A 55-year-old pathologist known to the former Vice President of Afghanistan, Abdul Rashid Dostum, has been staying inside his house in Kabul for the past four days since the Talibani militants captured the capital city.
He spoke to Outlook and pleaded that he is desperate to relocate to India as he feels that his past association and friendship with Dostum may go against him.
He speaks only Persian but can understand both English and Hindi. His 25-year-old son, who is well-conversant in English, acts as an interpreter for him and helps him connect to his friends in India and the West.
He requested that his name should not be published. Excerpts:
Q: Where are you right now?
A: I am at my home in Kabul. I haven’t gone out for the past four days as I fear that if anyone from the Talibani militants identifies me, he will shoot me. I was a friend of Abdul Rashid Dostum and it is known to the World that Talibani militants hate Dostum. They are after the life of relatives and friends of all those people who opposed the dominance of the Taliban.
Q: But as you said that you are at home, can’t they trace you easily?
A: My friendship with Dostum is unknown to the Talibani militants, but I am scared that if any common connection is revealed, I will be identified. That will really put my life in trouble. Also, I am scared if people will inform these militants about me just to be in their good books, I will be finished. So I am desperately looking for someone who can help me come to India.
Q: Being a friend of Dostum, why don’t you ask him for help?
A: I am not in touch with him anymore.
Q: What were you doing in Kabul till now?
A: I was serving as a pathologist in a hospital here. Except for the emergency, all other services have been suspended and all other doctors and employees are at home.
Q: What efforts have you made to come to India till now?
A: I have spoken to a lot of travel agents and one of them promised me to get a visa. After spending $700 he backed out at the last moment. He has disappeared now. The Indian Embassy in Kabul has been shut down and the only way to get a visa is to apply online. I am ready to spend any amount of money to come to India.
Q: What about your family? Who else are there in your family?
A: I have two wives. The first one is in Mazar-i-Sharif, a city about 300 km from Kabul. My second wife is here with me. Besides, I have seven kids, three sons and four daughters. My three sons and a daughter are staying with me here. The rest of them are married and living separately.
Q: How old is your daughter? There are a lot of reports that suggest women are not safe under the Taliban. Is it true?
A: My daughter is 21-year-old and she was a teacher in a school here. But for the past four days, all the schools are closed and she hasn’t ventured out of the home. We don’t want her to go out. I want to first go to India and then help my daughter come there. She is not safe here at all.
Q: Why do you feel that she is not safe in Kabul? Have you heard about the Taliban’s atrocities against women in the past four days?
A: They have enforced the norm of wearing hijab for every woman. My other friends here told me that if ladies are accompanied by any male member, they are stopped and asked what relationship they share. I have also heard that women are flogged and beaten for not wearing hijab. Some of them are sent back home with strict instruction to come out with their head covered. The Taliban are never trustworthy. They can do anything with women. So I want me, my wife and my daughter to leave this country and settle in India.
Q: What will you do in India?
A: As I told you I am a pathologist and I can do my practice there. Now, I and my daughter are unemployed. I will survive on whatever deposits I have. But it will not last long. I have to get out of here to save myself and my family.
Q: I spoke to two other residents in Kabul and they said that the Taliban are not causing any trouble to anyone. They said that life is peaceful now but the only problem is that one has to go by the norms that they enforce. Is it true?
A: It is a big city and each one has his or her own experience to share. I am hearing both kinds of voices. Some people say that everything is coming back to normal. On the other hand, some people narrate stories of women’s torture and violence. But everyone is in fear right now.