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Utah family desperate to get sister, children out of Afghanistan

Hundreds of people run alongside a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane, some climbing on the plane, as it moves down a runway of the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday. As the chaos continues to unfold in Afghanistan, a family in Utah is desperate to bring home their sister and her two children, who are stranded in Afghanistan. ( Associated Press)

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — As the chaos continues to unfold in Afghanistan, a family in Utah is desperate to bring home their sister and her two children, who are stranded in Afghanistan.

"(It's) terrifying, horrifying, devastating," said Hazma Yaqoobi, who was born in Afghanistan, but has lived most of his life in the United States.

Images showing people swarming the airport and spilling onto the runaway have been painful to see, and the exodus of so many Afghans seems impossible.

Now, Yaqoobi is left wondering about the fate of Afghanistan and his sister, who is still stuck inside with her two boys, ages 4 and 2.

"Even if she wanted to go to the airport, it's chaos. It's madness. She wouldn't be able to because she's by herself and she's a woman, and who knows what would happen along the way," he said.

"There's fear of the unknown, of not being able to know if she'll make it out. Because again, it's just chaos and madness right now, and she's just worried about her two kids," said Yaqoobi.

Yaqoobi and his family know something of the dangers of the Taliban rule — especially for women. The abrupt Taliban takeover is a sad reminder of the time Yaqoobi fled Afghanistan with his family and came to the U.S. as refugees in 2002.

"During the civil war, my mom carried me in her arms. Chaos surrounded us," he said. "If you're not doing everything that the Taliban wants, you're going to be executed."

Yaqoobi said a Taliban takeover means a loss of human rights and women's rights.

He said his sister is a U.S. citizen who has been living in Afghanistan temporarily, near her in-laws. Her husband is in the U.S.

His family is desperate to bring her home and has appealed to Sen. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee's offices for help.

On Monday, Yaqoobi said his family started the repatriation process by filling out forms on his sister's behalf.

An official from Lee's office said they are "helping many U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, SIV applicants and families of Utahns in Afghanistan."

"No matter what you thought about the situation, at the moment, Afghans are suffering," Yaqoobi said, pointing to images showing people clinging to a military jet at the airport in Kabul to flee the country. "It's painful to see and it illustrates that they would rather choose death than live under Taliban rule."

Yaqoobi argued this situation was preventable, saying the U.S. military's quick withdrawal from the country "lead to this chaos."

The U.S. needs to do more to get his sister and those seeking asylum out of the country, he said.

Yaqoobi hasn't been back to Afghanistan since he left in 2002, and with the way things are going over there, he's not sure he'll ever see the country again.

"Afghans, we hold our identity close to us, and that's why this is devastating, like, we may not be able to go back again," he said.

Matt Rascon


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