I Remember the Taliban. They Have Not Changed | Opinion

I remember the day the Taliban first took over Kabul in 1996. I remember being a scared little girl in the Taliban's Afghanistan. I remember the dangling feet of the men murdered at our apartment building, unable to grasp what it all meant as a child. I remember living in fear. The bombs. The rockets. The loss of hope. The Taliban forbid women from working and girls from attending school; they stripped women of all basic human rights.

I remember the moment my mother opened a letter and choked back tears as she told my three siblings and I, "We are going to America!" The clothes on our backs, our ID cards and $50 my mother had after selling her wedding band were all we could take as we set off to a new and foreign land.

My father was a surgeon in the Afghan army and refused to flee the war as his services were desperately needed. Sadly, my father's life was tragically cut short; a shrapnel pierced through the back of his head severing his vertebral artery. Without any medical care during a war, he was left to bleed out in front of his young wife and four children. This tragedy left my mother to be the main provider of our household, though life became even more intolerable when the Taliban took over the country as they imposed atrociously strict and inhumane laws.

The Taliban deemed women's education both legally unlawful and spiritually sinful. My future would have been disappointingly bleak had it not been for my mother. She defied the Taliban and put her life at risk. In our basement, she educated young Afghan girls like me.

We sought asylum and were one of the few lucky families to be assisted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Despite the challenges as a young illiterate Afghan refugee, I was able to obtain an education and was accepted to the medical school of my choice.

Today, I am a board certified physician in the state of California. My older brother is also a licensed physician in the state of California. My two eldest brothers both have attained master's degrees from Columbia University and UC Merced. They are software architects and entrepreneurs today. We have made a lot of ourselves given the opportunities we were given; much like the Afghans in Afghanistan have done in the past two decades of progress.

A Taliban fighter walks
A Taliban fighter walks past a beauty salon with images of women defaced using spray paint in Kabul on August 18, 2021. WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images

Our life story is not all too unique; many Afghans have suffered quite a similar fate. The fortunate ones that are able to escape the turmoil caused by internal corruption and external proxy wars have made much of themselves in the nations that have provided them with security. The unfortunate ones are back under Taliban control due to hasty and failed withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces, which has now plummeted the country back into chaos and handed the fate of nearly 40 million Afghans into the hands of a barbaric and inhumane group of extremist jihadist terrorists.

Together, let us stand united in helping the people of Afghanistan.

For the United States and President Joe Biden to correct the current course, the following must immediately happen:

—Leverage U.S. influence to secure the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul and supply additional government-run evacuation flights for Afghans.

—Broaden eligibility and remove unnecessary barriers to meet strict requirements for P1, P2 and Special Immigrant Visas that significantly delay the approval process and increase processing capacity. Create a special humanitarian parole program to meet this urgent need. Use diplomatic channels to urge allies to drop visa requirements.

—Provide urgent humanitarian assistance to vulnerable communities in Afghanistan, including internally displaced persons (IDPs), women-focused non-governmental organizations (NGOs), persecuted ethnic and religious groups targeted by the Taliban and others. Help establish a humanitarian corridor and secure a guarantee from the Taliban to allow humanitarian NGOs and their supply chains to operate freely in all areas.

—Increase the annual refugee allocation by 100,000 and reassess based on need. Instate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for all Afghan refugees.

The people of Afghanistan need our help. Now is the time to act.

Dr. Arzoo Sadiqi is a board certified physician, licensed in the state of California.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.