As war engulfs cities, uprooted Afghan families flee in despair

Dusty outskirts of populous capital Kabul gather thousands of displaced Afghans seeking help in dire conditions

KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) – Together with her minor daughter and hundreds of villagers, Nilofar fearfully spent over a week under the thundering sound of deadly armed clashes in her native Takhar province in northern Afghanistan before fleeing to the capital Kabul empty-handed.

With the arrival of thousands of war-weary Afghans like her, the dusty northern outskirts of the crowded capital city depict the scenes of a sprawling and chaotic camp with women, children, and the elderly anxiously seeking relief.

“We never thought of witnessing such a disgrace and hopelessness,” Nilofar, a public school teacher in the Taluqan province, told Anadolu Agency.

“The Taliban attacks on Takhar and all other provinces have brought miseries to so many mothers and sisters like me, and these children,” said the heartbroken mother, looking at her green-eyed 4-year-old daughter who seemed utterly shocked, and malnourished.

With the advancing armed Taliban capturing almost all major cities in the north, including Kunduz, Fayzabad, Taluqan, Pul-e-Khumri, Sheberghan, and Sar-e-Pul, floods of frightened families have moved south towards Kabul.

Makeshift camps with no provisions

There were agonizing scenes of despair at the makeshift camps in the Saray Shamali area with no provision of food, sanitation, and other needs of the uprooted families with an overwhelming number of women and children.

Within three months since the foreign troops began the withdrawal from Afghanistan back in May, the Taliban have marched on at least nine provincial capitals of all 34 provinces, namely Fayzabad, Aybak, Qala-e-Nau, Lashkargah, Zaranj, Sheberghan, Kunduz, Taluqan, and Sar-e-Pul, besides capturing nearly 200 of the rural and suburban districts.

Last week, there were numerous reports by rights groups such as the Human Rights Watch that the Taliban fighters have been engaging in war crimes, forced marriages, and abduction of anyone suspected of collaborating with the government in areas falling to the group.

The Taliban, however, have categorically rejected these reports.

Refugees in their own country

The war calamity has equally hit hard the restive south of Afghanistan where fierce armed clashes between the Taliban and Afghan forces, backed by the US airpower, continue. The turf war is rendering thousands of Afghan refugees in their own country.

Last month, in a first credible insight, Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said 33 civilians were killed in Kandahar after the Taliban overtook the crossing point with Pakistan.

Findings by the AIHRC suggested that religious scholars, tribal elders, civil society activists, journalists, and human rights defenders are being targeted in Kandahar.

Sheltering in mosques

Gul Ehsan Ahmad, a local journalist based in Lashkargah, the capital city of the Helmand province, fled his home last week as the Taliban marched on this megacity in the south from various directions, causing panic among hundreds of thousands of civilians.

“Only Allah knows my situation. I might be able to survive and escape, but many of my immediate and extended family members are still trapped (in Helmand) and I hear daily reports of death,” he told Anadolu Agency.

Considering the huge magnitude of the displacement caused by the armed conflict, Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh directed the concerned authorities to immediately open all mosques in the capital for the refugees by the time an alternative mechanism is put in place for them.

“All security agencies and the police have been instructed that no one can prevent these needy families from taking shelter in mosques. Worship is nothing but service to the people,” he said in a statement Wednesday.

Saleh said Kabul is just like a second home for all war-displaced people.

According to the Refugees and Returnees Ministry, the number of people displaced from the Takhar, Baghlan, Kunduz, and Badakhshan provinces alone, who have taken refuge in Kabul, has reached 17,000.


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