Exile flood drains Afghanistan of its best-trained brains

The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan has shattered the dreams of a generation of Afghans who had hoped to help end 40 years of fighting and bring their country into the modern era. But it has also forced many to choose between a personal desire to flee for safety and a sense of obligation to serve their country.

For educated women, there seems to be no choice. The Taliban are re-imposing harsh restrictions on their role. Many young people, already those nevertheless in Afghanistan because they had no way to flee last month, cannot imagine a future in the sort of country the Taliban seem to envision.

Why We Wrote This

already some of those Afghans who knew they had to leave their homeland wrestled with a sense that by choosing exile they were betraying their country. How did they resolve that moral dilemma?

But going into exile is never easy. “You are in a paradox,” says Ayesha, a university graduate who did not want to show her real name for safety reasons. “You feel like you are betraying your country by leaving. in addition, if you don’t leave, you are wasted here.”

Ayesha had planned to stay. One month into Taliban rule, she is trying to flee. “This is one of the most difficult choices I ever experienced,” she says.

London

It became a regular ritual for Ayesha. As the Taliban swept across Afghanistan in early August, every day she found herself saying goodbye to another young, well-educated friend who was fleeing the country.

The day before Taliban forces took Kabul, one of those departing friends asked Ayesha when she herself would go. She grew angry as they sat in a restaurant, and said she would not leave.

“We shouldn’t abandon our country when it needs us more than any other time,” Ayesha, a university graduate, remembers telling him. “You will just be wasted in another country.”

Why We Wrote This

already some of those Afghans who knew they had to leave their homeland wrestled with a sense that by choosing exile they were betraying their country. How did they resolve that moral dilemma?

She has since changed her mind, afraid that as an educated woman under Taliban rule she will be silenced, so she is seeking a way out of the country. “This is one of the most difficult choices I ever experienced,” says Ayesha, who asked that her real name not be used for her own safety.

Obaidullah Baheer, a lecturer in transitional justice at the American University of Afghanistan who comes from an Islamist political family, felt obliged to make a different choice.

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