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He Left Afghanistan To Come To Vermont As A Teenager. Now He's Desperate To Get His Family Out Of Kabul

A photo of people getting into a plan in the dark with little lights in the background
Taylor Crul
/
Associated Press / U.S. Air Force
In this Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021 photo provided by the U.S. Air Force, evacuees board a plane at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan. A Vermont resident named Wazir, who as a teenager moved to the state from Afghanistan, is now trying to get his family members out of Kabul.

When he was 16 years old, Wazir left Afghanistan and found a new home in Vermont. He attended college here and now runs a business in the Green Mountain State. He's now working to help his family leave Afghanistan, and fears for their safety with the U.S. leaving the country.

VPR’s Mitch Wertlieb spoke with Wazir — whose last name VPR is not using to protect the security of his family — in the days leading up to the U.S. military’s total withdrawal from Afghanistan by Aug. 31, 2021. Their conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Wazir: My brother was in the United States before I came here. He went to ... college, and when I was very young, little, I wanted to study abroad.

Mitch Wertlieb: And your family supported that decision, to come here?

Yes. And they supported it.

I understand, Wazir, you still have family in the Afghan capital of Kabul? Who is still there, and what can you tell us about their status right now?

My three brothers, and my mom is still in Kabul.

I adore my family. They're wonderful people. My family's highly educated and outspoken against wrong things, by the politicians and leaders in Afghanistan. My family spoke loud and clear against the Taliban. And recently, the Taliban killed my cousin. Rocket attack on his car.

And since my family had worked for many years on the U.S. government projects in Afghanistan, my family applied for a Special Immigrant Visa, and they qualified to be guaranteed the SIV and get out from Afghanistan by the U.S.

But the State Department has done nothing to help my family.

Are you able to communicate directly at all with any members of your family right now? Or are you just waiting to hear from the State Department, or from somebody that can let you know if they can ever get out?

I talked with my family directly, but they didn’t know anyone over there that can do anything. They're in Kabul, somewhere, can’t be shared, exactly, their address. And yeah, so, I'm really, really worried about them.

"All the hopes and everything that people had, they're all … all gone."
Wazir Hashimi

Vermont's Congressional delegation, have you written, made phone calls to the offices of Sen. Leahy, Sen. Sanders, Congressman Welch, and asked for their help directly? I mean, you do have this Vermont connection, you're here, your brother is here?

Yes, I have called all of those offices. I worked very closely with Sen. Leahy's office, and [his] office tried to help. But it — nothing, like nothing happened.

What's the problem? What are they telling you is the main issue about having this difficulty of getting your family out?

They recently ... because of the security of the airport, they're saying that, "We don't recommend anyone to come to the airport to get them out."

We have shared all the documents. They're all documented. They have them. So, I'm asking Sen. Leahy, Rep. Peter Welch and Bernie Sanders to come and work together, and take a serious action on this, and help them to get out of the country.

Wazir... you said [previously] that you want to return to Afghanistan someday and use what you've learned here in the U.S. ... to run for Parliament.

Do you still have visions to do that, given what's happening now? Do you still see a return to Afghanistan as a possibility?

Unfortunately, not at all. Not at all.

Living under the Taliban regime is super difficult. Unfortunately, we don't see ourselves there.

Again, we should be clear, you're not just trying to get your family out of Afghanistan because it's a bad situation there. Your family has been outspoken, the Taliban is aware of who they are, and you're afraid that they're targets right now?

Yes, definitely. And the Taliban take our home right now. They’ve broken the windows and the doors, and they go inside and trying to find things.

It’s a very bad situation, and people's lives, and children and women, and all these accomplishments for the last 20 years have all been destroyed in one hour, four hours. And all the hopes and everything that people had, they're all … all gone.

Editor's note: Rep. Welch said his office has had "numerous contacts" with Wazir, and coordinated with Sens. Leahy and Sanders, as part of efforts to help him and his family.

In a statement, Sen. Leahy's office stated they hold to a longstanding policy of not discussing individual cases that their office is working on. A spokesperson for the Senator said staffers are working "to do all that’s possible under difficult circumstances to help."

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or tweet Morning Edition host Mitch Wertlieb @mwertlieb

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Corrected: September 1, 2021 at 9:42 AM EDT
A previous version of this story misstated how old Wazir was when he came to the United States.
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