Refugees and the Occupation of Afghanistan by the Taliban

By James Cho

Published Date: 2021 / 09 / 09

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(AFP/Getty Images)

A 20-year-war between the United States and the Taliban ended on August 15, 2021, as the Taliban took control of Afghanistan once again. As U.S. President Joe Biden decided to pull the U.S. army from Afghanistan in April, the Taliban started its invasion of Afghanistan actively in June. In late July and early August, the Taliban seized control of Kandahar and Jalalabad, major cities in Afghanistan, and swiftly entered Kabul, the capital of the country, on August 15. The Afghan government promptly surrendered, and the United States lost this costly war. However, the ones who are forced to pay this price of war are not mainly the people in the U.S. but vulnerable Afghan refugees who struggle to escape the brutality of the Taliban.

There were many Afghan refugees even before the Taliban’s takeover. The reasons were various; they suffered “more than 40 years of conflict, natural disasters, chronic poverty, food insecurity and most recently the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to UNHCR (“Afghanistan Refugee Crisis Explained”). Afghanistan lacked the infrastructure for basic social security and health, forcing many people to leave the country to find a better place to live. Now that the Taliban is ruling the country, people are running away from their homes to avoid the influence of the Taliban on their daily lives, remembering the Taliban’s cruelty and its ‘Islamic law’ when the Taliban was in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. It could be said that almost everyone in Afghanistan is or will be a refugee soon. As a result, Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul’s only airport, has become a place of turmoil with officials from various countries and refugees who want to escape Afghanistan. It was reported that an Afghan who attempted to escape in the airport was found dead in the landing gear of a U.S. air force’s aircraft on August 16 (Pawlyk and Seligman). On August 19, Zaki Anwari, a member of Afghanistan's national youth soccer team, was confirmed dead from falling from a U.S. air force’s aircraft as he tried to escape the country (Fassihi). Even seven Afghans died amid the big crowd in the airport, showing how chaotic and unsettled situations are in this Taliban-ruling country. Considering these circumstances, it is very likely to have more casualties of Afghan refugees.

In response, many countries around the world, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, and the United States, started to evacuate Afghans from the country (“Where Does the World Stand on Afghan Refugees?”; Chmaytelli and Cornwell). However, it is still in question if all refugees who want to leave Afghanistan can settle down in other countries in the middle of this tumult. Refugees’ basic right to live in a secure environment have been violated. Even their lives are in danger due to Taliban’s actions toward Afghans and perils that lie during escape. Measures to protect Afghan’s human rights must be taken.

Take a look at UNCHR’s briefing notes for more information about Afghan refugees: https://www.unhcr.org/en-us/news/briefing/2021/8/611f61824/unhcr-warns-humanitarian-needs-afghanistan-forgotten.html .

And take a look at the New York Times’ article to see how to actually help Afghan refugees: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/20/world/asia/how-to-help-afghanistan-refugees.html .

Works Cited
“Afghan Nationals Queue up at the Pakistan-Afghanistan Border Crossing Point in Chaman on August 17, 2021 to Return Back to Afghanistan.” Time, 18 Aug. 2021, time.com/6091056/afghanistan-refugees-pakistan.
“Afghanistan Refugee Crisis Explained.” USA for UNHCR, 16 Aug. 2021, www.unrefugees.org/news/afghanistan-refugee-crisis-explained.
Chmaytelli, Maher, and Alexander Cornwell. “UAE to Temporarily Host 5,000 Afghans at U.S. Request.” Reuters, 20 Aug. 2021, www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/uae-temporarily-host-5000-evacuated-afghans-en-route-elsewhere-2021-08-20.
Fassihi, Farnaz. “Afghan Soccer Player Zaki Anwari Died Falling From Evacuation Plane.” The New York Times, 20 Aug. 2021, www.nytimes.com/2021/08/19/world/asia/zaki-anwari-dead.html.
Krauss, Joseph. “Taliban Take over Afghanistan: What We Know and What’s Next.” The Associated Press, 18 Aug. 2021, apnews.com/article/taliban-takeover-afghanistan-what-to-know-1a74c9cd866866f196c478aba21b60b6.
Pawlyk, Oriana, and Lara Seligman. “Body of Dead Afghan Found in Landing Gear of Military Jet Leaving Kabul Airport.” POLITICO, 16 Aug. 2021, www.politico.com/news/2021/08/16/dead-afghan-landing-gear-kabul-airport-505400.
“Where Does the World Stand on Afghan Refugees?” Al Jazeera, 19 Aug. 2021, www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/18/which-countries-will-take-in-afghan-refugees-and-how-many.
Whiteside, Philip. “Afghanistan: Seven People Killed in Crowd near Kabul Airport as Taliban Seeks Clarity on Foreign Forces Exit.” Sky News, 22 Aug. 2021, news.sky.com/story/afghanistan-seven-people-killed-in-crowd-near-kabul-airport-uk-ministry-of-defence-12387611.
Youssef, Nancy, and Gordon Lubold. “U.S. Troops to Leave Afghanistan by Sept. 11.” The Wall Street Journal, 13 Apr. 2021, www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-troops-to-leave-afghanistan-by-sept-11-11618330266.
Zucchino, David. “The War in Afghanistan: How It Started and How It Is Ending.” The New York Times, 21 Aug. 2021, www.nytimes.com/article/afghanistan-war-us.html.

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