Afghan aid worker who has chosen to stay: “I am not a brave person. Every day I pray to the Father and ask Him to help me.”
by Tan Huey Ying // September 10, 2021, 11:51 am
“There’s a lot of fear and stress,” Nasir*, a doctor and aid worker in Kabul. "I am not a brave person. Every day I pray to Father and ask Him to help me. My life is from Him. When it’s time for me to go home to Him, I will go." Photo by Wali Sabawoon/AP Photo.
“I’m scared because I know I may be killed,” said Nasir*, an aid worker in Kabul who has decided to stay in Afghanistan. (*His name has been withheld for security reasons.)
Over the course of the interview with Salt&Light, Nasir confessed a few times that every day he wakes up afraid.
”But I don’t want to be scared of anyone because I want to continue to help the needy kids and people.”
“There are many homeless women and children roaming the streets. They are hungry and looking for food. Some are begging for bread, others for cash,” Nasir said. “They are very vulnerable.
“Our hearts break when we see children abandoned and dying on the streets because they have not eaten for many days.”
On the brink
According to the United Nations (UN), almost half the population of 18 million people was already dependent on humanitarian aid even before the Taliban seized control of the country in mid-August.
“Some are begging for bread, others for cash. Our hearts break.”
Conditions are deteriorating rapidly, according to reports on the ground. The country is facing the collapse of basic services and infrastructure on top of the impending economic fallout and a severe drought in the northern areas of the country which has decimated crops, reports the UN and other aid organisations.
“Cash is running out,” Nasir added. News outlets show the streets of Kabul flooded with household items for sale by locals desperate to attain hard currency.
Without cash, no one is buying anything.
And while Western Union resumed money transfer services this week, banks still have weekly cash withdrawal limits in place and local bankers are worried about an economic collapse from the lack of liquidity.
“We have to wait for the new government’s announcements on the new way of working. But displaced people cannot wait,” Nasir explained.
On Tuesday, September 7, the Taliban announced a “caretaker” government, after a swift takeover of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, on August 15.
“We just do what we can and try our best to help,” Nasir told Salt&Light. “We live day by day. We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Things change so quickly every day.”
Running low on the basics
Camps providing temporary and informal shelter for many Afghans face overcrowding issues like unsanitary conditions and a lack of access to clean water.
“We have to wait for the new government. But displaced people cannot wait.”
There are more cholera outbreaks and illness caused by water-borne diseases, said Nasir.
Without treatment, cholera can result in death.
“The children are also showing signs of malnutrition. There’s a lot of stress on them (the children) and they look afraid,” he added.
The looming humanitarian crisis is caused, in part, by the influx of Afghans seeking refuge in Kabul city months before the Taliban’s unexpected takeover. Others fled into the mountains.
More than half a million people have been displaced in Afghanistan this year alone, according to UN estimates.
Fear of the Taliban had driven them from their homes in other parts of the country where the Taliban had wrested control.
The fears are not without reason.
“We live day by day. We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
“For decades, Kabul has been the target of terrorism,” Nasir said. “We always have to be careful because bomb attacks are so common. Every other month. Suicide or car bombs at schools, parliamentary buildings, restaurants … you never know.
“And now soldiers are patrolling the streets with guns.”
Before the Taliban took over Kabul, Nasir described the streets as somewhat “normal and relaxed” with women and children walking around and people chatting in cafés.
“Now there is no more (of that). Women try not to go out. They are afraid that the Taliban will do what they did 20 years ago.”
“I am not a brave person. Every day I pray to the Father and ask Him to help me continue my work.”
Nasir remembers what it was like when the Taliban were in power from 1996 to 2001. He was a student then.
“Girls were banned from school; all my classmates were boys,” he recalled. “Girls were ‘nobodies’ in our country.
“Those who were caught breaking the rules were punished in public. Sometimes (the Taliban) beat and humiliated them.”
An all-male government was recently instated. Eye witness accounts say musicians and journalists fear for their lives. Female judges are being hunted by recently-freed members of the Taliban whom they had put in jail. Murals are being white-washed with religious slogans.
Daily faith, daily courage
“There’s a lot of fear and stress,” Nasir said of his team’s morale. Many are traumatised and he was the only one who felt up to the task of the interview with Salt&Light.
“But we try not to think about it because we want to help our people in Afghanistan.
“I am not a brave person. Every day I pray to Father and ask Him to help me continue my work.
“My life is from Him. When it’s time for me to go home to Him, I will go.”
JOIN A PRAYER GATHERING ON ZOOM TONIGHT FOR AFGHANISTAN (See event below), OR MAKE A FINANCIAL DONATION TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE AID EFFORTS ON THE GROUND.
A survivor from the 9/11 terror attacks shares her prayer for Afghanistan
“May God bless you so that you all can continue to be a blessing,” said Judith Francis-Wertenbroch when she learnt of Nasir’s and his team’s aid efforts.
“It is devastating to watch and hear stories about so many who fear so greatly for their lives – men, women and children,” she told Salt&Light.
“Their struggles have been for decades, not just the past few weeks that we’ve all witnessed recently.”
“May God bless you so that you all can continue to be a blessing.”
Judith is a survivor of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
She escaped after running down 102 floors in Tower Two of the World Trade Centre in New York and made it out minutes before the building collapsed. Many friends and colleagues did not.
As the 20-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approached with the crisis in Afghanistan on the forefront, Salt&Light invited Judith to share her thoughts on the crisis.
“It still feels like yesterday,” she said, referring to her own experience.
Judith pointed out that, while symptoms of post-traumatic stress never really go away, it is “my faith as a believer in Jesus Christ” that has helped her cope.
Judith ended with prayer for Nasir and the people of Afghanistan:
Prayer for aid workers and Afghans
Father, in Your great mercy, please hear my prayers for the medical providers and others who have chosen to remain in Afghanistan to help the people who are there.
Lord, instruct and guide them in the way they should go (Psalm 32:8).
I also pray for all those who are desperately trying to flee Afghanistan, for their lives and safety and success. Give them eyes to see and ears to hear as Your Holy Spirit reveals the actions they need to take to rescue individuals or to bring about Your Will.
I pray a continual hedge of protection around each person – the helpers and the victimised (Psalm 34:7).
Lord, lead them to be keenly discerning and to know when You are speaking to them; Your ways are higher than our ways, Lord, and I pray for them to have godly wisdom in the choices and decisions before them.
May your Shalom Peace be upon them in all of their decision making and collaborative efforts now and always.
In Jesus’ mighty name.