Fronteira de Torkham, entre o Afeganistão e o Paquistão. Foto: D.R.

Crossing from the border of Afghanistan and entering Pakistan was the only safe way out that we thought of. After arriving at the border of the two countries and waiting for more than 5 hours, it was unbelievable the passengers who were in the waiting line that could not cross the border, because the Taliban prevented everyone from going to Pakistan.

It was 12 o’clock in the afternoon and we waited for more than 5 hours in the same queue, and it seemed that the Taliban did not allow anyone to travel and cross the border, and on the other hand, they violently force people to return to Kabul or other provinces where they came from.

Every moment they increased the aerial fire shots and the people who were near to the border were beaten and wanted them to go back from the border with various excuses.

Because we were very tired and did not know what the end will be, I asked one of the Taliban there why the border gate is not opened for passengers. He told me harshly: “you want to escape from Afghanistan, but we will not let you”.

While we were waiting in the queue, the Taliban who wore special clothes entered the queue and took people with them who were waiting in the queue among us, and it seemed that they took away the young people who were alone without family. It was not known where they were taking them.

It was very strange and a disappointment for me that the Taliban had very rude and violent behavior with men, women, children, and even the people that were sick, who were near the border, and they made various excuses to prevent people from leaving Afghanistan.

Evening was slowly coming and were there for 10 hours, still at the same place where we arrived and we were not being able to reach the border.

I was worried about where we will go if night falls and how long we will have to wait. I called my friend (the driver) with whom we had came to the border from Kabul. It was amazing that from the moment he had brought us to the border, he had not moved towards Kabul and was waiting to take another passenger to Kabul. I asked him, if gets night, is it possible that Sama and Roya rest in his car?

Roya and Sama were not feeling well, and the weather was also very cold. Near the border there was no hotel nor any shelter where we could spend the night. The driver agreed and told us that we should go to him, who was about ten minutes away from us.

While I was looking for a way out of the crowd of passengers to reach the driver, I suddenly faced with a young Talib who was about 18 years old, whom the other Taliban was calling commander and he was always beating the passengers with the pipe.

He approached me and asked: Where are you going? Do you want to escape from Afghanistan? I told him: No, look, my wife is sick and we have to go to Pakistan for treatment, and my wife is not well and we have been waiting for ten hours. Roya told him in Pashto language that my daughter is also sick (due to cold weather Sama got sick that day) and we must go for treatment because it is not possible in Afghanistan.

Later, that young Talib (commander) asked me: Do you have a travel document? Do you have medical documents of your wife? I told him: Yes, we have all the documents. Then he told me to wait there, until he calls us to go to the gate. The noise of the people had increased because it was getting dark and it was night, and the people were all worried about where to spend the night and why the border is not opening for travelers.

It was 7:00 pm and we were waiting for the border to open from 7:00 am until 7:00 pm, but the border still hadn’t opened. Suddenly the border gate opened, and all the people rushed towards it and we also tried to reach to the border gate, but unfortunately we could not.

After a few moments, the same Talib (commander) pointed to us to come to the border gate and we hurriedly went and entered another place where a large number of travelers had entered before us and were waiting for the exit stamp from Afghanistan. It seemed that about 500 people are waiting.

Suddenly we faced another Talib who asked us how we came to this place and without hearing our responses he attacked toward us and start hitting on my head and face with a pipe in his hand and said: “You have to go back again”. But I tried to convince him that we entered this place with the cooperation of their people.

At that moment another Talib who was in charge of that place came near us and wanted to know what is going on. Since he saw our situation and i told him about Roya, my wife, is sickness, he allowed me to go inside office to stamp our passports. Any how, after an hour of hardships and difficulties and several beatings by the Taliban, we were able to go to the border gate towards Pakistan.

But it turned out that many people were waiting to go to Pakistan. We were close to the entrance to Pakistan, when the door closed because it was late night and all the border employees had left their duty and their official hours had ended.

It was 8 o’clock in the evening and there was no other solution for us just we had to wait near the entrance gate to Pakistan and there was no way back as well. We decided to stay there until the next day at 8:00 am when the Pakistani border officials come to their duty.

The weather was very cold and it was almost 24 hours that we had not eaten anything and we were very tired. But according to some travelers, we were lucky that we were able to reach the entrance gate of the Pakistan border in 24 hours and have an exit stamp in our passport. Other passengers said that after 3 to 4 or even 5 days and nights, they got here from the waiting line.

It was an unforgettable night for me, Roya and Sama, and we had no idea what happened to us that we hadn’t even thought about. With dry mouth and empty stomach without food and water we wanted to spend the night in that cold weather.

We just had brought a little snack with us for Sama because it was not possible to bring more with us and we thought that at least we can find some snacks to purchase from there. We all sat down on the ground full of dirt and stones from too much exhaustion, and Sama fell asleep on the ground, but Roya and I couldn’t sleep.

There were many travelers there who all had different stories of spending several days and nights there.  And one of the passengers was a lady and looked very upset. Roya asked her what happened? She told Roya: “We had been waiting for the border crossing at Torkham border gate for several days.  Although we had passports, we did not succeed in crossing the border, but today we managed to cross, but unfortunately I could not cross the border because I was left behind due to the crowd of people. Now I stayed in this side of the border and my children and husband stayed on the other side of the border.  And they didn’t let me cross the border because they said their working hours were over”.  

Every passenger who was there that night had different narratives and painful stories.  And with all the worries and stresses we also spent the night.

I will write what happened next day in next episode.

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* Samim Seerat is an Afghan refugee in Lisbon, where he arrived in November 2021 with his wife and daughter. He became a father again on 7 January. In Kabul he worked as a media executive in the MOBY group which owns Tolo News. He is also the founder of a start-up called Paiwast Health Services. He writes in Mensagem about his experience in Portugal every month.

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