It was midnight when we were sitting at home. Everyone was shouting with concern when we heard the Taliban had taken over Afghanistan. The country had fallen.
On August 16th, Nallia and her family rushed to the Kabul Airport along with thousands of others in hopes of fleeing the nation before the new Taliban rule fully settled in. In desperation to get out, Nallia, her husband, their four children and her brother lived on the streets for 11 days waiting for an opportunity to get inside the gates of the airport and on to freedom. It never came.
As she struggled through her emotions, Nallia shared about the explosion at the airport many of us remember from the news.
“When the explosion happened in the airport, it felt like I was dead, and I was afraid I was not alive. I was shouting for my husband because I couldn’t see from the smoke. When the smoke finally went away, there were bodies lying on the ground and blood on the street.” She was overwhelmed with emotion as she turned and saw her husband and children were still alive.
After regaining composure they continued waiting outside the gates of the Kabul Airport. One night they were approached by Taliban members upset that her family was trying to leave.
They asked us repeatedly, “Why do you want to leave Afghanistan?”
One of the men told my husband, “Leave your wife and children, and go away.”
Nallia responded, “Don’t tell him to leave me!” The man replied back, “If you want to go to America, you are not the wife of your husband, you are the wife of Americans.”
Their anger raged, and they began beating Nallia, her husband and her brother. Nallia shared, “They beat my husband and brother with their guns, not shooting them but hitting them with it.”
Severely injured and feeling defeated, they went back to their home in the city. When they arrived, their neighbors told them the Taliban came by looking for them and warning people that they would find those who were working with the former government, the US or Christians and kill them.
The airport incident wasn’t the first run in Nallia has had with the Taliban. Nallia worked with foreign organizations over the past 20 years teaching on women’s rights. Nine months ago the Taliban planted a bomb under their family car. Her daughter’s arm was damaged in the blast, and Nallia and her husband were also hurt.
They were after her because she worked in districts of Afghanistan still contested by the Taliban at the time. She was teaching against selling women and against child marriages, working to remove these practices from Afghan culture. Nallia knew they were tracking her.
The same day her family returned home from the airport, the Taliban showed up again. This time they demanded the keys to their car. They told her husband, “Because this was your wife’s car and the money for the car was earned by a woman, we are taking it.” Afraid for their lives, they handed over the keys.
Later that night they fled their home to go on the run. They were able to stay in a hotel for nine days but ran out of money. With no other place to go, they fled to the border, hiding in a small mountain town. For three days they lived off of one biscuit and some water.
While in hiding, Nallia received a message on her phone from the Taliban that confirmed they knew who she was and were tracking her family.
Here was the message she received:
“Our Military and Leadership Council is aware of you and your illegal activities. We know what you are saying about child marriages among our brothers and sisters. You are promoting illegal culture in our Afghan society. Keep yourself away from such activities, or you will be held responsible for your wrongdoings. If you persist and violate our warning, then you must remember our intelligence service knows your address.
Time was running out. In a final effort to save her family, Nallia reached out to a Christian friend in a neighboring country to ask for help. That person contacted a ministry in Europe that is connected to World Compassion. Our European friends explained Nallia’s situation and asked if there was anything we could do.
Our team jumped into action immediately and began coordinating with our contacts. With the help of others, we were able to get Nallia and their entire family to safety within 48 hours of the request. It wasn’t until just a few weeks ago that we heard her full story and realized their situation was much worse than we had originally thought.
Once they arrived at a safe location, Nallia sent us this message, “We are grateful to have been saved yesterday from almost a certain death.”
Nallia shared, “Jesus has good plans for us, he gives us a future.” She also shared this verse from Isaiah 43:11, “I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no Savior.