Emma Graham-Harrison says that as the West plans its pullout from Afghanistan, many desperate Afghans are also looking for an exit. According to Amnesty International, 400 people a day are leaving their homes in Afghanistan due to the ongoing violence.
I missed Alla Mir on his last visit to Kabul, because, like many people in a country where phones only recently stopped being a luxury and reception is sporadic, he is casual about making plans, and when he called I was tied up with work.
If I had known he was leaving for Greece, I would have found time to meet up, but he kept plans for a risky overland journey through Iran and Turkey to himself. A photo of Athens on his Facebook profile gave him away a few days later; he did not have the money or contacts for a holiday there.
As violence spirals and the west debates how fast to leave Afghanistan, many Afghans are also trying to work out an exit strategy, among them some of the educated young men and women who are so vital to the country’s future. Some of them flee for fear, others leave in desperation because they don’t have the cash or connections to get jobs they want in a country plagued by some of the worst corruption in the world.
Mir, who once told me he hoped to join the Afghan national army, said the Taliban drove him to join thousands of young Afghans in one of Europe’s most economically troubled nations, because of an article he wrote questioning the construction of a new mosque. There are so many Afghans trapped in Greece – unable to travel on into Europe and unwilling to travel back to Afghanistan – that Kabul recently opened an embassy in Athens. Spread around the world, from Australia to Canada, India to Turkey, are also those who managed to get an official visa out, and have stayed, or are trying to.
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