Jacksonville refugee reflects on Afghanistan conflict

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Hellai Noorzai has lived in the U.S. for years after feeling the Taliban.

“Right now there are tons of people in Afghanistan, they are running for their lives from this place without no food, no water,” she says.

Right now, she and her entire Afghan American community are watching the Taliban takeover in horror.

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“I have not slept for the last two nights. It’s disturbing. It’s disturbing because you are watching your people die.”

Nancy Soderberg, a former U.S. diplomat, says the takeover has been shocking.

“No one expected Afghanistan to collapse this quickly.”

She fears for the future of the people of Afghanistan.

“It was probably the world’s worst human rights abusing regime in history. The challenge now is after 20 years can we prevent that from happening again?”

They both say with the collapse one abuse is almost certain.

“The concern is that it will have women and girls being horribly abused yet again. It will have terrorists there,” Soderburg says.

Hellai Noorzai says it’s already happening.

“Children are being raped. Girls 12 years old or younger… they are being used as sex slaves or brides for Taliban. For Taliban troops.”

Among other abuses…women will be forced to wear burkas, leave the workforce and quit school.

“Once they choose their leader they will again prohibit all women from going to work, going to school, even going to the grocery store if there is not a man from your family following you,” Noorzai adds.

To defy these rules, could mean death.

“Afghanistan is in chaos right now and I really want the world to understand that.”

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Soderburg says pulling troops out so quickly aided the Taliban in the sudden takeover.

“What was the rush to get out? We still have 30,000 troops in South Korea, we still have 50,000 in Germany and these 5000 troops were holding the lid on exactly the situation. I think it’s too late to send them back...”

Noorzai says she knows the conflict is half a world away…but hopes people can understand.