Barakzai is one of Afghanistan’s most famous political leaders. She could barely walk the streets of Kabul without people stopping her. She spent much of her time in the spotlight criticizing the Taliban and their warlords elected to parliament with her.
Therefore, she was always surrounded by bodyguards, and he drove her in a bulletproof car. She saved her when a Taliban suicide bomber blew up her car in 2014.
– I will never forget the deafening explosion. I still think about the three innocent people who were killed outside my car, as the activist told NRK on Skype.
She is one of more than 100,000 Afghans who have been evacuated from Afghanistan in recent weeks. A mother-of-five herself witnessed chaos at Kabul airport after reports that the Taliban had captured the city on Sunday 15 August.
– With a shout I managed to get two tickets to Turkey for my husband and for myself, she says.
Relieved, they boarded the plane to Istanbul. But they knew little of what awaited them. From the plane’s window, Barakzai saw the sea of people rushing down the runway.
– People climbed onto the plane from all sides. Finally, people sat on top of each other in the corridor. There was room for 350 passengers, but there were 600 people on board. It was an unreal sight.
The captain refused to take off the crowded plane. Many of the passengers were armed. The pilot decided to turn off the engine and lights and leave the plane.
Also on board were many other prominent Afghans, Taliban critics, ministers, activists and journalists. At 35°C, 600 people were sitting in the plane in the dark, without air conditioning.
– It was terribly stifling. We can hardly breathe in there. But we also did not dare to leave the plane out of fear of the Taliban.
chased by the Taliban
Seven hours later, people realized the plane was going to be left on the ground. Barakzai and his wife snuck out of the airport and went to Sutter in the following days.
– I’ve been in contact with the British parliamentarians who have worked hard to get British soldiers out for us, you say.
Meanwhile, the Taliban critic had to hide from the Taliban she said she was looking for.
– My friends told me they went to my house. We slept in different places every night. I eventually realized that they were electronically tracking me. They appeared next to our last hideout. I saw through a small window how the Taliban entered the house next door. They were meters away from me.
After playing a game of cat and mouse with the Taliban for five days, the good news finally came from Britain: the ex-politician and the man were to be escorted out of the airport and flown in a British military plane.
– We are now safe thanks to the efforts of my parliamentary colleagues here in London, but many of my family members remain in Kabul. They are in a very dangerous situation.
Describing the president as a traitor
Of Britain’s security, the outspoken former politician often reflected on why everything went wrong – why the system that she had helped build stone by stone, for 20 years, had collapsed like a house of cards.
– We were ruled by the mafia. We had miserable leaders. They were so stunned by their power that they completely lost touch with people and their needs. She says the Taliban took advantage of this.
And he blames the main activist, Ashraf Ghani, for the chaos in Kabul.
– Why did he run away? He allegedly went to save his people from further suffering. Does he really think we buy that stuff? If he really feels that he cannot hold the country together, he can call the United Nations and say he will resign. When he had at least spared great suffering for the Afghans.
– Many Afghans see the former president as a traitor. do you agree?
The 49-year-old was appointed Ambassador of Afghanistan to Norway in 2016. She moved to Oslo with her four children at the time. The contrast could not have been greater between the dangerous Kabul and the peaceful Bygdøy as she settled in a separate house near Huk. The security guards went and all the measures that were taken to secure her life.
– You have been appointed ambassador by the same president you are reprimanding today. Many will say that you are part of the system that you criticize?
– I was appointed ambassador because the president knew that he could not protect me in Kabul after the suicide attack. Moreover, I served not the president but my people. I tried to represent Afghan-Norwegians to the best of my ability, and strengthened the relationship between Norway and Afghanistan. The ex-ambassador asks is this a mistake.
Criticize the United States
The women’s rights activist believes that the United States threw the Afghan people under the bus, and served Afghanistan in a plate for the Taliban.
– I blame the whole Western world for giving the Taliban some form of recognition when they started negotiating with them in Qatar. As a result of 20 years of Afghan and international efforts, trillions of dollars and human suffering have been dumped aboard the boat. The Taliban was replaced by the Taliban. How can the United States justify this?
– The Taliban say they have established peace and order, and have promised to form an inclusive transitional government with representation for ethnic and religious minorities. Don’t you believe in these promises?
– No, I do not trust the Taliban. They say one thing to the international media because they desperately need to be recognized by this world. Then they report something else to the local media. Then they do something completely different again in practice. There is a long way between words and action.
Despite the mistrust, Barakzai believes that the Taliban should not be placed in the slump of the international community, as was the case in the 1990s. At that time, Afghanistan was a pariah state, you think, a country that no one recognized and wanted to have something to do with it.
The lack of development aid and development has resulted in enormous civilian suffering. The isolation led, among other things, to Afghanistan becoming a hotbed of international terrorism. Extremists flocked from all over the world. Barakzai fears the same thing will happen again.
– I’m realistic. We may love it or hate it, but the truth is that the Taliban are in power now. We can either talk to them and hold them accountable by making demands. Or we can continue to criticize them. But what does criticism really lead to? Nothing, the feminist says before continuing.
Western countries should take advantage of the Taliban’s need to recognize all that is worthwhile, and demand that they respect basic human rights, among other things.
She is convinced that women in Afghanistan will not relinquish the rights they have won over the past 20 years.
The Taliban controls a completely different country. I don’t think that women will find themselves deprived of the opportunity to have an education or a job. Perhaps they will not be as loud as before, but I am convinced that they will heed their demands.
– Do you think you will return to Afghanistan?
Only my body is in Europe. I left my thoughts and soul in Afghanistan. If I get the slightest assurance from the Taliban that they will not harm me or my family, I will board the next flight to Kabul.
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