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'I couldn't sleep.' Student's family tried for days to escape Taliban-controlled Afghanistan

Basit Amiri
Posted at 4:58 PM, Aug 31, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The turmoil in Afghanistan is hitting home for international students studying in Nashville.

Abdul Basit Amiri received a Fulbright scholarship to study economics at Vanderbilt University. He arrived at the beginning of August.

"When I came to Nashville on August 5, I didn't believe that everything would change suddenly in the country," Amiri said.

Since leaving Afghanistan, the Taliban seized most of his country reversing progress made over the last two decades.

"I have seen women businesses. They were very happy. They could gain or increase incomes. They were helping others because they were employing other woman to work with them. But now the women are not allowed to go out and do their jobs," Amiri said.

The graduate student has concerns about his family's safety, including a brother with children.

"He went to the [Kabul] airport with his family, his wife and two kids. They stayed there for 40 hours, but they couldn't make it [out]... I couldn't sleep for two nights because I was wondering what could happen," he said.

Sometimes he feels guilty.

"Anytime I feel comfortable here and happy, simultaneously I ignore this happiness because of my people," he said.

As a Fulbright scholar, he is obligated to return to his home country when he gets his degree. He is unsure what that will look like now.

"I remember the day when I decided to study internationally or abroad. My aim was to fight, to come back and [get] a decision-making position, to fight the instability, the administrative corruption and also to fight the sexual harassment in government and non-government organizations, which in my country are toward ladies, to fight discrimination. But these were my aims. For now, I cannot think about those aspirations I had because I don't know what will happen in my country," he said.

Although difficult, Amiri isn't giving up hope for his future or for his family's.

"We're always praying and my family is praying. The only thing for now we have," he said.

According to reports, members of the Taliban have said they will allow Afghans with proper travel authorization to leave the country. Many people are skeptical.

When asked what is being done for students like Amiri and his family, a U.S. Department of State official pointed to President Joe Biden's remarks on Tuesday on ensuring a safe passage for people who want to leave Afghanistan.

"I have asked the Secretary of State to lead the continued coordination with our international partners to ensure safe passage for any Americans, Afghan partners, and foreign nationals who want to leave Afghanistan. This will include work to build on the UN Security Council Resolution passed this afternoon that sent the clear message of what the international community expects the Taliban to deliver on moving forward, notably freedom of travel," Biden said. "The Taliban has made commitments on safe passage and the world will hold them to their commitments. It will include ongoing diplomacy in Afghanistan and coordination with partners in the region to reopen the airport allowing for continued departure for those who want to leave and delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan."