For Afghan refugees in India, hopes dim for returning home

Aug 22, 2021, 10:09 PM | Updated: 11:13 pm
Refugee and former Afghan policewoman Khatera Hashmi speaks to The Associated Press inside a rented...

Refugee and former Afghan policewoman Khatera Hashmi speaks to The Associated Press inside a rented accommodation in New Delhi, India on Aug. 13, 2021. When the Taliban shot policewoman Khatira Hashmi and gouged out her eyes, she knew Afghanistan was no longer safe. Along with her husband, she fled to India last year. She was shot multiple times on her way home from work last October in the capital of Ghazni province, south of Kabul. As she slumped over, one of the attackers grabbed her by the hair, pulled a knife and gouged out her eyes. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

(AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

NEW DELHI (AP) — Her memory of the assassination attempt is hazy. What she does know is that her father asked the Taliban to do it.

A former Afghan policewoman, Khatera Hashmi was shot multiple times on her way home from work last October in the capital of Ghazni province, south of Kabul.

As she slumped over, one of the attackers grabbed her by the hair, pulled a knife and gouged out her eyes.

Five months pregnant at the time, Hashmi survived the gruesome attack, as did her unborn child. Hashmi’s father had vehemently opposed her decision to join the police force, and although she didn’t elaborate on her father’s involvement, she told The Associated Press that the police had arrested and imprisoned him.

After recovering from her wounds, she and her husband fled to India, leaving two children in the care of her mother-in-law. Her third child, a daughter, was born a few months after their arrival in India.

However, like thousands of other Afghan refugees in India, any plans they had of returning were dashed this month by the Taliban’s shockingly swift takeover of the country.

What many thought would be a short, temporary escape has turned into a long-lasting exile.

Another Afghan refugee is Mohammad Akbar Farhad, a 50-year-old artist. He too dreams of home while living in suspended animation abroad.

On a hot August afternoon at his apartment in New Delhi, his brush made brief, generous strokes on a huge oil painting depicting the ruins of the Bala Hissar, or High Fort, Kabul’s ancient citadel that housed Afghan rulers for centuries.

“This is my only source of income,” Farhad said, tracing the contours of the canvas with his fingers.

Back in Kabul, he faced repeated threats from Taliban sympathizers — always armed — who demanded he close his art studio. They said his work fell outside the bounds of Islamic law.

When the threats became more frequent, his entire family ran away to their village in the countryside. In their absence, their house was ransacked and his paintings torn to shreds.

“After that, I didn’t even have the courage to touch my brush for months,” he said.

Farhad fled with his family to India in 2018, expecting to return.

Earlier this year, the insurgents burned his art studio. All of his artwork was destroyed, leaving him crestfallen. And that was before the government in Kabul collapsed.

Concern for her loved ones back home fills Hashmi, the policewoman, with dread.

“I will never be able to go back to Afghanistan now, even if I wanted to,” the 33-year-old said in her modest two-room apartment in New Delhi, where she lives with her husband and daughter Bahar, now seven months old.

Many Afghans fear the Taliban will erase the gains, especially for women, achieved in the decades since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. When the militant group ran the country in the late 1990s, they imposed a harsh interpretation of Islamic law, forcing a sequestered life for many, particularly women and girls who were forbidden from education and most employment.

The Taliban now seek to present themselves as a more moderate force, offering amnesty to those who fought them and declaring the rights of women would be honored under Islamic law.

Hashmi is bitterly pessimistic.

“Women there won’t be able to live in peace now. They won’t even die in peace, even if they wish to,” she said.

“Everything is gone,” she said after a brief pause. Her husband, Mohammad Nabi, looked at her with tenderness but said nothing.

Nabi was a shop salesman back in Ghazni. The two fell deeply in love, and she made it clear before they got married that she planned to join the police.

“I saw what the Taliban did to women. I wanted to do something for them. I wanted women to get their rights,” she said.

Nabi supported her decision, even though it would eventually make his wife a target, and the two began building a family together.

Hashmi’s father threatened her, insisting she quit. She wouldn’t budge.

After the attack that blinded her, the police said they arrested her father and sent him to a prison at Bagram Air Base outside Kabul. When the Taliban swept into the capital, Afghan forces at the former U.S. base surrendered. The prison had housed 5,000 inmates, including Taliban and Islamic State group fighters.

Imagining that her father might now be a free man fills Hashmi with horror.

“If I go back to Afghanistan, the Taliban might cut off my legs this time,” she said.

But life in India remains difficult.

“Whenever I hold Bahar in my arms, I feel sad. My husband can’t leave her alone. He can’t even go to work. Sometimes we don’t even have money to buy food,” Hashmi said, winding her way back to the bedroom as Nabi holds her by the hand.

Although she says their love has grown while in exile, they also struggle. Food sometimes runs scarce because charity money from fellow refugees isn’t enough. Phone calls home often cut out due to the poor cellular network. Being separated from her children is a nightmare.

And in particular, they fight to live a dignified life trapped within a complex bureaucratic process to register as refugees in India. The system strains under a yearslong backlog.

As of 2019, Afghans accounted for around a third of the nearly 40,000 refugees registered in India, according to the U.N. refugee agency. But that figure excludes those who, like Hashmi’s family, are not registered with the U.N.

“My wife gave her eyes for her country. But nobody helped us,” Nabi said. “Not even our own government.”

For these two Afghan families, the Taliban blitz toward Kabul left them feeling isolated and further from home than ever.

“I haven’t slept properly for weeks,” said Farhad, the painter. “All I think of is my country.”

His son Hassan is angry at his country’s politicians — and the U.S.

“America has failed us,” he said.

___

This story corrects that Hashmi was five months pregnant at time of attack, not two months.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


              Afghan girls practice painting under the guidance of an Afghan artist Akbar Farhad inside his rented accommodation in New Delhi, India on Aug. 17, 2021. Farhad has been living in New Delhi since 2018. He left Kabul after facing threats from insurgents demanding he close his studio. Like thousands of other Afghan refugees in India, their plans to someday return home were dashed by the Taliban's shockingly swift takeover of the country. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              Refugee and former Afghan policewoman Khatera Hashmi sits inside a rented accommodation in New Delhi, India on Aug. 13, 2021. When the Taliban shot policewoman Khatira Hashmi and gouged out her eyes, she knew Afghanistan was no longer safe. Along with her husband, she fled to India last year. She was shot multiple times on her way home from work last October in the capital of Ghazni province, south of Kabul. As she slumped over, one of the attackers grabbed her by the hair, pulled a knife and gouged out her eyes. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              An Afghan refugee waits outside Australian Embassy, hoping to get humanitarian visa in New Delhi, India on Aug. 20, 2021. For thousands of Afghan refugees living in India, their plans to someday return home were dashed by the Taliban's shockingly swift takeover of the country. Some refugees struggle to put food on the table. Others are trapped in a complex bureaucratic process to register as refugees. What many thought would be a short, temporary escape has turned into a never-ending exile. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              Afghan refugees living in India sit together outside the Australian Embassy, hoping to get humanitarian visa in New Delhi, India on Aug. 20, 2021. For thousands of Afghan refugees living in India, their plans to someday return home were dashed by the Taliban's shockingly swift takeover of the country. Some refugees struggle to put food on the table. Others are trapped in a complex bureaucratic process to register as refugees. What many thought would be a short, temporary escape has turned into a never-ending exile. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              An Afghan refugee works at a fast food stall in New Delhi, India on Aug. 17, 2021. For thousands of Afghan refugees living in India, their plans to someday return home were dashed by the Taliban's shockingly swift takeover of the country. Some refugees struggle to put food on the table. Others are trapped in a complex bureaucratic process to register as refugees. What many thought would be a short, temporary escape has turned into a never-ending exile. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              An Afghan refugee pushes a wheelchair through a market in New Delhi, India on Aug. 17, 2021. For thousands of Afghan refugees living in India, their plans to someday return home were dashed by the Taliban's shockingly swift takeover of the country. Some refugees struggle to put food on the table. Others are trapped in a complex bureaucratic process to register as refugees. What many thought would be a short, temporary escape has turned into a never-ending exile. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              An Afghan refugee stands outside a shop where he works in New Delhi, India on Aug. 17, 2021.  For thousands of Afghan refugees living in India, their plans to someday return home were dashed by the Taliban's shockingly swift takeover of the country. Some refugees struggle to put food on the table. Others are trapped in a complex bureaucratic process to register as refugees. What many thought would be a short, temporary escape has turned into a never-ending exile. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              Akbar Farhad, an Afghan artist, teaches young Afghan refugees inside his rented accommodation in New Delhi, India on Aug. 17, 2021. Farhad has been living in New Delhi since 2018. He left Kabul after facing threats from insurgents demanding he close his studio. Like thousands of other Afghan refugees in India, their plans to someday return home were dashed by the Taliban's shockingly swift takeover of the country. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              Akbar Farhad, an Afghan artist, paints an old Kabul market and the ruins of "Bala-e- Hissar," or the High Fort, an ancient citadel that housed Afghan rulers for centuries, inside a rented accommodation in New Delhi, India on Aug. 13, 2021. Farhad has been living in New Delhi since 2018. He left Kabul after facing threats from insurgents demanding he close his studio. Like thousands of other Afghan refugees in India, their plans to someday return home were dashed by the Taliban's shockingly swift takeover of the country. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              Mohammad Hassan watches as his father, Akbar Farhad, an Afghan artist, paints an old Kabul market and the ruins of "Bala-e- Hissar," or the High Fort, an ancient citadel that housed Afghan rulers for centuries, inside a rented accommodation in New Delhi, India, on Aug. 13, 2021. Akbar Farhad has been living in New Delhi since 2018. He left Kabul after facing threats from insurgents demanding he close his studio. Like thousands of other Afghan refugees in India, their plans to someday return home were dashed by the Taliban's shockingly swift takeover of the country. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              Mohammad Nabi, husband of a former Afghan policewoman Khatera Hashmi, feeds his seven-month-old daughter Bahar inside a rented accommodation in New Delhi, India, on Aug. 13, 2021. When the Taliban shot policewoman Khatira Hashmi and gouged out her eyes, she knew Afghanistan was no longer safe. Along with her husband, she fled to India last year. She was shot multiple times on her way home from work last October in the capital of Ghazni province, south of Kabul. As she slumped over, one of the attackers grabbed her by the hair, pulled a knife and gouged out her eyes. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              Refugee and former Afghan policewoman Khatera Hashmi sits inside a rented accommodation in New Delhi, India on Aug. 13, 2021. When the Taliban shot policewoman Khatira Hashmi and gouged out her eyes, she knew Afghanistan was no longer safe. Along with her husband, she fled to India last year. She was shot multiple times on her way home from work last October in the capital of Ghazni province, south of Kabul. As she slumped over, one of the attackers grabbed her by the hair, pulled a knife and gouged out her eyes. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              Mohammad Nabi gives medicine to his wife, a former Afghan policewoman Khatera Hashmi, as their seven-month-old daughter looks on inside a rented accommodation in New Delhi, India on Aug. 13, 2021. When the Taliban shot policewoman Khatira Hashmi and gouged out her eyes, she knew Afghanistan was no longer safe. Along with her husband, she fled to India last year. She was shot multiple times on her way home from work last October in the capital of Ghazni province, south of Kabul. As she slumped over, one of the attackers grabbed her by the hair, pulled a knife and gouged out her eyes. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              Mohammad Nabi holds his seven-month-old daughter Bahar as he helps his wife, a former Afghan policewoman Khatera Hashmi inside a rented accommodation in New Delhi, India, on Aug. 13, 2021. When the Taliban shot policewoman Khatira Hashmi and gouged out her eyes, she knew Afghanistan was no longer safe. Along with her husband, she fled to India last year. She was shot multiple times on her way home from work last October in the capital of Ghazni province, south of Kabul. As she slumped over, one of the attackers grabbed her by the hair, pulled a knife and gouged out her eyes. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              Mohammad Nabi holds his seven-month-old daughter Bahar as his wife, a former Afghan policewoman Khatera Hashmi speaks to The Associated Press inside a rented accommodation in New Delhi, India on Aug. 13, 2021. When the Taliban shot policewoman Khatira Hashmi and gouged out her eyes, she knew Afghanistan was no longer safe. Along with her husband, she fled to India last year. She was shot multiple times on her way home from work last October in the capital of Ghazni province, south of Kabul. As she slumped over, one of the attackers grabbed her by the hair, pulled a knife and gouged out her eyes. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              Refugee and former Afghan policewoman Khatera Hashmi speaks to The Associated Press inside a rented accommodation in New Delhi, India on Aug. 13, 2021. When the Taliban shot policewoman Khatira Hashmi and gouged out her eyes, she knew Afghanistan was no longer safe. Along with her husband, she fled to India last year. She was shot multiple times on her way home from work last October in the capital of Ghazni province, south of Kabul. As she slumped over, one of the attackers grabbed her by the hair, pulled a knife and gouged out her eyes. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

AP

Associated Press

Oregon pins hopes on mass timber to boost housing, jobs

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Inside a warehouse at the industrial Port of Portland lies what some believe could be the answer to Oregon’s housing crisis — a prototype of an affordable housing unit made from mass timber. Once mass-produced at the factory being planned at the port, the units ranging from 426 square feet (40 […]
18 hours ago
FILE - The seal of the Board of Governors of the United States Federal Reserve System is displayed ...
Associated Press

Wyoming crypto bank’s Federal Reserve application denied

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The Federal Reserve Board has denied a Wyoming cryptocurrency bank’s application for Federal Reserve System membership, officials announced Friday, dealing a setback to the crypto industry’s attempts to build acceptance in mainstream U.S. banking. Many in crypto have been looking to Cheyenne-based Custodia Bank’s more than 2-year-old application as a bellwether […]
18 hours ago
In this image provided by the U.S. Air Force, Senior Airmen Andrew Whitener and Tyler Glodgett 341s...
Associated Press

Nuclear strike chief seeks cancer review of launch officers

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top Air Force general in charge of the nation’s air- and ground-launched nuclear missiles has requested an official investigation into the number of officers who are reporting blood cancer diagnoses after serving at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. The illnesses became publicly known this week after The Associated Press obtained […]
18 hours ago
FILE - An Amazon Fresh grocery store stands in Warrington, Pa., on Feb. 4, 2022. In an email to Pri...
Associated Press

Amazon axes free grocery delivery on Prime orders under $150

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon is axing free grocery delivery for Prime members on orders less than $150. Customers who get their groceries delivered from Amazon Fresh — and pay less than $150 — will be charged between $3.95 and $9.95, depending on the order size, the company said in an email to Prime members […]
18 hours ago
FILE - Fireworks explode over the ancient Parthenon temple at the Acropolis hill during New Year ce...
Associated Press

Fitch ups Greece’s rating to a notch below investment grade

NEW YORK (AP) — Credit ratings company Fitch has raised Greece’s credit rating to one notch below investment grade. In a report issued Friday, Fitch estimates that Greece’s deficit will shrink to 1.8% of its gross domestic product in 2024 from an estimated 3.8% last year. “There is some uncertainty around fiscal policies after the […]
18 hours ago
FILE - Retired Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt speaks during an interview in Tokyo, Thursday, Dec. 1, ...
Associated Press

Usain Bolt fires business manager over Jamaica fraud case

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt told reporters Friday that he is baffled over how $12.7 million of his money has gone missing from a local private investment firm that authorities are investigating as part of a massive fraud that began more than a decade ago. Bolt also said he has […]
18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
For Afghan refugees in India, hopes dim for returning home