Ask almost anyone in the Afghan capital what they want now that the Taliban are in power, and the answer is the same: They want to leave.

As their flight to Islamabad was finally about to take off, Somaya took her husband Ali’s hand, lay her head back and closed her eyes. Tension had been building in her for weeks. Now it was happening: They were leaving Afghanistan, their homeland. The Associated Press was there:

The couple had been trying to go ever since the Taliban took over in mid-August, for multiple reasons. Ali is journalist and Somaya a civil engineer who has worked on United Nations development programs. They worry how the Taliban will treat anyone with those jobs. Both are members of the mainly Shiite Hazara minority, which fears the Sunni militants.

Most important of all: Somaya is five months pregnant with their daughter, whom they’ve already named Negar.

Travel bags from a family of Afghan musicians are packed and stored in a living room in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021. Despite none of the family members having visas to travel outside Afghanistan, they have their bags packed while waiting for an opportunity to leave the country.

“I will not allow my daughter to step in Afghanistan if the Taliban are in charge,” Somaya told The Associated Press on the flight with them. Like others leaving or trying to leave, the couple asked that their full names not be used for their protection. They don’t know if they’ll ever return.

Ask almost anyone in the Afghan capital what they want now that the Taliban are in power, and the answer is the same: They want to leave. It’s the same at every level of society, in the local market, in a barbershop, at Kabul University, at a camp of displaced people. At a restaurant once popular with businessmen and upper-class teens, the waiter lists the countries to which he has applied for visas.

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