‘Still waiting for what is to come for us’: American University of Afghanistan students face fear and uncertainty

However now, within the phrases of 1 scholar, “I don’t dream and hope for my future. My future just isn’t secure in Afghanistan, and it seems to be very darkish right here in Afghanistan.”

Scholar A, whose identify CNN just isn’t utilizing for his or her security, is certainly one of tons of of AUAF college students who have been left behind throughout US army evacuation efforts, regardless of an effort to get them to the airport earlier than all US forces left.

One month after the US army evacuation ended, AUAF college students are afraid, guarding their actions out of concern about Taliban reprisal. Though Secretary of State Antony Blinken indicated that AUAF companions can be among the many precedence teams for evacuation shifting ahead, the scholars CNN spoke to are nonetheless awaiting clear solutions on if and when they may have the ability to depart Afghanistan.

“Increasingly individuals run out of their financial savings account day-to-day,” stated a scholar who CNN is looking B, who described an environment of “starvation,” “concern” and “uncertainty” in Afghanistan.

“The scenario is getting worse day-to-day and we’re shedding hope,” stated one other scholar, C.

A fourth scholar, D, advised CNN, “I generally test Twitter and I see some tweets made by the Taliban during which they speak about our college. To be trustworthy it actually terrifies me.”

“All of the crimes the Taliban have dedicated in opposition to training via the years make me and my fellow college students a first-rate candidate for prosecution underneath their guidelines,” they stated.

“We’re nonetheless ready for what’s to come back for us,” D added.

‘An unlimited obligation’

Leslie Schweitzer, the chair of the Mates of American College of Afghanistan, stated there are greater than 3,000 college students, employees and relations remaining within the nation, with whom they have been speaking “on a regular basis.”

“If we now have a secure type of motion, we’ll get in contact with them. We now have a continuing movement of questions from people who find themselves being threatened of their houses, who’re unable to depart their houses,” she advised CNN. “We have additionally had experiences from among the college students who’ve been evacuated that Taliban has entered their empty houses, trying to find paperwork, and many others. It is actually vital for us to remain in contact with them.”

“We now have an infinite obligation to all of AUAF as a result of every of those individuals concerned with us, the Afghans, it was a threat from day one, simply due to who we’re, simply because it is the American College of Afghanistan, we educate in English, it is an American type of training and is co-ed,” she advised CNN.

AUAF opened in 2006 — its creation was introduced by then-first woman Laura Bush throughout a visit to Kabul the 12 months prior. Over greater than a decade, the US authorities invested greater than $150 million within the college, which turned often called one of many nation’s finest and attracted high college students. It had survived a lethal terror assault in 2016 by suspected Taliban militants, reopening the subsequent 12 months.

The Taliban seized the AUAF campus virtually instantly after the US army accomplished its withdrawal in August.

“That they had their flag on the campus’ watchtowers the very first day of the autumn of Kabul,” scholar D stated.

Scholar A advised CNN that “tons of” of Taliban at the moment are on the campus that AUAF college students as soon as thought-about a second dwelling.

Schweitzer stated the Taliban have shared images of themselves standing “on the stairway contained in the Girls’s Middle, which is a 70,000-square-foot constructing devoted to ladies’s financial empowerment,” she stated. “The irony of that’s fairly extraordinary.”

Scholar D advised CNN that regardless that they’re “bodily positive, I am unable to deny the truth that the scenario has affected me and my fellow college students mentally at a unique stage.”

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“AUAF was the one place the place we, Afghans, had entry to world-class training. I had many objectives, and learning at AUAF made me really feel a step nearer to my objectives daily,” they stated.

“The considered not having the ability to research there anymore and never having the ability to see the campus even as soon as once more actually hurts me,” D stated.

Schweitzer underscored that AUAF just isn’t closing, telling CNN that “there was an awesome response from the scholars that stated, ‘We have to maintain going. We have to proceed our training’.'”

Courses are persevering with on-line, however some college students advised CNN this isn’t a tenable possibility long-term for them because of connectivity points, electrical energy shortages and the price of web entry.

Schweitzer stated that the college’s funds in Afghanistan are frozen and they’re “making some very severe and arduous choices as to how we are able to lower some prices so as to have the ability to handle with far much less funds.”

‘Very arduous for anybody to bear’

Natalie Gonnella-Platts, the director of the Girls’s Initiative on the George W. Bush Institute, advised CNN that the US and the worldwide neighborhood have a duty to help Afghan college students “whether or not they’re in Afghanistan or whether or not they’re exterior of Afghanistan.”

She identified that almost half of the coed physique is ladies and that academic establishments like AUAF have been a “direct contributor” to the positive aspects made by ladies in Afghanistan over the previous decade.

“Training has such an affect on improvement, prosperity, peace, stability, fairness,” she stated.

Schweitzer famous that “a part of the worth of this college was the gathering of not simply women and men, but it surely was the gathering of ethnic minorities and other people from completely different provinces.”

“That is a really vital a part of all of this, studying to dwell collectively, studying transparency, vital considering,” she stated.

Roughly 150 college students have been capable of get out through the US army evacuations, Schweitzer advised CNN, and within the closing days earlier than the tip of the US presence on the bottom in Afghanistan, a gaggle of AUAF college students tried to entry the airport in Kabul to evacuate. Nevertheless, the scenario turned too unsafe, they usually needed to flip again.

Throughout a current Senate Overseas Relations Committee listening to, Blinken stated “sure” when requested by Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware if the State Division was prioritizing companions from AUAF for evacuation. In early September, Reps. Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat, and Andy Barr, a Kentucky Republican, referred to as on Blinken to “grant presumptive eligibility to the scholars and employees of AUAF for P-2 designation and do the whole lot in your energy to help of their secure departure from Afghanistan.”

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Nevertheless, the State Division has stated it can proceed to first prioritize Americans who want to depart Afghanistan, and it’s unclear when any large-scale relocation efforts for at-risk Afghans would possibly resume.

Scholar C advised CNN that many AUAF college students and employees don’t carry legitimate passports and the Taliban are usually not issuing passports, so that they wish to the State Division for assist acquiring correct documentation. The US authorities doesn’t at present have any presence on the bottom in Afghanistan.

A State Division spokesperson advised CNN “some AUAF college students have departed Afghanistan” however “for safety causes, we can not provide further particulars about these departures or what number of college students stay.”

“We now have been in common communication with the American College of Afghanistan directors about their efforts to evacuate the remaining college students and employees nonetheless in Afghanistan,” they stated.

Nevertheless, the uncertainty about what’s subsequent “may be very arduous for anybody to bear,” within the phrases of scholar B.

“It’s extremely arduous as a result of we do not know something concerning the future,” they stated.

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