Hopes for Afghan refugees in India are dimming for their return home

It is not clear what she remembers about the assassination attempt. She does remember that her father ordered the Taliban to execute it.

Hopes for Afghan refugees in India are dimming for their return home

Khatera Hashmi, a former Afghan policewoman was shot multiple times as she traveled home from work last Oct in Ghazni, south of Kabul.

She slumped down and was grabbed by one of the attackers. He pulled out a knife, pulled out a knife, and wentuged her eyes.

At five months, Hashmi was still pregnant. Her unborn child also survived. Hashmi's father was against her decision to join police force. She told The Associated Press, however, that her father was arrested and held by the police.

After healing from her injuries, she fled to India with her husband, leaving her two children under the care of her mother. A few months after her arrival in India, her third child, a girl, was born.

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.

Many thought it would be a temporary escape, but instead it has become a long-lasting exile.

Mohammad Akbar Farhad (50-year-old artist) is another Afghan refugee. He dreams of returning home, but he lives in suspended animation overseas.

His brush was hot and generous as he painted a large oil painting of the Bala Hissar (or High Fort) in New Delhi on an August afternoon. It depicted the ancient citadel that once housed Afghan rulers for many centuries.

Farhad stated, "This is my only source for income," while tracing the canvas' contours with his fingers.

He was threatened by Taliban sympathizers in Kabul who were always armed and demanded that he close down his art studio. They claimed that his work was not within the Islamic law's boundaries.

His entire family fled to the countryside when the threats grew more frequent. Their house was vandalized and their paintings were torn apart by their absence.

He said, "After that I couldn't even touch my brush for months."

Farhad fled India with his family in 2018 hoping to return.

His art studio was set on fire by insurgents earlier this year. His artwork was all destroyed and he was left devastated. This was just before Kabul's government collapsed.

Hashmi, a policewoman, is filled with fear for the well-being of her family back home.

She said, "I will never have the ability to go back to Afghanistan now," at 33 years old in New Delhi's modest apartment. This is where she lives now with her husband, Bahar, and their seven-month-old daughter, Bahar.

Many Afghans fear the Taliban will erase the gains, especially for women, achieved in the decades since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. The militant group imposed strict Islamic law interpretations on the country, resulting in a life of seclusion for many, especially women and girls, who were prohibited from most education.

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 optimistic.

"Women in the world won't be allowed to live peacefully now." She said that they won't be able to even die in peace, even though they would like to."

After a short pause, she declared that "Everything has disappeared". Mohammad Nabi, her husband, looked at her tenderly but did not say anything.

Nabi was a Ghazni shop salesman. They fell in love deeply and Nabi made it clear that she wanted to join the police force.

"I saw the Taliban doing to women. I wanted to do something. She said that she wanted women to have their rights.

Nabi supported her decision even though it could eventually make his wife a target. The two started building a family together.

Hashmi was threatened by her father and forced to quit. She refused to budge.

The police arrested her father after the attack that left her blind and sent him to Bagram Air Base, outside Kabul. The Taliban invaded the capital and the Afghan forces surrendered to the U.S. bases. It housed 5,000 prisoners, including Taliban and Islamic State fighters.

Hashmi is horrified to think that her father might be now a free man.

She said, "If I return to Afghanistan, the Taliban may cut off my legs."

But life in India remains difficult.

"When I hold Bahar in mine arms, it makes me sad. My husband cannot leave Bahar alone. He won't go to work. "Sometimes we don't even make enough money to buy food," Hashmi stated, returning to her bedroom while Nabi held her hand.

She says that their love has grown, but they still struggle. Sometimes food is scarce due to the lack of charity money from other refugees. Poor cellular networks often cause phone calls to be cut off. It is difficult for her to be separated from her children.

They are fighting to live a dignified existence within the complex bureaucratic process of being registered as refugees in India. The years-long backlog strains the system.

According to the U.N. refugee organization, around a third (or 30,000) of nearly 40,000 Indian refugees were Afghans as of 2019. However, this figure does not include those who, like Hashmi, are not registered with U.N.

"My wife gave her eyes to her country. Nabi stated that nobody had helped them. "Not even our government."

On Monday, hundreds of Afghans living in India protested outside the U.N. refugee agency's office in New Delhi, ramping up demands they be recognized as refugees.

These two Afghan families felt more isolated than ever after the Taliban's attack on Kabul.

Farhad, the painter, said that he hadn't slept well for several weeks. "All I can think about is my country," he said.

Hassan, his son is furious at the politicians in his country -- and the U.S.

He said, "America has failed me."

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