American College of Kabul College students Attempting to Flee Have been Despatched Residence
Hundreds of American University of Afghanistan students and alumni gathered in a safe house Sunday and boarded buses in what was supposedly a final evacuation attempt on U.S. military flights, students and alumni said.
But after seven hours of waiting to enter the airport gates and driving through the city, the group came to a dead end: evacuations were finally canceled. The airport gates remained a security threat and the evacuation of civilians ended on Monday.
“I am sorry to inform you that the HKIA high command at the airport has announced that there will be no more rescue flights,” said an email to students of the university administration on Sunday afternoon, which was communicated to the New York Times.
In the email, the approximately 600 students and alumni were asked to return home. The US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan must be completed by Tuesday, so the US military is moving from evacuating civilians to returning its own troops.
The group was then alarmed after the US military passed a list of the names and passport information of hundreds of students and alumni to the Taliban who are guarding airport controls, according to the protocol, the university president said.
“You told us: We gave your names to the Taliban,” said Hosay, a 24-year-old sophomore studying business administration who was on the bus on Sunday. “We are all afraid, there is no evacuation, no escape.”
Hosay received a scholarship that covered half of her tuition fees. She wanted to do an MBA and start an all-female engineering office.
When the Taliban took over Kabul on August 15, one of the first places the group captured was on the sprawling, modern campus of American University. According to student and social media photos, men in traditional Afghan outfits and wielding AK-47 rifles hoisted the Taliban flag and toppled the university flag.
The Taliban posted a picture of themselves on social media at the entrance of a university building with an ominous message saying they were where America trained unbelieving “wolves” to corrupt the minds of Muslims.
The photo was widely circulated among Afghans, sending students and alumni into hiding. You had reason to be afraid. In 2016, the Taliban attacked the campus in a ten-hour terrorist attack with explosives and weapons, killing 15 people, including seven students.
The university closed its campus on August 14 when it became known that the Taliban were on the outskirts of Kabul. American University President Ian Bickford and foreign staff left Kabul for Doha that night.
Mr Bickford said in an interview last week that he was working with the State Department to evacuate approximately 1,200 students and alumni. But on Friday after the fatal attack on the airport, Mr Bickford said the effort had become much more complicated.
Mr Bickford said the university is committed to ensuring that all enrolled students complete their degrees remotely.
The American University of Afghanistan opened in 2006 with most of its funding from the United States Agency for International Development, which provided $ 160 million. It was one of USAID’s largest civilian projects in Afghanistan.
For over two weeks, students and alumni said they struggled emotionally as their status shifted from college students to refugees overnight.
Understanding the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan
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Who are the Taliban? The Taliban emerged in 1994 amid the unrest following the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1989. They used brutal public punishments, including flogging, amputation and mass executions, to enforce their rules. Here is more about their genesis and track record as rulers.
Who are the Taliban leaders? These are the top leaders of the Taliban, men who for years have been on the run, in hiding, in prison and dodged American drones. Little is known about them or how they plan to govern, including whether they will be as tolerant as they say they are.
What is happening to the women of Afghanistan? When the Taliban was last in power, they banned women and girls from most jobs or from going to school. Afghan women have gained a lot since the Taliban was overthrown, but now they fear that ground will be lost. Taliban officials are trying to reassure women that things will be different, but there are indications that they have begun to reintroduce the old order in at least some areas.
Several interviewed students repeated a poetic saying in Dari: “Our hopes and dreams have turned to dust.”
Mohammad, a 31-year-old father of three and part-time employee in the government ministry, had three more courses to complete his business studies.
His job and salary are gone now. Its graduation is in jeopardy.
“It’s like throwing a glass on a cement floor and life breaks in a split second,” he said from a safe house on Sunday.
Yasser, a 27-year-old political science student, said he was instructed in an email from the university on Saturday to report to a safe location for evacuation. But after President Biden said there were security threats to the airport, the plan was abandoned and everyone was sent home.
Early on Sunday morning, Yasser received another email from the university asking him to go to a safe house at 7:45 a.m. Students should only bring a backpack with two outfits. Videos made available to the New York Times of the evacuation show hundreds of students carrying backpacks waiting on the side of the road. Dozens of buses stand in line.
The chatter among the students ends abruptly and someone gasps. Someone is crying. The students have just been told that the evacuation has been canceled.
“It was a terrifying day,” said Yasser. “We went there expecting to be rescued and returned home defeated.”