a special series from The Verge

The US diaspora of Afghans is located in the Bay Area, making it the most desirable place for relocation of displaced refugees. It is also the place with the worst housing crisis in America.

te Abdils decided Afghanistan was no longer safe after their 14-year-old son, Abdul-Azim, was kidnapped on his way home from school. For years, the Taliban kidnapped children for ransom or used them as leverage in negotiations with Afghan police. As much as it hurt them to abandon their son, Fazela and Hakeem Abdil had other children—two teenage daughters—to think about. They faced a difficult choice: stay in an increasingly dangerous Afghanistan or leave their homes forever.

Until then it had been peaceful for the Abdils. “We had a well-arranged life. We had a job, a house. Life was quite comfortable,” Hakeem says. But conditions in Kabul had deteriorated as many believed they would get better. In February 2020, the Trump administration negotiated a deal with the Taliban, promising to withdraw all troops within 14 months, as long as they refrain from attacking US soldiers. The violence did not stop and became even more pronounced.

So the Abdils made the painful decision to flee, knowing they would leave Abdul-Azim behind.

If the decision to leave is complicated, then the equally complicated, bureaucratic process of emigrating follows. The Abdils hastily fled to Tajikistan, where they awaited visas for Ukraine. Then they started a process to enter the US. After working alongside Americans in logistics and transportation for nearly a decade, Fazela qualified for a Special Immigrant Visa, or SIV, which provided her and her family with permanent security in the United States. The SIV can be read in two ways: as a reward for helping US troops or as an acknowledgment that helping the US could endanger an Afghan’s life.

That process left them insecure for nearly two years. But last December, the Abdils finally arrived in California. From the airport, they were transported to a mosque near Union City, where they slept overnight on floor mats, shielded by a single curtain. With no money to spend on Ubers or bus passes, the family walked for an hour and 40 minutes to a local nonprofit called the Afghan Coalition to begin the resettlement process.

Similar Posts