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Afghan Americans feeling strain as loved ones remain in the country

Little Kabul
Posted at 6:02 PM, Aug 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-31 20:03:11-04

FREMONT, Calif. — Another world away from Afghanistan sits the town of Fremont, California.

“Proud to be one of the most diverse cities in our community,” said Lilly Mei, the mayor of Fremont.

“The Bay Area is home to so many and we choose to come here, it’s gorgeous. The people are diverse and very open and I feel that people just feel at home here,” said Aisha Wahab, an Afghan American and member of the city council of neighboring city, Hayward.

To some, Fremont is affectionately referred to as Little Kabul.

A 2009 study showed the city had the largest Afghan population in the US with as many as 30,000 living in the area.

“We are one of the largest Southeast Asian Indian, Chinese, and also home to one of the largest Afghan populations outside of Afghanistan,” said Mei.

The Afghan Coalition is a nonprofit that operates in Fremont and serves the community.

Over at its office, people are gathering, trying to find ways to help family and friends still in Afghanistan. People are frightened by what might happen to their loved ones.

“The situation in Afghanistan become worse, day by day,” said Amin Abedi, an Afghan man you came to the US only a year ago. His son and daughter were still in Kabul.

“My brother is in bad situation," said a man who would only say his last name was Amiri. “He have to hide. He’s not safe... one day on place, another day another place.”

“A lot of problem for my family,” said Rahima Samim, an Afghan woman.

“Two of my children are in Afghanistan. Kabul,” said Abedi.

Wahab said her parents came to the U.S. from Afghanistan before she was born.

“The community is largely in a lot of pain and grief,”she said, "A lot of Afghans are used to this feeling of hopelessness.”

What's happening 7,000 miles away is having an impact on the community. Decades of war have taken their toll on Afghans.

“There’s not a single generation that has not been affected by war that’s living today," said Wahab.

“Just lot of people, everything. Lot of people has died. Mother help me, help for people. 30, 40 years, a lot of people has died,” said Samim.

Jawed Rostayee was an interpreter for U.S. Forces in Afghanistan.

“As soon as I heard that the Taliban is capturing some of the provinces in Afghanistan, the little savings I had, I sent it to my family, just leave everything over there and just get out of Afghanistan,” said Rostayee.

His family was able to make it to Turkey, but they don't have permanent visas. They may be deported if he can’t figure out how to get them to the U.S.

“They had to leave the country because of me, because I used to work for the U.S. Armed Forces,” said Rostayee

For those with loved ones still in Kabul the stress is palpable.

“I want the larger public to understand that every single voice matters,” said Wahab.

“My biggest fear is about the people of Afghanistan. The people who work for US government who work for Afghan government. I think the Taliban are not going to show mercy to any of them,” said Rostayee.

“All Afghan people, my heart, my brothers. I want all of them stay alive. That’s it now brother, thank you,” said Amiri.