Sunday, November 28

Afghan man relieved his family evacuated from Kabul, but others are still waiting

An Afghan man who expected his wife and son to join him in New Zealand this month has spoken of the relief he felt to learn that they were safely evacuated from Kabul.

People boarding the Hercules C-130 at Hamid Karzai International Airport.

Evacuees aboard a RNZAF Hercules C-130 at Hamid Karzai International Airport.
Photo: New Zealand Defense Force

RNZ first spoke to Amin Bakhsh from his home in Auckland last week, when he feared for their lives.

Since then, they have been flown to Dubai.

“I was relieved because for the last week I could not sleep at all. At 2 in the morning I would wake up, jump out of bed and then receive calls almost every hour. I was very happy when they arrived.”

It occurs when a second group of New Zealand evacuees have left Kabul and are waiting for a commercial flight home.

New Zealand is working with the Australian Forces to repatriate at least 200 New Zealanders and Afghans who assisted the Defense Forces with their mission in Bamyan province.

Bakhsh kept in touch with his wife day after day and night after night as he tried to leave Kabul with their young child. She hired an escort to help her through the airport.

It was almost too much.

“She kept saying ‘this is not possible, I’m going to go home no matter what happens, it happens, it’s better to die at home than outside.’ She was devastated,” she said.

“She was tired, dusty and she had never experienced this in her life. I can’t express her feelings, to be honest I can’t find the words.”

They went through the airport in the afternoon and then had to wait for a flight. He said New Zealand soldiers at the crowded evacuation center offered him their jackets to keep his young son warm at night while they slept outside.

“I was glad they were safe and taken care of. Some of the New Zealand forces had given them their jackets to cover him overnight, that moved me a lot.”

Now Bakhsh is looking forward to celebrating her son’s second birthday in New Zealand.

Evacuees preparing to leave Afghanistan (faces are blurred for privacy).

Evacuees preparing to leave Afghanistan (faces are blurred for privacy).
Photo: New Zealand Defense Force

Others in priority for evacuation are still waiting for visas to be approved.

Diamond Kazimi was a former defense force interpreter and now lives in Hamilton.

He is in contact with around 50 people he knows in Afghanistan, who worked for the Defense Forces and are waiting for visas that Immigration New Zealand does not seem to prioritize.

“We are completely shocked by the response,” he said.

“They say ‘oh look, because of Covid-19, the apps are still in the queue and we can’t touch them because of this lockdown, it will be delayed even more.’ They have no idea what’s going on in Afghanistan, basically it makes I don’t seem to be paying attention. “

He’s also frustrated that New Zealand is taking hundreds of evacuees while other countries are taking thousands.

“These are people who are performers, chefs, carpenters, engineers. These people, when they come to New Zealand, they will be an asset, they will be able to contribute to our New Zealand economy and be part of the community.”

Auckland man Khairullah Azizi has been twice denied a partner visa for his wife, who lives in Kabul.

They were married there in 2019 and planned to live in New Zealand the following year.

“I have been trying to bring her here because I knew that something like this was going to happen. I had also raised it previously with immigration, that there is conflict, there is Covid, there are kidnappings, there are bombings.

“They still didn’t recognize all these dangers and they still wanted me to come back and spend time with her.”

She has recently been approved for a critical purpose visa and is now trying to get to the airport escorted by two men from the family.

“She trembles at the thought of going over and over again,” Azizi said.

“She is very, very scared, so I told her to do her best and try herself this last time and hopefully she can get by.”

“This fourth plan is to go and sit there until foreign forces let it pass.”

Khairullah Azizi is the secretary of the Afghan Association and said he is contacted every day by people who are desperate to save their families.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has indicated that the government will not provide further information on the number of evacuees until the operation is completed.

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