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An Afghan journalist is welcomed in Postindustrial America

“We’ve got total freedom here”

~

By Zubair Babakarkhail | Introduction by Kimberly Palmiero


Journalist Zubair Babakarkhail and his wife, Fatima, escaped from Afghanistan on Aug. 24 with their three children. 

After several failed attempts, they were able to enter Hamid Karzai International Airport, less than two days before a bombing there would kill U.S. service members and civilians.  

The withdrawal of American troops led to a crush of people desperate to flee the impending Taliban rule.

The Babakarkhails arrived in Virginia on Sept. 2, then were flown to Fort McCoy, an Army installation on 60,000 acres in Monroe County, Wis. 

Next, the Babakarkhails will pick a city to call home. 

Postindustrial is chronicling the family’s journey, and is part of a group raising funds to support them as they settle in a new country. To contribute, click here

And look for more updates by Zubair.

Zubair, left, with two other journalists, also from Afghanistan.

FORT MCCOY, Wis. — We arrived at this base a week ago, and there were a few rainy days. 

And now, it is a clear sky. There were some clouds earlier. My kids were watching the clouds moving and they were amazed. They were saying, “why couldn’t we see such clouds in Kabul?”

So I had to explain to them that Kabul was more polluted. The air was not clean. That’s why you could not see everything in the sky clearly

We are happy to be here. It’s peaceful. 

Zubair's two daughters, middle and left, with a friend. The Red Cross gave the children stuffed toys earlier this week.

The roads are much cleaner than Kabul, and the food is getting better. There is free laundry, which we like the best. And I took my kids to the shopping center where they bought candies and jelly cookies. They were so happy. My little daughter was dancing on the road while walking back to our block.

There is no tension. There is no worry. There is no concern of being followed or being attacked or being arrested as it was in Kabul. 

No mail is coming here, but still we feel that we are totally free. We’ve got total freedom here. The behavior of the soldiers is great. Everyone tries to be so nice to us. 

I haven’t heard anyone calling any Afghan, a refugee. They are calling us guests. So this is all of what you need after trauma or after tragedy. 

So, we are happy to be here.

Zubair Babakarkhail is a journalist and interpreter. He has written stories for Stars and Stripes since 2012 and covered the war in Afghanistan for 17 years. He also reported for The Daily Telegraph, USA Today, Christian Science Monitor, Al Jazeera English, and AsiaCalling. This is Babakarkhail’s second time fleeing his homeland. His family migrated to Pakistan — where he grew up —  during the Russian invasion (1979-89). There, he earned a degree in journalism, and repatriated to Afghanistan in 2002.

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