Sixteen members of an Afghan family who fled Taliban death threats have been trapped in Istanbul airport for the past two weeks, and thousands more refugees are traveling overland seeking safety in Turkey, as the situation of Security in Afghanistan deteriorates rapidly after the withdrawal of US and NATO forces.
The family, from the city of Herat, decided to leave the country in June after Taliban forces shot dead a relative in the street. Several of them work with international aid organizations on issues such as women’s rights and have continued to face threats.
They decided to circumvent the strict visa rules for Afghans in most countries by spending their savings on fan passes for Euro 2020 for soccer matches held in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, hoping to apply for asylum to his arrival.
However, the family was turned away on their connecting flight in Istanbul on June 22, and attempts to apply for asylum and international protection in Turkey have since been repeatedly denied, a family member told The Guardian.
“We were trapped in the international transit area for 16 days,” said 28-year-old Farzad, who asked that the family’s last name be withheld to protect their safety. “All the people we asked to help us said that it is not their job and that we need to be on Turkish soil to apply for refugee status.”
US President Joe Biden announced in April the end of the US war against the jihadist movement in Afghanistan. Since then, the Taliban have made radical advances, often taking control of districts without a fight. Now they claim to be in control of 85% of the country, raising fears of a new civil war.
The western province of Herat is the latest to fall: the Taliban have seized two key border crossings into Iran and Turkmenistan, and much of the countryside beyond the city of Herat.
The stranded Herat family were unable to properly wash themselves and ran out of money to eat properly during their ordeal, sleeping on the floor or on the airport benches. An elderly man began to show symptoms of coronavirus, was constantly coughing, a baby began to have digestive problems, and a girl needed antibiotics for an infection, but medical staff only offered her pain relievers, they said.
After several days, the girl was allowed to visit a hospital, but she was sent with a prescription that the family could not fill. On several occasions they said that airline staff and police threatened them with forcible deportation back to Afghanistan.
Finally, they were transferred to the national transit area for two more days, and on Saturday they were allowed to go to the Turkish migration authority building at the airport, where they were separated into male and female sections and were able to shower and sleep.
It is not yet clear whether his application for international protection has been submitted.
İGA, the airport authority, referred the Guardian’s requests for comment to the migration authority, which in turn said the family’s situation was a matter for the Interior Ministry. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry did not immediately respond.
“[The family] they sold everything they had to get out, and even since they left, the situation has gotten a lot worse, ”said another family member who lives in the United States and who has been trying to help from afar.
“They have nothing to return to. They will go anywhere other than Afghanistan, as long as it is safe. “
In recent days there has also been a influx of Afghan refugees into Van, a Kurdish province in eastern Turkey, near the border with Iran. Ruşen Takva, a journalist who has documented the flow of Afghans, Iranians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis hoping to reach Europe via Turkey over the past decade, said he had seen about 1,700 people, mostly Afghans, cross over the past decade. two nights.
“The numbers are huge, we haven’t had anything like this in the past. Refugees don’t usually give their names or want to talk much, but this time what they said was that Biden’s decision has caused the Taliban to declare a new war, and that is why they are escaping now, “he said.
At least 12 people died and 26 were seriously injured Saturday night after a smuggler’s minibus overturned on the highway in the province of Van. Another 60 people are missing and presumed to have drowned after a boat carrying refugees and migrants dump in lake van June 30. Most of the victims in both incidents are believed to be Afghans, Takva said.
“We were threatened [by the Taliban] many times, but we had never thought about leaving Afghanistan before, ”said Farzad, a family member who is now trapped in the migration offices at the Istanbul airport.
“But now that the US and NATO troops are leaving, things have gotten worse than we think. We had no choice but to leave. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism