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Ibad: One Year after the Fall of Afghanistan

Just a little over a year ago, the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. The following excerpt from The Washington Post describes those early days.

One year ago, the fall of Kabul to the Taliban stunned the world. Afghans fled to the airport in droves. A suicide bombing killed nearly 200 people. The departure of U.S. forces just days later brought an eerie quiet as the country grappled with its new reality.

Aug. 15 — The Taliban takes over

Kabul fell quickly. Taliban fighters faced little resistance as they entered the capital on the main roads. Afghan officials — including the country’s president — fled. And as the militants took over the presidential palace, so began a new era of Taliban rule.

Within days, billboards depicting women were defaced or torn down. Afghan flags were lowered. Cafes stopped playing music. (excerpt from The Washington Post, “Two weeks of chaos: A timeline of the U.S. pullout of Afghanistan)

Ibadullah Rasoli, a medical doctor, was living in Kabul at that time. He had gone to work as normal that morning. By the afternoon, he was working to ensure that his all-female staff made it home safely before he headed home himself.

“We lost our country in hours. 8:00 in the morning I went to my office. It was a normal day, and at 2:00, everything changed.”

Ten days of terror followed. Then, on the 25th of August, 2021, he received a call to be at the airport at 6:00 in the evening. Same day. Ibad and his family had two hours to evacuate.

“We left everything and everyone behind in two hours… And when I say ‘everything and everyone,’ I mean it, even my mom and my sister, because security protocol at that time, it was just for immediate family members. I don’t have access to my bank account, which is my salary account. It is frozen.”

Starting over in the United States

As the Deputy Country Director of 42 clinics throughout the country at the Marie Stopes International (MSI), Ibad held a place of prominence in the community. His wife worked for an international organization. He had a nice home and two nice cars. His children went to a private school.

While he is very grateful to be safe in the United States, it is humbling. “I just came and start from scratch at 44… with four children. It is very difficult.”

“When people are asking me what I was doing before, I am telling, unfortunately, I am medical doctor… And fortunately.”

Transferring his credentials to the United States is a possibility, but it would require additional education and exams, possibly years. In the meantime, Ibad is putting his experience and skills to work as a Community Health Worker at CHAS Health, focusing much of his time on helping Afghans like himself.

“I am trying to help people because I well know some of the barriers they have here. Suddenly, for most of them, everything changed – their lifestyle, their culture, and even, most of these families came from villages, not cities… Suddenly, they come to US – It’s a big, big change for them; so they have social barriers, cultural barriers, language barriers, and maybe some misinterpreted religious barriers. That’s why they are not regularly coming to the clinics; they’re not showing up for their appointments. I am trying to help them. I know better their problems and these barriers.”

Ibad is working with the team at CHAS Health to break down those barriers.

“We are planning to have events at CHAS Health for Afghan women and families. We have an educational program for families, including ante-natal care for Afghan women, and we will provide them transportation. Mostly, their husbands are working during the day and women are inside the house. They don’t know how to navigate their way around. They don’t know the language. They are very isolated.”

CHAS Health is beginning with pre-natal care for Afghan mothers, but, recognizing the traumatic events of the past 12 months, they have plans to expand their events to include behavioral health and other topics.

Spokane feels like home

Ibad said Spokane feels like home now, and he is enjoying his work because of the supportive environment and because his opinions are valued.

“People here in Spokane, they help me, they make me feel like, this is your second home, and you can live here like your home… I feel relaxed and good when I am working with people, when I am helping people, because that is now part of my life.”

Another huge factor in Ibad’s happiness is seeing his children happy and safe.

“Right now, in Afghanistan, girls are not allowed to go to school. When I am seeing… when my kids, especially my daughters, are coming back from school, and when I am seeing smiles on their faces, I am forgetting everything.” With a knot in his throat, Ibad finished, “I am happy they are going to school. They are safe, and they will have a bright future.”

Ibad is not ready to think too far. “We lost our country in just five or six hours, so having a goal for my life is not easy because I had my goals, I had my ambitions, I had my hopes for myself, for my family, for everything, but everything is gone, and I need time to reset goals. For now, just thinking for my kids. Just thinking for their future.”

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