Haroon Abassy is safe from Taliban rule—he's been a U.S. citizen living in Austin for the last seven years—but his heart aches just the same to watch chaos erupt in his hometown of Kabul, Afghanistan, from thousands of miles away.
A husband, father, board member for the Austin Afghan community and former translator for the U.S. Army, Abassy's phone has been ringing off the hook from friends and family members, including his parents and two brothers, who are looking for guidance on how to get out of Afghanistan after the Taliban regained control of Kabul just a few days ago.
"It reminds me of the 'Titanic' movie, when the ship is going down and everybody's trying to get off somehow to save their lives—right now that's what's happening in Afghanistan," Abassy told Austonia. "In their minds, the only thing is to get out of Afghanistan. It doesn't matter for them which country, or even in America which state or which city, the only thing on their mind is to get out of Afghanistan."
Every time Abassy turns on the news, he sees women's rights being stripped away and his neighbors desperately clinging to planes in hopes of safety. He said he can't help from breaking down in tears.
This is heartbreaking💔.
Afghan girls beg American soldiers at Kabul airport to save them from what they know is coming.... #Afghanistan. pic.twitter.com/mClAaBwNle
— Fazila Baloch🌺☀️ (@IFazilaBaloch) August 18, 2021
When his three children ask what is going on, Abassy said he can't bear to break it to them. He tells them they will not be able to visit Afghanistan for a while because it is being controlled by "bad guys."
"They're insurgents, they're just trying to wait to resettle," Abassy said. "As soon as they settle in the country, and they have the full power, believe me, they will search home by home, they will find, one by one, the translators, the people who worked for the United Nations and their allies, and the news and the media people, the journalists and the Afghan military people, they will knock one by one on the doors and they will search the people, and they will kill them. I guarantee you the Taliban are not the people to trust."
Abassy left his country under similar circumstances—along with his family. Abassy fled to Pakistan to escape the Taliban in the late 1990s and lived there for 10 years, so he knows what Afghans are facing. Beyond that, Abassy worries that his family is in danger because he served the U.S. Army, which could leave them as targets for the Taliban.
Abassy said when American troops landed in Afghanistan, it brought hope and happiness of a normal life to the people living there. Now, after 20 years, all U.S. troops will leave the country by August. Abassy said he fears another 9/11 could be on the horizon.
"Why is a great country like America (making) wrong decisions by leaving a great country for a terrorist group? They could stay with us for at least a few more years and do their withdrawal, step by step, not leave altogether," Abassy said. "Now, thousands of people died, millions of people lost their jobs, millions of people don't have food, they don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. Everybody's hiding in their home."
His family was waiting on an appointment with the U.S. embassy to secure their Special Immigrant Visas that never came. Now, the U.S. embassy is closed as the Afghan government collapsed. Abassy said his family is in hiding for now—they left their home in Kabul, locked the door, likely never to return.
Abassy is doing the best he can to assist everyone who is reaching out for help. He said if they are lucky, they might get approved within a year. If not, they could end up waiting for many more.
"I can't sleep—I sleep two hours and I wake up again to check Facebook, to see if anybody got killed, if there are any attacks or something," Abassy said. "I don't have mindset, like I'm not normal at this time."
Abassy is very worried for the safety of his family; they don't fit either category of who the U.S. is prioritizing getting out of Afghanistan: Americans and Afghans who worked with the U.S. government. For now, Abassy is looking forward to welcoming the 107 refugees coming to Austin with open arms as they land.
"This story is going to repeat again, Afghan people will rise again, Afghan people will stand again and they will fight against the terrorist group of Taliban," Abassy said. "They cannot control our country. We cannot do anything right now, but we will do our best. One day we will kick the Taliban back to the mountains and to Pakistan."
- Gov. Greg Abbott tests positive for COVID-19 - austonia ›
- El Paso, Austin could receive thousands of Afghan refugees as ... ›
- At least 107 Afghan refugees coming to Austin, more in Texas ... ›
- Austin Afghan community call for family evacuation - austonia ›
- AISD welcomes Afghan students through refugee support office - austonia ›
East Austin restaurant la Barbecue has been robbed a third time in less than three months, according to a post on the restaurant's Instagram.
In the post, the restaurant included photos of what appeared to be a man exiting a minivan from surveillance footage.
"This guy pulled up in a car full of stuff… he ripped our gate open and stole a couple empty kegs," the post said. "The ring system scared him off so he did not venture back into the area. PLEASE EVERYONE ON THE EAST SIDE BE CAREFUL!!! This guy goes back into his car to grab something before he goes in. I am hoping he won’t be back!!"
The robbery comes as many restaurant and food truck owners have been on guard from recent break-ins. East Austin cheesesteak truck R&B's Steak and Fries has also been robbed three times in around three months, according to owner Kris Elliott. Elliot said the truck was last robbed around a month and a half ago.
"When the weather gets cold, it seems like these things start to happen more often," Elliott said. "We're just happy no one got hurt."
Additionally, he said all 5 of the food trucks in their lot have experienced burglaries. The landlord of the space is taking action by investing in alarm and camera systems. "Been very tough dealing with this problem as us small business owners are just trying to survive during the pandemic," Elliott said.
And it's not just in East Austin. North Austin restaurants Eldorado Cafe and Chez Zee Bistro were both broken into and robbed on the weekend of Jan. 8, while over a dozen food truck robberies and break-ins were reported in the latter half of 2021.
Some, like Chez Zee's Deborah Velasco, wonder if the understaffed Austin Police Department's decision to no longer respond to non-emergency calls is part of the problem. Xose Velasco, owner of East Austin's Discada, said owners are keeping their guard up in the wake of the robberies as he was robbed twice within a month of reopening in November 2021.
"We try to keep the lights on," Velasco said. "We're a little bit more careful."
After 12 months, the long-anticipated massive Tesla factory in Southeast Travis County is up and operating and everyone wants a look inside.
Phase 1 of Giga Texas appears to be tied up as production of the Model Y Tesla is underway, the electric car company revealed on Wednesday in its fourth-quarter earnings call. The factory, located on the former Harold Green-turned Tesla Road, sits on more than 2,000 acres of land in southeast Travis County.
Here's a glimpse inside the factory.
Model Ys will be the first Teslas to come out of Giga Texas with an estimated delivery of August. The wait estimate comes after Tesla noted supply chain issues have affected their factories, which have been running below capacity for several quarters. A deep blue metallic like this goes for $1,000 more than a white or silver Model Y, totaling $61,990.
Model Ys began being produced at Giga Texas at the end of 2020. In general assembly at the factory, the Teslas get their major interior components to finish the vehicle.
Workers at Austin's Gigafactory are attaching seats to a structural battery pack. It's been described by some as the biggest difference between Texas-made Model Y's and the current version at the Fremont, California factory. It shouldn't have a major impact on the owner's experience, but Tesla has updated instructions for the jacking procedure, as the lift points are different.
With a sleek, open office setup, workers can take in a view of the factory from their seats. It's a component CEO Elon Musk wanted for what is now the headquarters of Tesla.
On the Austin, Texas public location Snapchat, a photo of inside Giga Texas has appeared. On the left you can see a sneak peek of a Model Y body.pic.twitter.com/N7zliZ5vkL— Sawyer Merritt (@Sawyer Merritt) 1643081462
With Snapchat's maps, anyone can look at everyday activity happening at the factory. To view these geographically-linked stories, click the bottom left "map" icon and search "Tesla Giga Texas." Once you've found it, you can view the Snapchat story of those in and around the facility. While most stories stay up for only 24 hours, Giga Texas is a designated place on Snapchat, allowing users to view a collection of photos and videos from the inside.
Following Model Ys, Texas-made Teslas will include the Cybertruck, Semi and Model 3. But it might be a while before those other models arrive. EV makers have been hit hard by the chip shortage, and it's thought that changing features are contributing to Cybertruck delays as Tesla works to compete in the electric pickup market.
Joe Rogan paid a visit to buddy Elon Musk this week. The two have been seen around town since both moving to Texas. Naturally, Rogan was impressed with the prototype.
If you're dying to get a closer look at this factory, you just might get to. In December, Musk said the factory would have tours available to the community early this year.
- Tesla driven by drunk teen bursts into flames in Tarrytown crash ... ›
- Tesla can't sell directly to Texans unless law is uplifted - austonia ›
- Tesla 2021 year in review for austin - austonia ›
- Rivian secures spot as latest Tesla challenger - austonia ›
- Del valle ISD partners with Tesla in high school grad program ... ›
- Elon Musk seeks to fast-track $1.1 billion Tesla factory in Austin ... ›
- Austin-based Tesla sees record deliveries in quarter 4 - austonia ›