Kiwi Afghans feel their homeland has been abandoned

Corazon Miller
Source: 1News

Kiwi Afghans say their homeland and its people have been abandoned to their fate a year on from Afghanistan's fall to Taliban control.

On August 15, 2021 the Islamist group officially took control of the capital, Kabul, marking the start of a new tumultuous era. The group initially presented promises of a more progressive image.

But in the year since, numerous human rights organisations have painted a troubling picture of a country where women's rights and freedom of speech are severely restricted, ethnic minority groups are persecuted, violence is rampant and the economy has no cash to pay salaries or buy food.

Afghan community advocate Taqi Amini says it's been extremely difficult watching his country deteriorate. He says it's hard not to think that the international community has abandoned it.

"I didn't expect the Taliban would be able to take control of the whole country in a few days. It was promised that international friends would protect Kabul and big cities from the Taliban occupation, but that didn't happen."

Few expected that after the US began its withdrawal from Afghanistan that the Taliban would take over as quickly as it did. Initial estimates predicted Kabul would fall within 90 days. It took just five.

"It was very tragic times for all of us that have families back there in Afghanistan," he said.

Unable to simply watch, Amini decided to try and get people to safety. But he says it's been almost impossible to get people out.

He's part of a group that's been calling for more open pathways for Afghans who remain at critical risk because of their, or their family's, connections to New Zealand.

New Zealand has evacuated 125 Afghans via direct military flights, and has helped bring more than 1500 others into the country.

But Amini says many others have had their visas declined despite their desperate pleas for help, and the timeline for Afghan's applying for resettlement has now closed. Some of those who could have been eligible missed out the deadline while trying to flee to safety in the initial chaos.

"Every country has an obligation to help," Amini said. "It is a human catastrophe that's beyond control of the people inside Afghanistan."

Immigration Associate Minister Phil Twyford recently told 1 News the Government was unlikely to consider future applications for resettlement and that the focus was now on helping those already here.

He says refugee families can apply to sponsor relatives through the Refugee Family Support Resident Visa too.

The category offers just 600 places a year - and it's unclear if parents or other relatives would be considered.

Esmat Doulatshahi is an engineer who assisted New Zealand in the Bamiyan province. His track record guaranteed his immediate family a visa, but his mother's was declined.

He was faced with the difficult choice between finding his young family a future, or saving his mother. She told him to go without her.

Doulatshahi said he was left speechless after leaving his mother at the border.

He's still hoping to find a way to bring her here.

"It's my big concern she is alone, there is no one to take care of her," he said.

"Right now I'm here, physically, but in my mind I'm with mum."