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'I feel like I can't breathe anymore for people over there': WNY residents worried about their families stuck in Afghanistan crisis

Yelda Akbar shares with 7 Eyewitness News her concerns about her family in Afghanistan, amid the crisis.
Posted at 7:39 PM, Aug 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-16 23:12:04-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A situation is unfolding in Afghanistan.

The U.S.-backed government has collapsed and power has returned to an extremist group, called the Taliban, nearly two decades after 9/11.

Thousands of people are desperately seeking a route out of Afghanistan, following the Taliban's sudden seizure of power.

President Joe Biden held a press conference to address the chaos in Afghanistan, Monday afternoon.

RELATED STORY: Biden defends Afghanistan withdrawal, admits Taliban takeover happened quicker than expected

Communications professor at Buffalo State College, Faizan Haq, said it is important to understand that this Taliban is different from the version that formed almost three decades ago.

“They are very methodical, they are very clear about their policies, and they’re going about it in a very systemic way, so let’s not underestimate them,” Haq said.

In western New York, the chaos throughout Afghanistan has left those on the edge of their seat, worrying about their loved ones overseas.

They are praying for the safety of their loved ones who are trying to find a way out of the country, pronto.

RELATED STORY: 7 killed at Kabul airport as hundreds try to flee Afghanistan amid chaos

"I can't even describe my feeling. I just can tell you that I feel horrible. I feel like I can't breathe anymore for people over there, for my family over there," Amherst resident, Yelda Akbar told 7 Eyewitness News.

Exhausted by the constant worry of her family in the midst of the Afghanistan crisis, Akbari, who emigrated to the U.S. in 2009, said she has been working on reaching out the local agencies for help, like the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Refugee Resettlement, which is a refugee camp in Buffalo.

Akbari said, "I've been trying to see if there is any way that I can help them from here, so I've been talking to immigration office, and I've been talking to a couple of lawyers."

On Friday, the Canadian government said it will accept about 20,000 Afghan refugees, but right now, she is left in the dark about what is to come for her family and relatives, back home."

We don't have much information. The only thing we can see is from the news and our families from there," Akbari said. "I talked to them this morning. They are very sad. They can't say anything. They said, 'we just want to run away from this country.'"

The same goes for Buffalo resident, Awaljan Taniwal, who emigrated to the States in 2014. He is the former president of Afghan Community of Buffalo NY.

"My sister, she is a fourth year of medical student. She was crying all night, and yesterday on the phone with me. She was asking me, her brother, whether she will continue her medical school or not. I cried too, and I said it's not guaranteed," Awaljan Taniwal said.

Taniwal told 7 Eyewitness News he was in the process of finishing documents for his family, before the government collapsed, no thanks to the Talibans. He worries about his sister and close relatives, since he is the only sponsor for the family.

"There are massacres, there are target killings, and security is also not guaranteed in all cities. Everyone does not know what is happening, and there's a lot of people that are trying to lee the country. They want to leave as soon as possible," Taniwal said.

Like Akbari, he is tying to get any assistance for his family any many others who are being targeted by the extremist group.

"We lost everything. We lost the national security, the defense, and we lost the system. Democracy is lost. Human rights are lost. No human rights are guaranteed. The women rights are lost," Taniwal said. "Things change very rapidly. We didn't expect this and we thought it would never happen."