Our stories reflect what we saw with our own eyes and what we and our families have experienced firsthand since the U.S. military pulled out, the Afghan government collapsed, and the Taliban took over last summer.
This is Episode Two: “The Desert of Death.”
[Theme music ends]
Mir Abdullah Miri: My name is Mir Abdullah Miri. I’m an educational researcher living in the U.K. Around this time last year, I was still in Afghanistan, fighting to get out. And so was my cousin, Aziz.
The last time I saw Aziz, he was standing in front of the cellphone store where he worked in Herat, the third largest city in Afghanistan. Located in the western part of the country, the city has been home to many renowned poets, writers, and artists. A jewel along the Silk Road, Herat has long been coveted by conquerors and occupiers.
[Sounds of gunfire]
In July of 2021, Taliban fighters were intensifying their attacks in Herat. This was about a month before they would take control of the capital, Kabul.
That day in front of the cellphone store, Aziz and I had a short conversation. He told me about his plans to leave the country and settle in Germany. He had an uncle and cousin there. His wife, Leila, said Aziz wanted a better life for their kids.
Leila (translated voiceover): He would say, “I don’t like raising my son here. My son should go and study somewhere he deserves.” Because our son knew the English alphabet and was smart.
Aziz: Ice cream.
Amir: Ice cream.
Aziz: Cookie ice cream.
Leila: Aziz would say, “He is a waste here. I want to raise my son somewhere he deserves.”
Mir Abdullah Miri: Aziz wanted to raise his children somewhere where they could go to school, play, and have fun. But getting to Germany was going to be more difficult for Aziz and his family than I realized the last time I saw him.
For reasons that will become apparent, I’m using pseudonyms for all of the subjects in this story.
Leila (translated voiceover): Both Aziz and I had passports. Our passports had expired. Our son and newborn daughter didn’t have a passport.
Mir Abdullah Miri: The …….