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'Feeling Like Aliens In Our Own Country': Current Time Journalist Describes Departure From Afghanistan

In a November 15 interview with Current Time Asia, Current Time journalist Liza Karimi, formerly based in Afghanistan, discusses her departure from the country after the Taliban's August 2021 takeover of power.

Nearly three months since her evacuation from Kabul, freelance Current Time journalist, Liza Karimi, formerly based in Afghanistan, shared details of her urgent departure and why she has lost hope for family and friends left behind.

Covering topics ranging from female police officers to terrorism, Karimi, a Russian-speaking Afghan, worked for several years for Current Time TV out of the Afghan capital. Thanking viewers for their multiple inquiries about her welfare, she spoke with Current Time Asia on November 15.

After the Taliban’s August 15, 2021 takeover of Kabul, Karimi recorded Russian-language audio diaries from the city’s streets and international airport that gave Current Time viewers firsthand exposure to the tumult of Afghanistan amidst the fundamentalist Islamist group’s return to power for the first time in nearly 20 years.

Unknown men threatened to have the Taliban detain Karimi when she persisted in reporting. Afghanistan’s ultra-conservative new rulers discourage independent female Afghan journalists from working in media.

Since the Taliban’s return to power, 11 regulations on what constitutes suitable journalism “are suffocating media freedom” in the country, the New-York-City-based Human Rights Watch reported on October 1. The Taliban denies any abrogation of journalists’ rights, but HRW reported 32 detentions of journalists since August 15. Most of the detentions were temporary.

Until the Taliban entered the Afghan capital, a hope had persisted that “the situation would somehow improve” or that the group might govern Afghanistan differently from their harsh rule in the 1990s, Karimi recollected.

Yet news of the Taliban’s capture of Kabul and the sight of them through her windows hit as an “enormous” and “terrible shock,” she said.

“But along with the fact that we were afraid they could kill us, the most awful thing was feeling like aliens in our own home, in our own country, in our own city where we grew up,” she said.

“You know, it’s as hard as if you’ve lost your own home,” she continued. “A person who has really lost everything at some point can feel this.”

Thousands of Afghans gathered daily at the Kabul International Airport in hopes of somehow securing seats on an evacuation flight as international troops withdrew. Recollections of the pandemonium, including the cries of pregnant women and of mothers yelling that their children could not breathe amidst the crush, still come to her dreams, Karimi said.

“I felt that these people all around you think that death is everywhere. And I feel awful when I remember these moments.”

To date, tens of thousands of Afghans are believed to have left the country, now facing a famine that the World Food Programme predicts could affect up to 22.8 million people, some 58 percent of Afghanistan’s total official population.

Through Karimi secured an evacuation flight to France in late August, her family, including her 79-year-old father, remained behind. Two days of intensive attempts to secure permission for her father to leave on an evacuation flight with her failed, the journalist said.

From those relatives and friends still in Afghanistan comes news that the “situation has very strongly changed,” she commented.

“There’s no food, no money, nothing with which to feed a family,” Karimi said. All my relatives, my close friends, are living through such a trauma. Sometimes, when you talk with them, you just don’t know what to say to them. You try to give them hope, but you yourself feel that there’s not any hope for them.”

Each day, she said, her friends, particularly females, still ask the question that has pursued Afghans ever since the Talibans’ arrival: “How to leave Afghanistan?”