Afghan Woman Awaiting Evacuation Says 'No One Deserves This' as Thousands Try to Flee

An Afghan woman awaiting extradition said "no one deserves this" as thousands of people try to flee the country and the return of the Taliban, the Associated Press reported.

Massouma Tajik, a 22-year-old data analyst working for a U.S. contractor helping Afghan businesses, said she was told Sunday that she had been put on an evacuation list for the United States or Mexico, and needed to leave her family and country immediately.

She left from a friend's apartment in Kabul with just the clothes on her back, a small backpack, a laptop and her phone on Sunday to head to the airport.

"My dreams and my plans, are all inside this small backpack," Tajik said.

Tajik was given no additional information on her evacuation, and did not have a visa in her passport. She joined other Afghans being rushed to the airport by their American friends.

"I will never forgive the world for staying silent," she said. "I didn't deserve this. No one deserves this."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Afghan people flee to airport
Massouma Tajik, a 22-year-old data analyst, said "no one deserves this" as thousands of people attempt to flee the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan. Above, Afghan people move toward the Kabul airport on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan's 20-year war, as thousands of people tried to flee the group's feared hardline brand of Islamist rule. Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images

With hundreds of Afghans rushing the tarmac of Kabul's international airport desperate to flee the return of the Taliban, the young Afghan woman stood in limbo between two worlds.

In one world, Tajik would board a flight to a country she did not know, destined to become a refugee. In another, she would stay in an Afghanistan under Taliban rule, forced to wipe out the last 20 years of all that she had built and achieved.

Sleepless, hungry and scared, she has been waiting for hours at the airport for a flight she feared would never come with questions she could not answer.

"I am in the airport, waiting to get a flight, but I don't know to where," she said, speaking to AP over the phone. "I am here, confused, hungry and hopeless. I don't know what is coming my way. Where will I go? How will I spend my days? Who will support my family?"

As 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, Tajik and a group of Afghans working for U.S. media were rushed to the city's international airport by their American friends.

The speed of the Afghan government's collapse, the ensuing chaos and the near-complete takeover of the country—just two weeks before the final pullout of the last U.S. and NATO troops—has shocked many in Afghanistan and beyond. For Afghan women, it raised fears that all they had achieved in women's rights, the right to go to school and work, would be swiftly taken away.

On the way to the airport, Tajik looked out the window, taking in the last glimpses of Kabul streets, "filled with a scary silence."

There was barely time to call her family in the western province of Herat, seized by the Taliban last week in the insurgents relentless sweep. Before the fall, Tajik had fled the city of Herat, the provincial capital and her hometown, for the Afghan capital, "with hope that Kabul would resist."

"But everything changed," she said. "Everything collapsed in front of my eyes."

Her family did not object to her leaving even though at 22, she was their breadwinner. She knew that by staying, she would become a liability for her loved ones—a young woman, educated at an international university and working with foreigners.

"When I left Herat, I thought I cannot leave my family like this, but staying there I become a risk for them," she said. If the Taliban found out, she is convinced "they will hurt my family."

Before leaving Herat, she destroyed all evidence linking her with international organizations, including newspaper clippings. Apart from working as a U.S. contractor, in July she was featured in a prominent U.S. paper.

"I burned them, I buried them, and I left," she said.

Once at the airport, she saw Afghans waiting desperately for a plane out, some breaking into tears. She was tired, she had not slept in three days. Rumors circulated that the planes may even be canceled. Others asked why there was no security and who would protect them.

"The Taliban can come at any time," she said, her voice faltering.

Six hours passed. She heard shots ring out from the outside—was it the Taliban?

From where she was, she could see a plane on the tarmac, but it wasn't hers. A mad rush of men and women followed, people overtaking one another, desperate to get out. She watched from a cold steel bench, and for a moment, thought of the unknown that awaited her on the other side.

"I might end up on the other side of the world, in a refugee camp. I have no food, no money with me," she said. And she missed her family. "I am worried for their lives," she said. "All these years of education and hard work, in the hope of making a better life and helping other Afghans ended up being for nothing."

By midnight on Sunday, she thought of giving up and taking a taxi back to Kabul. Herat was out of the question. She got up, but just as quickly changed her mind again.

Sleep would not come. She said looters were causing havoc inside the terminal. She left with her travel companions to wait outside on the runway.

At daybreak, thousands of Afghans had streamed into the airport. Tajik said she saw U.S. soldiers fire shots in the air. Her flight would he here soon, she was told.

Later on Monday, U.S. military officials said the chaos at the Kabul airport had left seven people dead, including some who fell from a departing American military transport jet.

Kabul International Airport
As a Taliban offensive squeezes in on the gates of the Afghan capital, there's increasingly only one way out for those fleeing the war and one way in for the U.S. troops tasked with backing the American diplomats still on the ground: Kabul's international airport. Above, passengers trying to fly out of Kabul International Airport amid the Taliban offensive wait in line in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 13, 2021. Tameem Akghar/AP Photo