Neither Maliha Karimi nor most of her family members had ever boarded a plane or even inside Kabul airport, but the idea of leaving gained momentum and they left for the ‘airport.
“I just took my passport and a phone,” she recalls, “We had no food or water.”
Ms Karimi, 27, the sole breadwinner for her parents and a disabled brother and his family of six, had a particular reason to go out. As a beautician, she had lost her job when the Taliban returned because they banned beauty salons as immoral, preventing her from caring for her family.
“They thought it was brothels,” she said.
The Karimi family arrived at the airport at 6 a.m. “The crowd was terrible, pushing and shouting, and the Taliban were shooting in the air,” Ms Karimi said.
In the chaos, the family separated. Mrs Karimi grabbed the hand of one of her brother’s children, Sorush, 6, while a cousin, Soraya, took the boy’s other hand. Keeping their heads down, they made their way to the door.
“I just decided to move forward, not back down,” she said. “I just kept on going.”
Suddenly, the two young women, with Sorush between them, were swept out the door. The other 33 family members were left behind, but there was no turning back.
It took four full days before they reached Fort Bliss in El Paso, where Ms Karimi was finally able to access Wi-Fi and call Kabul to speak with the anguished parents of Sorush, who was so upset he had stopped eating. Everyone was crying: the parents were crying for their son and Sorush was homesick for his family.
Now that Ms. Karimi is gone and no one in her family is working in Afghanistan, they lack everything: food, fuel oil and medicine and are begging for Ms. Karimi’s help.