Columbia Refuge: Fleeing Afghanistan and finding a home in Missouri
For Nani Agha’s family, it took almost an entire month to arrive at their new home in Columbia. The family is from Kandahar, a region in south-central Afghanistan, and fled first to Kabul. From there, they boarded a tightly-packed plane to Qatar, then to Germany and finally to the U.S.
Agha is a former Afghan Special Force unit officer who worked with the U.S. military. When the Taliban seized power in his home country in August 2021, his family was designated as a target of the militant group.
Kandahar has historically been a Taliban stronghold. Patrol groups routinely stopped women and children in the streets to obtain information about who they were and if they had allegiance to the Afghan government. Due to the ever-present threat of the Taliban, Nani Agha could not send his sons to school or feel safe when he left his home. At school, kids soon would be asked for information about their fathers.
“My wife would speak with me about it over the phone,” Agha said. “Some of my friends’ children were kidnapped.” Agha said the Taliban sometimes cut the children’s fingers and sent videos to the parent so that he would leave his job.
When the Taliban finally overthrew the Afghan government, Agha knew his family had no other option but to leave everything behind. Today, the family lives in a quiet home, the children attend school and life is seemingly normal. Yet the troubles and pain of their escape are a constant reminder of one of the hardest moments in Agha’s life.
“We are, thanks to Allah, happy with this life as well,” Agha said. “Slowly, with time, our life will improve here. The Afghans who came here tell us that our lives will improve here.”
Directed and Produced by Beatrice Bankauskaite and Zachary Linhares
Edited by Beatrice Bankauskaite and Zachary Linhares
Supervising Editors Hunter Pendleton and Brian Kratzer
Translation by Sulaiman Assadullah
Story by Beatrice Bankauskaite