Afghan refugee who fled when Taliban last held power fears family being killed

Bahar said she needed to escape Afghanistan back in the late 1990s to get away from the “same brutality we are seeing now” as the Taliban take over the country and the capital Kabul

Bahar is a 38-year-old Afghan refugee who fled the Taliban in 1997 and eventually settled in Leeds

An Afghan refugee who fled the country back in 1997, the last time the Taliban were in power, is describing living in “constant fear” that her family will be killed by the blood-thirsty regime.

Bahar lost her father during the Russian rule of the 1980s while her mother and three of her siblings were killed during the Taliban’s last rule.

While pregnant with her first child, in 1997, as a teenager, she made the dangerous journey out of war-torn Afghanistan.

The escape was necessary, she said, to get away from the “same brutality we are seeing now”.

She settled in Leeds, West Yorks., but more than two decades later she said she still lives in fear as she watched the horrific scenes of the Taliban taking control of Kabul.

Bahar says watching the horrific scenes of the Taliban taking control of Kabul fills her with fear


Yorkshire Post / SWNS)

Bahar, whose surname is undisclosed to protect her surviving family members, said she is terrified for those left behind in Afghanistan.

“I became a strong fighter, but honestly, I have no energy and I don’t know if I can keep fighting. I’m crying every night,” she said. “My family are in hiding, with no money and no food.

“I am scared for them because I’ve lost so many people from my family. I’m scared that the same thing will happen to them.”

The refugee, who believes she is 38, said everyone in her community in Leeds is worried and crying, desperate to help and to support their families and loved ones.

Bahar, who founded the Bahar Women’s Association, said she likely wouldn’t be alive today if she hadn’t fled from her home as a young teenager.

Since arriving in Leeds, she has become a voice for the Afghan community who she says is “desperate” and have reached out to her out of fear for their own families.

Taliban fighters patrol along a street in Kabul


AFP via Getty Images)

Bahar added: “I had to leave to survive.If I stayed, I probably wouldn’t be alive now, or I’d be married to one of [the Taliban].”

At least 72 people were killed and more than were 150 wounded in two shocking blasts near Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport last week.

The airport has seen thousands of desperate men, women and children attempt to board flights to escape the Taliban’s tyranny.

The Home Office has announced that the UK is prepared to welcome 10,000 Afghan refugees during this year, and a total of 20,000 ‘in the long term’.

Bahar urged people to welcome new refugees and make them feel at home, knowing better than anyone the suffering they are going through.

After the unimaginable suffering Bahar had been through, she was met with hostility when she arrived in the UK.

She said other refugees who have sought a better life in the UK have faced hate crimes and Islamophobia, which she described as being “really, really hard” to take.

“Everything was strange and at the same time I was heartbroken – I’d lost my family, my country. I was still a teenager and I had pain in my chest,” she said.

“I was lost, I didn’t know who I was or what I was doing, or how I could go forward.

“I had no one to talk to, no one to ask why I came here and what happened to me.

“I was waiting for the right moment and the right person to come along and ask me one day, but there was nothing.”

In light of her experience, she bid Brits to welcome the incoming refugees, and to attempt to make them feel at home.

“Anything that you can do, as a responsible human, please do not hesitate. Where else can we escape to?”

While she says she has “lovely, supportive” friends from both British and Asian communities, she said this was “not enough”.

“We need to respect asylum seekers for humanity, they’ve been through so much. In Afghanistan, people can’t go out, they don’t know if they will be alive next month.

“I hope our country, our city, will welcome refugees. Because I understand more than everyone what pain they are going through.”

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