What Taliban rule has meant for an Afghan American, personally and professionally

Amy Scott and Andie Corban Sep 20, 2021
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People wait to withdraw money outside a bank in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Banks were temporarily closed after the Taliban seized power, adding to the chaos. Javed Tanveer/Getty Images

What Taliban rule has meant for an Afghan American, personally and professionally

Amy Scott and Andie Corban Sep 20, 2021
Heard on:
People wait to withdraw money outside a bank in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Banks were temporarily closed after the Taliban seized power, adding to the chaos. Javed Tanveer/Getty Images
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Afghanistan’s economy has drastically changed since the Taliban took over Kabul, the capital, just over five weeks ago. Billions of dollars in aid were cut off, and banks across the country temporarily closed. Recently, donors have pledged more than $1.1 billion to help Afghanistan, according to Reuters, and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is seeking $600 million in humanitarian aid.

“Marketplace” host Amy Scott spoke with Homa Sorouri, an Afghan American living in the Washington, D.C., area, about what the past few weeks have been like for her family and her work. For years, Sorouri has worked with international and humanitarian organizations in Afghanistan, specializing in women’s rights and education. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Amy Scott: I want to start by asking you about your family. I understand you were trying to get your father out of the country, but he wasn’t able to get on a plane. How’s he doing now?

Homa Sorouri: Thank you for asking. My father is doing well. He’s 72 years old, and we planned for him to leave Afghanistan in one of the evacuation flights. But because of the explosion that happened, all the airport gates were closed, so he couldn’t leave the country. He is the only family member currently in Afghanistan, and it’s been very challenging for me and my siblings basically to have my father alone under such circumstances.

Scott: Are you worried for his safety now?

Sorouri: Yes, definitely. All of his children worked with international organizations, and usually that brings all kinds of threats for any family that they have been working with international organizations.

Scott: I understand you and your siblings have faced challenges just trying to get money to him, and with the banks closed and long lines to withdraw small, limited amounts of money. What challenges has he experienced?

Sorouri: Yes, when we get disappointed that my father cannot leave the country, he traveled again by road to Herat. And the first challenge was sending him money because we used to send him money on a monthly basis. So you know, in the absence of [a] banking system, it was very challenging. And finally, after a week or two, some banks opened, but then the amount of cash in Afghanistan was extremely limited. And there were long lines. And you know, for an old man, it’s always a big challenge to stand in those lines. Finally, just recently, Western Union opened, and we were able to send him a tiny bit of money. Now the system is that you can only send a limited amount of money to people in Afghanistan, but still, we are thankful that we are able to do so.

Scott: You have spent years working on development and gender rights in Afghanistan. When Kabul fell, now about a month ago, what did that mean for your work?

Sorouri: So I would like to start about, you know, my feeling from the time that Kabul fell. I feel that I was driving on a motorbike down a hill with [the] highest speed, and since that day, every day gets worse. So for me, it’s dreadful to watch the work we performed with assistance from international partners all evaporated in one blink.

Scott: What are you hearing from your colleagues in Afghanistan, particularly the women that you’ve worked with?

Sorouri: They are horrified. Almost all of them, they have lost their jobs. The challenge is that there are many households that are headed by women in Afghanistan, they lost their man of the family due to war. So, this is having a terribly negative impact on many of the families that now they do not have any source of income, unfortunately.

Scott: I can’t imagine how challenging this has been for you, both professionally and personally. How are you holding up?

Sorouri: I’m hopeful. I was not hopeful at the beginning. It took me a long time, basically, to come to this stage. And especially because I see that humanitarian organizations are pulling themselves together and they are working hard in order to continue providing aid to Afghanistan, I see dedication to education, health and basic delivery [of] services. So simply we cannot just close our eyes and forget what is happening. So I’m grateful to all of those organizations that they are planning to continue their work in Afghanistan.

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