ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The Taliban swept into Kabul on Sunday after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, bringing an end to a two-decade campaign in which the U.S. and its allies had tried to transform Afghanistan.
As the situation in Afghanistan unfolds, it’s hitting close to home for some families in Rochester.
Obaida Omar is a social worker at Catholic Family Center that helps refugees around the world find a safe haven. Omar spent the last few days working with families, trying to get their loved ones out of Afghanistan safely. As she watches the Taliban take control of Kabul, she feels hopeless.
“It’s devastating, the uncertainty of what’s happening because no one wants to leave home, no one wants to ever leave home,” Omar said.
Omar grew up in Afghanistan. She came to the United States as a refugee 30 years ago, but still considered Afghanistan her home.
“I’ve been watching the news and getting really emotional,” Omar said. "I have immediate family back home and they have no way of getting out".
The president of the Islamic Center of Rochester, Tabassam Javed, says he has congregation members with relatives currently in Afghanistan. At the center, many congregation members are concerned about their loved ones safety in the Afghanistan, and are asking them to shelter in place until things improve. Some even are encouraging their family to escape to neighboring countries using land routes.
“Right now, there are Taliban checkpoints spread across the country and that makes escaping difficult,” Javed explained. "Because neighboring countries may welcome them, but how are they going to escape?”
Processing refuge visas and paperwork takes time, and the process can last years.
But Omar and others don't have that long to get people out.
“There’s no time,” Omar said. “Time is of the essence, every second is essential that they have to get out.”
Right now, Omar says the best way for everyone here at home to help is to simply check in on people affected by the situation.
“The poor Afghan people have suffered for decades, since I was a child and now it’s even worse,” Omar said. “So just check on your Afghan neighbors.”