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‘Left behind to be slaughtered’: Georgia student who worked as military translator desperate to save parents

Fahima Rastagar’s family was at Kabul airport during deadly explosion, trying to escape Afghanistan

‘Left behind to be slaughtered’: Georgia student who worked as military translator desperate to save parents
‘Left behind to be slaughtered’: Georgia student who worked as military translator desperate to save parents

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – A 24-year-old nursing student on St. Simons Island who was born and raised in Afghanistan and worked with the U.S. military as an interpreter there is desperate to get her parents out of the country. They were left behind as the final five U.S. military aircraft left Monday.

Fahima Rastagar’s parents were at the Kabul airport during the deadly explosions last Thursday. Her mother was injured, falling and hurting her knee in the chaos that left 13 U.S. service members and more than 160 Afghans dead.

“They’re out of the house,” said Rastagar. “There’s no peace. They’re scared and my mom keeps repeating -- every time I speak with her, she’s anxiously repeating saying the Taliban is going house to house looking for people.”

While her parents are in hiding from the Taliban, Rastagar tells her mom to just hold on.

News4Jax has been in contact with the White House about her parents’ situation. It said it’s escalating this with the task force team. Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff’s office said the Department of State is aware of the situation.

As the U.S. military pulled out of Afghanistan Monday, 200 Americans and thousands of desperate Afghans were left behind, including Rastagar’s family.

In this Aug. 30, 2021, photo provided by the U.S. Air Force, a Air Force aircrew, assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, prepares to receive soldiers, assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, to board a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in support of the final noncombatant evacuation operation missions at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul Afghanistan. (Senior Airman Taylor Crul/U.S. Air Force via AP)

“I think we were hopeful to get them out of Afghanistan but that didn’t happen and it was just very traumatic,” said Rastagar. “I mean they’re left behind to be slaughtered, what else can I say.”

Knowing there’s not much time left. Rastagar’s parents said they move to a new location each night as the Taliban is recruiting Afghans from mosques.

“The Taliban are asking 10 people from each mosque to go fight with them against the Panjshiri people, which are the people that live in a certain area and they defeated the Taliban,” said Rastagar.

Her mother was a vendor in bazaars that were held in the U.S. military bases from 2010-2014.

“It’s just been devastating,” she said. “I just feel hopeless, helpless.”

She’s now considering taking a year off from nursing school from the trauma this has caused as she pleads with state leaders to help her parents flee Kabul.

“Right now, the process that I’m working on is the humanitarian parole process and that’s another path besides the Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) normal visas. I think this shows these people are currently in danger and can be targeted,” said Madiha Zahir, a law graduate.

Zahir is helping Afghan refugees relocate to Jacksonville through Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida. Zahir also partnered with Berkeley Law and its Afghanistan project to help families like Rastagar’s.

“Afghanistan has not been abandoned and we’re still actively working to get people out or assist what’s going on the ground there,” said Zahir. “This deadline of Aug. 31 was only really for the military evacuation because I will tell you there are so many people still working to get people out.”

Zahir said it could be a lengthy process that includes getting passports, forms that need to be submitted, and finding a U.S. sponsor. She said it’s been so surprising that many non-Afghan Americans have stepped up to be sponsors for people they’ve never met.

“If that doesn’t restore your faith in humanity, then I don’t know what will,” she said.

People with family in Afghanistan who want to apply can send a message to berkeleylawafghanistanproject@gmail.com or afghanresources2021@gmail.com.

About the Author:

Multi-media journalist with a special interest in Georgia issues.