The issues they carried after they fled Afghanistan

Final yr, twenty years after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, they had been lastly leaving. The Taliban was mounting its comeback, gobbling up territory throughout the nation and shutting in on the capital.

Its fighters arrived in Kabul on Aug. 15, setting off a chaotic exodus by artists, journalists, rights activists — anybody who embraced Western beliefs or whom the brand new rulers may see as a menace. Greater than 120,000 individuals fled in a collection of airlifts over the subsequent two weeks.

They had no selection however to depart most of their possessions behind. The gadgets they took with them usually had deep private worth and in methods massive and small related them to their homeland.

The refugees are scattered all over the world. Listed here are the tales of 4 refugees who wound up in Paris and the objects they carried to recollect.

Two T-shirts

Mursal Sayas labored for the Afghanistan Unbiased Human Rights Fee. She obtained a spot on an evacuation flight, however her kids stayed behind together with her ex-husband.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Occasions)

Mursal Sayas crammed what she might into her bag: a laptop computer, identification and different paperwork, jewellery, some clothes.

Children's clothes

The crimson shirt belonged to her son Mohammad, 6, and the black to her daughter Mehrsa, 3.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Occasions)

As time was working out, she reached right into a pile of soiled laundry and grabbed two tiny T-shirts.

They carried the scents of her kids. The crimson shirt belonged to 6-year-old Mohammad, who liked kissing her eyes. The black shirt was worn by 3-year-old Mehrsa, who had magnificent curly hair.

She felt she had no selection however to depart the youngsters behind. She was an worker of the Afghanistan Unbiased Human Rights Fee, touring the nation to work with troopers, police and anybody else who would pay attention — a job that might virtually definitely make her a goal for the Taliban. Sayas secured a coveted spot on an evacuation flight, however there was no room for her son or daughter.

The kids remained with their father, her ex-husband.

“When they went with their father, I knew that it was the last time I see them,” she mentioned lately.

Now 27, she lives alone in Paris in a small residence close to the Eiffel Tower. She is writing a novel, taking yoga and boxing lessons and finding out French.

“I have myself,” she mentioned. “I don’t have my children. I don’t have my job. I don’t have my family. My parents who supported me and helped me. I don’t have my sisters. I was working for their future. I don’t have my brothers. No one.”

She talks to her kids by cellphone every day and hopes she is going to see them once more earlier than they’re grown up. Her son lately instructed her {that a} mom who liked her kids would by no means go away them. She hopes that sometime they’ll perceive.

Odor is the sense most intently related to reminiscence. When the household was nonetheless collectively, her son as soon as instructed her, “Mother, when you’re not in the house, I smell your clothes.”

And now Sayas smells their garments.

Earlier than she goes to mattress each evening, she appears at photos of them, pulls out the unwashed T-shirts and buries her nostril in them.

A digital audio recorder

A man holds a digital recorder in park

“When I looked at the recorder, then all of a sudden all those pictures, the memories, everything, people I had talked to, they become alive before my eyes,” recalled journalist Asad Kosha.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Occasions)

It was early morning when journalist Asad Kosha obtained a name informing him that Taliban forces had arrived in Kabul.

Digital recorder

”I interviewed many, many individuals with this recorder,” Kosha says. Now he’s engaged on a memoir and makes use of it to take notes.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Occasions)

“They are in the western part of the city,” mentioned his supply, a member of the Afghan intelligence company. “Take care.”

Kosha had by no means felt extra terrified. He and the editor of his newspaper wanted to calm their nerves, so that they shared a glass of whisky.

Then he went residence and began packing.

He loaded his bag with some photos of his mother and father and siblings, a replica of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” and some different books. He needed to get to the French Embassy, the place a bus was ready to take him to the airport.

He seemed round his room and noticed his digital audio recorder on a desk.

The Sony recorder had value Kosha $35 at a market one sizzling summer time afternoon about 5 years earlier. He had used it ever since to do his work.

“When I looked at the recorder, then all of a sudden all those pictures, the memories, everything, people I had talked to, they become alive before my eyes,” he recalled.

Earlier than the Taliban took over, the newspaper he labored for, Etilaatroz, had thrived regardless of the monetary challenges in Afghanistan. It received worldwide awards for exposing corruption. Kosha felt as if he was serving to construct a democracy.

At present the newspaper is headquartered in Maryland and its employees members are sprinkled all over the world, overlaying their nation from afar.

Kosha, 37, lives by himself in a city simply exterior Paris and spends most of his time engaged on a memoir. He mentioned that with out the sense of function reporting gave him, he generally seems like a loser.

Then he picked up the recorder and commenced to recount the tales he had lined with it.

“I interviewed many, many people with this recorder, including a mother in Herat whose son was hanged” in Iran, he mentioned.

When an previous girl as soon as got here into his workplace to complain about “strong men” illegally occupying her residence, Kosha recorded an interview together with her, and the story he printed helped rectify the scenario.

“This recorder is my connection with journalism,” he defined. “And for me it is a tool through which we can tell the truth. We can change something.”

Now he makes use of the recorder to depart himself voice notes and gather interviews with fellow refugees.

“Once I get my papers, then I can easily travel around Europe, but my focus would be on working to try to tell people’s stories,” he mentioned. “To do what I can do.”

A necklace

A woman sits at a table and looks at jewelry.

Atefa Hesari, an actress who was finding out theater in Afghanistan, took jewellery together with her, together with a necklace with particular that means.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Occasions)

Because the Taliban was advancing on the Afghan capital, Atefa Hesari requested her theater professor at Kabul College for recommendation.

A black stone necklace held in a hand.

“It is funny for me right now,” Hesari defined. “Just a black necklace. But I bring it, maybe because I feel that it is important for me.”

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Occasions)

“What should we do? We are artists,” she mentioned. “If Taliban see us, Taliban catch us. They will kill us.”

The professor tried to reassure her the whole lot could be positive. Folks knew her. She had acted in two movies and had labored as a tv presenter for the ministry of tradition.

However an hour later a pal known as with the information that the Taliban had entered the town and urged her to go residence instantly. He mentioned her life was now at risk.

The streets had been jammed with visitors and other people working from their workplaces. It was virtually inconceivable to search out an empty taxi.

Hesari apprehensive that her trendy clothes would make her a goal for the Taliban fighters.

Lastly she bumped into her pal Sadat, a person who two months earlier had professed his love for her and proposed marriage, a suggestion she rejected as a result of they got here from completely different ethnic teams. He drove her residence as the town fell deeper into chaos.

After they arrived, she didn’t dare shake fingers with him — in case the Taliban was watching.

She merely instructed him “goodbye,” then went straight into her room, locked the door and wept.

She packed her conventional Afghan garments and some items of jewellery — issues that made her really feel lovely.

A yr later, she lives within the suburbs of Paris and is enrolled in an academic program for the humanities. She is 24 and shares an residence with one other Afghan girl, additionally a refugee. All her household — her brothers, her sister, her mother and father — stay in Afghanistan.

There is barely something on the white partitions of her residence. For consolation, she examines her jewellery. There is one merchandise that stands out: a necklace created from black stones.

Sadat had given it to her when he proposed, and instructed her to maintain it as a logo of their friendship.

“It is funny for me right now,” she defined. “Just a black necklace. But I bring it, maybe because I feel that it is important for me.”

Sadat remained in Afghanistan, and the 2 do their finest to be in contact. At one level, he stopped replying to her messages, and she or he discovered that he had been overwhelmed by Taliban police.

“He’s in danger now in Kabul,” Hesari mentioned.

A espresso cup

Woman holds coffee cup in park

Mina Rezaie paid one final go to to her espresso store, Cafe Easy, to choose up a ceramic mug to take together with her from Afghanistan. “This cup carries a lot of stories,” she defined.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Occasions)

Mina Rezaie was ready on the French Embassy to be evacuated when she realized that she had forgotten to pack one important merchandise.

Hand holding ceramic mug

Rezaie’s cafe, staffed by ladies, grew to become a gathering place for activists and journalists — antithetical to the Taliban.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Occasions)

So she left, crossing the town to return one final time to the espresso store she owned. There she grabbed a ceramic white mug inscribed with a emblem of a chicken and the title of the enterprise: “Cafe Simple.”

She had launched it 5 years earlier, staffed it with ladies and watched it develop. It grew to become a gathering place for activists and journalists — and a supply of empowerment for ladies in male-dominated society.

“The cafe was the place through which I established my career and proved the patriarchal society wrong, that we can work, we can run businesses,” she mentioned.

That message was antithetical to the ideology of the Taliban. And so Rezaie joined the exodus.

Now she is 32 and lives with different refugees exterior Paris. Along with her boots, nostril ring and army-green pants, she simply blends in to the town.

Former prospects ship her messages from all over the world, lamenting that their beloved espresso store is gone.

The mug sits on a bookshelf beside a photograph of her household.

“This cup carries a lot of stories,” she defined. “The story of my cafe where people would come. Young men and women would come and drink coffee and they were happy in a free Kabul that is no longer free.”

Then she began to sob.

“Sometimes I feel guilty that I’m not there,” she mentioned. “But when I sit alone and think deeply, I come to a conclusion that the game is over for me, for women in Afghanistan.

“I left myself and my whole life behind in Kabul. I’m not the same Mina now. My soul stayed in Kabul.”