The One Item They Had to Take When These 6 Afghans Fled

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Neither Maliha Karimi nor most of her family members had ever been on a plane or even inside the Kabul airport, but the idea of leaving gathered momentum, and they set off for the airport.

“I just took my passport and one phone,” she recalled, “We had no food, no water.”

Ms. Karimi, 27, the sole breadwinner for her parents and one disabled brother and his family of six, had a special reason to get out. As a beautician, she had lost her job the moment the Taliban returned, because they banned beauty salons as immoral, making it impossible for her to care for her family.

“They thought they were brothels,” she said.

The Karimi family reached the airport at 6 a.m. “The crowds were terrible, pushing and shouting, and the Taliban were shooting in the air,” Ms. Karimi said.

In the chaos, the family became separated. Ms. Karimi grabbed the hand of one of her brother’s children, 6-year-old Sorush, while a cousin, Soraya, took the boy’s other hand. Keeping their heads down, they fought their way toward the gate.

“I just decided to go forward, not backward,” she said. “I just kept going forward.”

Suddenly, the two young women, with Sorush between them, were swept through the gate. The other 33 family members were left behind, but there was no turning back.

It was four full days before they reached Fort Bliss in El Paso, where Ms. Karimi finally could access Wi-Fi and call Kabul to speak with the anguished parents of Sorush, who was so upset he had stopped eating. Everyone wept: the parents aching for their son and Sorush homesick for his family.

With Ms. Karimi gone and no one in her family back in Afghanistan working, they are short of everything: food, heating oil and medicines and are begging Ms. Karimi for help.

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