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In Tajikistan, Afghan exiles fear for loved ones left behind


DUSHANBE: The loud and patriotic music at the independence day celebrations in the capital of Tajikistan was of little comfort to Abdulbashir Yusufi, still reeling from the TalibanThe takeover of your country, neighboring Afghanistan.
Yusufi escaped to the mountainous Central Asian country at the gates of Afghanistan last month, obtaining last-minute visas and flights for his family, just as the Taliban arrived at the gates of Kabul.
As high-tempo music played in a central square in Dushanbe, the 43-year-old explained that his friends and family faced death at the hands of the Taliban in Panjshir, the latest province to fall to the group.
“I am so worried about them,” Yusufi, a former resident of the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, told AFP.
A doctor who worked with the German military and a British pharmaceutical company before that, Yusufi says he cannot contemplate a return home to his family.
“If we go back to Afghanistan, our lives are in danger,” he explained.
Rather than stay in Tajikistan, Yusufi hopes to be granted refuge in the West.
The rapid sweep of Afghanistan by the Taliban when foreign troops withdrew after 20 years led to a frenzied exodus, particularly among Afghans working alongside foreign military personnel, which focused on the Kabul airport.
Tajikistan, a secretive and authoritarian former Soviet state close to Russia and China, has not provided figures on the number of Afghans who have arrived there since the Taliban began their takeover in May.
But Interior Minister Ramazon Hamro Rahimzoda said earlier this month that the country could not admit some 80 Afghan families camping on its border with Afghanistan, saying it lacked the infrastructure to house them.
Tajik leader Emomali Rakhmon later criticized international institutions for their “disregard” for the fate of Afghans, but did not commit to hosting refugees in his own country.
For Afghans who have arrived in Tajikistan, the government’s remarkable anti-Taliban stance could be a good sign.
While other neighboring countries, such as Uzbekistan, began to develop ties with the Taliban long ago, the Tajik authorities have repeatedly criticized the group and refused to engage with it.
Strongman Rakhmon has complained about the accumulation of “terrorist groups” on the southern border of Tajikistan since the Taliban took control of it.
He has presented posthumous honors to anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud and the late former President of Afghanistan Burhanuddin Rabbani.
The ambassador of the former Afghan government in Tajikistan, Zahir Aghbar, has also refuted the Taliban, pledging allegiance to the country’s deposed vice president, Amrullah Saleh.
In a news story at the embassy building on Wednesday, Aghbar called the new Taliban government in Kabul “several mullahs, some of whom have not even read two books.”
He said he could not say how many Afghan refugees had arrived in Tajikistan in recent months, but he acknowledged the government for “always treating refugees with warmth.”
Younger Afghan fugitives watching Tajikistan’s independence day celebrations in central Dushanbe told AFP that they saw their long-term future outside Afghanistan and in the West.
Abdulbashir Yusufi’s daughter, Mahsa Yusufi, 15, said she dreamed of living in the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom.
“If I go there, I think I can become someone who can help my people,” Yusufi said.
Abdusabbur Alizai, a 23-year-old student, said he planned to continue studying at the University of Tajikistan in which it is registered.
“Then I will try to go to a country where I can earn a living,” Alizai said.
Many of his relatives feel the same way, he told AFP.
“They used to have jobs. Now there are none. Everyone is unhappy with the Taliban and everyone wants to leave Afghanistan in search of a better life,” Alizai said.

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