This is the story of our neighbors, a family of nine (7 children ages 4 to 16) and how you can help support them:
They traveled to Afghanistan In June to visit family. They were scheduled to come home on August 5th but were unable to get into the Kabul airport. The roads were blocked because the Afghan president was flying that day, causing them to miss their flight. The next available flight was September 4th and as we are all aware the Taliban took over Kabul in the middle of August, and that flight was cancelled.
Meanwhile the US army was evacuating Americans via helicopter from the US Embassy which was relocated to the Kabul airport. Our neighbor tried desperately every day to get to the airport and on one of the military flights but was unable to. On one of his attempts the family went with him. Two of his children as well as his father-in -law were injured in the push of the crowd. During this time they were also moving from house to house because the Taliban were knocking on doors looking for US allies. He had submitted all the required documents to be evacuated by the military. When he was contacted by the State Department they only advised him to shelter in place and wait for further instructions. When the last US Military flight departed Kabul on August 30th, he was completely distraught. The children were crying night and day and he was at a loss for what else there was he could do.
He made a perilous journey through many Taliban checkpoints to the city of Mazar-i-Sharif to try to get into Uzbekistan, only to be told he needed a travel visa to enter that country. No one at the Mazar airport or US State Department was able to help him.
He returned to Kabul, then was notified by the US Embassy in Uzbekistan to return to Mazar with his family, that a bus would be available to take them into Uzbekistan. The family needed to travel in separate vehicles so they would be safe and cared for by trusted friends if something happened to him. Because of this perilous seven hour journey, they were not able to get to Mazar before the bus departed.
At this point he decided to stay in Mazar rather than make the dangerous journey back to Kabul. They would soon find out how dangerous that journey was. His wife's father came to visit them in Mazar and upon his journey back to Kabul he was stopped and executed by Taliban. This was our neighbor's lowest point. The Taliban took the SIM card out of his father-in-law's phone and would now be able to track him and any of his father-in-law's contacts.
Beginning on August 14th, Dianne Dow and I, Diane DeHart (two of his US neighbors) were making daily phone calls, tweeting and sending emails to anyone we thought might be able to help our neighbors get home. This included the US State Department, our local Congressman, our city councilman, US Embassies in Uzbekistan and Qatar, and the Uzbekistan Embassy in Washington, DC. We received advice and help from an ABC News White House correspondent but were unable to get help from anyone else in the US. The only advice we repeatedly received from the State Department was for this family to shelter in place and wait to be contacted by them.
Fortunately we finally received a reply to an email sent to the US Embassy in Uzbekistan. This was the only reply we received from anyone. They asked for the family's contact information and within three weeks our neighbors finally received their travel visas into Uzbekistan. Crossing into Uzbekistan was terrifying because the Taliban was surrounding their bus while the Uzbekistan army was assisting them onto the bus. They arrived in Uzbekistan September 27th and were finally safe. After two long flights from Uzbekistan, they are now home safely in the US.
During this process our neighbor incurred major expenses. He was unable to work for the unplanned two months after his expected arrival back in the US. Because of this he was unable to pay for rent and utilities. He also had unexpected travel expenses, including airfare during his escape. And even had funeral expenses for his father-in-law. These are some of the ways support will be utilized.
We are not requesting charity for our neighbor. He is a hardworking father of seven who never expected to be trapped in Afghanistan during and after the US troop withdrawal. We are friends supporting friends.
Please give what you can and share this widely. Every little bit helps and we know our neighbors will be grateful. All funds will go directly to this family.
Our sincere thanks for taking the time to read our neighbors story and consider contributing to their support.
Diane & Dianne