Today marks one year since Kabul fell to the Taliban. Read Farishta’s captivating story as she fled Afghanistan with her family, and was resettled in North Texas by World Relief.
Farishta and her husband Omid Shah lived normal lives in Afghanistan, both with successful careers in the medical field. She and Omid Shah come from generations of doctors and medical professionals. Farishta received a Bachelor’s degree in Pakistan, and after marrying Omid Shah, moved to Kabul where she completed another medical degree. Shortly after, she and Omid Shah celebrated the birth of their first son, and were happy with their lives in Afghanistan. Before the Taliban came, she desired to move into a specialized practice, but now, everything she would have worked for in Kabul is destroyed. Her husband practiced and studied medicine in Pakistan for many years, then became a general surgeon, eventually moving to work for the U.S. army.
A History of Displacement
August of 2021 marked the fourth time in Farishta’s family history that they had to flee Afghanistan for their own safety. Farishta can recall as a child fleeing to Pakistan during the first Taliban invasion. As Farishta’s mother fled from the Taliban with 3 children, they left everything behind. While living in Pakistan, they experienced many hungry nights, as it was hard for them to start their lives over. Her mother eventually brought them back to Afghanistan after five years when the country had become safer. She vividly remembers returning to her empty home in Afghanistan. Everything that was left in their home when they fled was stolen.
Life became normal back in Afghanistan. All of her brothers and sisters, despite the trauma of displacement, grew up to become extremely successful. Her own brother became a college professor, spokesperson for the Republic of Afghanistan, and a policy maker. Her husband’s job for the U.S. military as well as her brother’s profession, would end up placing a target on their backs during the next Taliban invasion.
August 15th, 2021
In early August of 2021, they celebrated their son’s 2nd birthday. 5 days later everything was different.
She described to me the day the Taliban invaded. That morning she awoke to what seemed like a normal day. She was busy caring for her son, and was concerned with going to the market and buying milk. On her way to the market, she saw those around her running and thought “what is happening? Why is everybody running?” The answer: the Taliban is coming. “This happened in a second and no one was ready”, she shared. People started immediately closing their shops out of fear of what would happen.
By that night, everything was different. “How did it change?? How did they take Kabul?” She remembers hearing the Taliban run through the streets at night, firing guns and yelling. As this happened, her husband was in another city for work and she wondered if he was okay.
After the Invasion…
She stayed in her home with her son and parents after the invasion, knowing her husband was safe in another city. Her husband spent those next few days at the airport to not endanger his wife and son by being home with them, as he was a direct target for the Taliban. After a few days she received a call from her husband to meet him at the Kabul airport.
When she left her home for the airport, she looked around and saw that everything was different. Farishta saw many people waiting in long lines outside the airport trying to find a way out of Afghanistan. “The situation was like a dream. It was like a horror movie.” When she left for the airport, she also had to leave behind her parents and siblings. “When I close my eyes, I see the crying faces of my father and mother, but they are happy for us because we are no longer in danger.”
Upon seeing her husband, he immediately embraced Farishta and their 2-year-old son. “When I looked at his face, I saw he was so scared.” Shortly after arriving at the airport, a bomb exploded in the Kabul airport attack. On August 26th 2021, a suicide bombing took place outside the Kabul airport that killed at least 183 people, among those being 13 U.S. military members and 170 Afghan civilians. Her husband looked at her and said “we need to go fast.” As she ran through the airport with her son and husband, she could still see the aftermath of such a terrible explosion, people crying, and complete chaos around her. She wondered if they would make it to safety.
They loaded into a cargo plane with no seats and hundreds of other people. “It felt like a nightmare for me, a bad dream.” Upon boarding the plane, they did not know what country they would be going to. After several hours of traveling, they made it to Washington D.C, then to a military base in Indiana, where they lived for 2 months before coming to Texas. They have now been in the U.S. for almost a year.
Life in North Texas
They arrived in North Texas on October 3rd, 2021 and were resettled by World Relief. They were very excited when they came to Texas, as they had the opportunity to start their new lives. Life has not always played out as they thought it would, but they are still hopeful. They are happy in America, and they are happy they have each other.
Once resettled in North Texas, they developed a relationship with their caseworker, and love her deeply. Their caseworker came alongside them and assisted in helping them become sufficient on their own in a new place. They began making friends with neighbors and found a small community. “I know Allah has a plan for us.”
Her husband now desires to work in the medical field in the U.S., just as he did in Afghanistan. He has currently passed a surgical exam, and is actively looking for jobs. Farishta desires, as any mother does, that her son has a good life in the U.S. As she reflects on having to flee Afghanistan as a child herself, she sees similarities in her son’s early life and her own. She desires that her son will never have to flee a country again, but can grow up in one place.
As they set up for a future in the U.S., she recognizes the good things she has. Farishta is thankful they did not lose any family members to the Taliban, and feels a burden to share her story to show the world what has happened, not only to her own family, but all those affected by the Taliban takeover. Her parents and siblings are still in Afghanistan, and she speaks with them regularly as she deeply misses them and worries for their safety. “At first, I cried every day, but now I am okay. Everything has changed for me here.”
Her story deserves to be told.
Advocate for Afghans
Her story is also a reminder of a call to action. Currently we can advocate for Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act to allow Afghans, like Farishta and her family, to remain in the U.S. permanently. Entering the U.S. under the status of humanitarian parole was a temporary protection that does not grant immigration status. If you desire to advocate for our Afghan friends, many with stories just like Farishta’s, click HERE.