It is estimated 285,000 Afghans are in hiding. Without the ability to work they have no food, no electricity, and hope outside help will sustain the and eventually rescue them before the Taliban kills them. The U Supply Corps funded by the Upperwood foundation receives request for help twenty-four hours a day. This is one request: “I Esmatullah, son of Nasrallah, and my family of which two are legal permanent residents of the United States, are in a hiding place and the Taliban Intelligence are looking for us. We are in a bad security and financial situation. We are in a place where no one knows, we face lack of food, no heat or electricity, and we sleep in temperatures near freezing at night. Please pay serious attention to save our lives……”
The summer of 2021 was a time of caution in Afghanistan. The Americans had announced their imminent departure; many feared the Taliban, but none predicted the country’s collapsed on August 15, 2021 with the clandestine departure of President Ghani in several helicopters full of cars and $167 million in cash. The Afghan military forces ceased to exist in a matter of hours as loyalties shifted – some joining the Taliban – others abandoning their two-decade careers as military officers hoping to hide in plain sight in the sudden all civilian population. Many Afghan military left their posts and discarded their uniforms in the trash knowing they would marked for death.
Esmatuallah served with the American forces for the better part of a decade first as an interpreter for a security company funded by the U.S Department of State and then as a driver and interpreter for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. His wife, Frishta, was a teacher for a vocational and technical institute for Afghan women. Esmatullah and his wife were raising his nephew because his brother and wife had been killed by a roadside bomb several years prior. In late July of 2021, Frishta’s parents, legal permanent residents of the United States and living in California, came to Kabul, Afghanistan to spend a few weeks with their daughter, her husband, and their grandson. It was supposed to be a normal summer vacation with three generations of family.
“I told my in-laws they should consider cutting their vacation short and return to the United States when the Taliban took control of Herat and Mazar e Sharif, but they felt confident Kabul would hold, and we would all be safe.”
Within 48 hours of the Taliban occupation of the American Embassy, the Taliban, armed with personnel records and home addresses went looking for all employees of the Embassy because they had assisted Americans. With fifteen minutes warning from a friend who had joined the Taliban but did not wish to see his friend die, Esmatullah, his wife, nephew and in-laws fled their home on foot and watched from a distance as the Taliban entered their home, shot it up with automatic weapons, lit it on fire, and stole their two cars. The Taliban then left two guards in a pickup in front of the house waiting for Esmatullah and his family to return.
“I had been threatened with death several times during my career because of who I worked for, and I was cautious because of my brother and sister in law’s death, but I never thought I would see Taliban in my home destroying and burning our only possessions. We were lucky to have left with our passports, and my in laws had their green cards and American visas as back up.”
Esmatullah and family spent the next three months moving from house to house living off the generosity of friends and distant family members until there simply wasn’t anywhere else to go. None of them could work for fear of being found out or turned in. With winter coming, they found a basement shelter under a bombed-out house that looked abandoned. They gathered what they could from other destroyed and vacant homes and tried to warm the basement room with dirt floor. They lined the stone and earth walls with blankets and rugs. Without heat and a constant food source, Esmatullah weaponized the only communication tool left to him – a cell phone with a solar charger.
On November 26, 2021 the following message was received by the U Supply Corps, a project supported by the Upperwood Foundation which supplies food, wood, winter clothing, blankets, and medicine to Afghans in peril, “I Esmatullah, son of Nasrallah, and my family of which two are legal permanent residents of the United States, are in a hiding place and the Taliban Intelligence are looking for us. We are in a bad security and financial situation. We are in a place where no one knows, we face lack of food, no heat or electricity, and we sleep in temperatures near freezing at night. Please pay serious attention to save our lives. Please, thank you.”
Esmatullah sent photographs of their hiding place being careful not to reveal any external structures hence they serve as a landmark. Despite suggestions to move again, the family said this was the most secure they had been in months and their main concerns were food, heat, and winter clothing. From 6,600 hundred miles away, the Upperwood Foundation worked with a logistics company to install a charri, a wood burning stove, in the basement dwelling with a custom 24 linear feet of venting pipe to prevent carbon monoxide from building up. Solar powered lights, four months of wood, heavy blankets, winter coats and clothing, sleeping pads with reflective liners, and two months of food were delivered by a logistics company funded by the Upperwood Foundation during two consecutive nights with little on no moon to protect their location.
To this day, the family remains in hiding, with heat and food supplied every few weeks by the Upperwood Foundation. It is estimated more than 285,000 are in hiding hoping for evacuation before being found by the Taliban. ∎
In partnership with The Upperwood Foundation, Awareness Ties produces and publishes the 'Hope For Afghanistan' stories written by Russ Prichard.
From delivering babies in Afghanistan to delivering supplies sent from the U.S., Russ Pritchard delivers hope to the people of Afghanistan. While he would say he’s just a glorified telephone operator, he’s so much more. He runs the U Medical Corps, bringing help and hope to those unseen and unheard.
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