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'I can't sleep': Austinite says he breaks into tears thinking of family stuck in Afghanistan

Haroon Abassy (center) served with the U.S. Army and Afghan Army for more than seven years. (Courtesy of Haroon Abassy)

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.

Abassy (right) said he is worried the Taliban will target his family since he served in the military. (Courtesy of Haroon Abassy)

"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.

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."


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