortunately, the last twenty years of fighting came at a heavy price, with the deaths of civilians, the Afghan military, police and international soldiers. Now, many of the brave souls who fought with the NATO allies are being left behind. Forgotten.

Yet this is the story of the Afghan diaspora around the world, including those of us in Cambridge. Though many of the Afghans in the Cambridge community have spent their entire lives in the UK, like me, they will always be tied to Afghanistan. It is where our parents grew up, it is where many of our family members live, and it is the label we carry with us whenever people ask, 'Where are you really from?’

The withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan has contributed to the swift downfall of the Afghan state. It has been frustrating, to say the least, watching all the growth and hope built over the last twenty years come to nought as the Taliban seized control of major cities, including Kabul, in a matter of weeks. Despite the Taliban claiming that they have changed and will be merciful, their words are reduced to nothing when I see the news reports of their killing protestors in Jalalabad, or when I see female reporters being at higher risk during their jobs.

“Despite the sadness and anger I feel, I still hold on to hope”

The return of the Taliban symbolises the end of so much painstaking progress. Now, there is shared fear and hopelessness across not only Afghanistan, but also among the Afghan diaspora as we worry about what the future holds. These sentiments are shared across the Afghan community in Cambridge and the fact that Afghanistan is now presented with yet another generation of anguish and sorrow is deeply saddening.

I am overwhelmed, still dreading to think what will happen to my aunts, uncles, and cousins who didn’t make it out. What do I say when they ask for help? What do I say to my parents, who fear for their siblings and their own parents? What do I say to my mother, who is constantly watching the news, dreading the day she hears of her family’s address being called? How do I react to the lack of humanity I see online, when people laugh at images of people desperately clinging onto planes in a bid to escape?


Mountain View

India is burning, and we Indians are but mere bystanders

Despite the sadness and anger I feel, I still hold on to hope. The brave men and women of Afghanistan have not given up. There are protests on the streets and the National Resistance Front, made up of the former Northern Alliance, refuses to give up Panjshir without a fight. Afghanistan still fights and resists.

I have been amazed by the kindness and unity shown by the Afghan and non-Afghan communities in Cambridge, as there are many ways we can help. We can educate ourselves about what is happening in Afghanistan. We can write to our MPs and urge them to provide support to the people trying to flee Afghanistan. We can donate money to those in need, who are not as privileged as we are.

Myself and the entire Cambridge University Afghan Society stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan and are here to support any Afghans who feel overwhelmed by what is happening. This has been one of the most painful experiences during my time at Cambridge, but whenever I feel the pain becoming unbearable, I take comfort in the words of Abdul Wahab Madadi: ‘Watan ishq tu iftekharam’. The Afghan diaspora knows the power and strength these words hold: ‘Homeland, I am proud of your love’. Now, I pray this love will hold.

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, the following organisations may provide support and resources:

If you wish to donate and help victims of the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, you can refer to some of these links: