Last week on the morning of August 15th, an ANU alumnus went to work in their government building in Kabul, Afghanistan. By 11am, they had to evacuate their office as the Taliban overran the city and started “roaming around in their vehicles, obviously heavily equipped with different sorts of guns”. They were “manhunting individuals” connected to the government.
Woroni spoke to this alumnus on the condition of anonymity, who said they were part of a group of 40 Australian-educated Afghan nationals pleading with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to be granted visas to flee the country.
As the morning went on, the alumnus had to “walk around two and half hours” to get to a safer destination. “The roads were jammed with people trying to flee the city,” they said, and “there were no vehicles, including buses and taxis, because of the chaos and the crowds”.
Along this walk, the ex-ANU student witnessed “[Afghan] military personnel changing their uniforms” as the Taliban tightened its grip on Kabul – a city once defended by thousands of American, NATO and Australian personnel.
The alumnus studied at the Crawford School of Public Policy along with other top-level officials in the US-backed Afghan government. They were “hopeful of giving back to [their] country” with an education they gained at the ANU. Now, they say that the “Taliban does not believe [they] hold the same ideals and opinions”. “They believe those who studied in Western countries are not pure Muslims…even infidels.”
They also told Woroni it is “inevitable that they receive threats or even prosecution”. They note that whilst this is only the “first week of [the] Taliban”, once they are done with the military takeover of the city, “they will definitely start the prosecutions”.
The group of alumni from Australian universities were incredibly frustrated with the obscurity of the Australian government’s support. The alumnus said that “others like the US alumni” had their “visas guaranteed”, with some even receiving “temporary stamps on their passports and bands on their hands so they can travel on military aircraft”. They said this was likewise for their counterparts who studied in Germany, France and Italy. Alumni from Australia were instead left “in a sort of limbo”.
The UN has already warned that current and former government officials and their families may face “summary execution” under the Taliban. The alumnus said they applied for an Australian humanitarian visa and was told by an Australian official to “go to a third country and apply from there”. However, this is all but impossible because of the chaos at Kabul’s airport and all civilian flights being grounded.
In response to our interview, a spokesperson from the ANU said, “[t]he entire ANU community has been watching events in Afghanistan with great sadness and concern.” They added that “[t]he University continues to work with the Australian Government and other agencies to assist any members of our community who are in Afghanistan and who fear for their safety.”
The alumnus wished that all ANU staff and students remember “that currently the picture in the media is of Kabul airport…that is not the rest of the country. There is 35 million more people…they are now living in a fearful situation.”
We acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which Woroni, Woroni Radio and Woroni TV are created, edited, published, printed and distributed. We pay our respects to Elders past and present and emerging. We acknowledge that the name Woroni was taken from the Wadi Wadi Nation without permission, and we are striving to do better for future reconciliation.