Thousands of U.S. citizens and many thousands more Afghans are scrambling to exit Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the country's capital over the weekend.
Hundreds of Afghan refugees with special immigration visas are expected to resettle in North Texas and many Afghanistan natives who moved to the state years earlier are preparing to welcome them.
Baktash Haidari spent six years as a translator for United States special operations forces before coming to the U.S. six years ago.
“My mom is there and my little sister is there and I'm pretty worried about them,” he said.
He said he has had several jobs since arriving in North Texas.
“American dream is not easy, but they have to work hard and it's doable,” Haidari said.
Haidari received assistance when he arrived from the International Rescue Committee, or IRC, which is preparing to help a new wave of Afghan refugees.
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“In the past month we’ve booked more than 80 and we are preparing for more to come,” IRC spokeswoman Suzy Cop said. “We are ... getting community response already with a lot of calls coming in to see how they can be supportive.”
Afghanistan native Matt Pikar owns Nora, a restaurant in Dallas' Bishop Arts District.
Pikar, who has daughters, said he fears girls will be mistreated in Afghanistan under the Taliban.
“My heart goes for the people of Afghanistan, especially with the women, the girls,” Pikar said. “You have to be patient and get the Afghans out, the ones that helped the United States and other countries.”
Aziz Budri said the return of the Taliban, who were displaced by U.S. occupation the last 20 years, sets his native Afghanistan back a century.
“Taliban are very bad. They will take the country back to the Middle Ages like they did last time. They are very good at PR right now. They say we are not the same. Actually, they are worse,” said Budri, whose family runs Kasra Restaurant in Richardson.
Haidari, Pikar and Budri each said they were disappointed with how many people are left trying to flee the country as American troops withdraw.
“Nobody ever imagined this kind of day is going to come and America will abandon Afghanistan like that,” Haidari said.
Haidari offered his personal advice to the Afghan citizens trying to leave the country.
“Wait. Stay in your home until you receive a call or email. Don’t rush to the airport. It’s not safe. It’s very dangerous. Just wait until you receive a notification saying OK, your name is on the list. Then go to the airport. Don’t make it more miserable than it is already,” he said.
All three also said they were surprised by how quickly the Afghan military dissolved.
“I think they should have resisted, but unfortunately the outcome would have been the same sooner or later,” Budri said.
The three said Afghans in North Texas can help new refugees as they arrive.
“We’re going to donate and come out with a lot of help for them,” Pikar said.
Cop, the IRC spokeswoman, said the organization's Dallas office is setting up a special fund to prepare to help the refugees resettle.
“It's a very dire situation, and for a lot it is life or death. And once they do get here we just want to help them,” Cop said.