Escape Abroad: Afghans Leave Their Country

kam air kabul

Recently a group of staff members of the Afghan parliament traveled to Europe to participate in a five-day leadership workshop. But in what seems to be a regular occurrence, four of the five did not return to Afghanistan. Three young men and one young woman ran away. For me this is sad news, watching my country lose its capable and talented individuals.

The news of the so-called runaways soon spread within the parliament. This was the fifth time that parliament staffers went on an official trip abroad and then ran away. Often these getaways are planned when the officials know they will have a trip to a European country like Germany, The Netherlands, England, or Italy. As soon as they can find an opportunity, such as at the airport restroom, they leave. They go to the home of a friend or relative and then request to be refugees.

Most of them are well-qualified and experienced young people holding effective management rolls in parliament. My colleagues and I admired them. Some people argue that these people were smart to leave if they are able to improve their lives and guarantee their children’s future.

After 2014, the civil war could start again, so why not take advantage of a good opportunity when you can. They assume there will not be peace in Afghanistan.

But I am saddened by their choice. What I see is my country losing people with skills and talents to contribute to our country. As the 2014 date for the pullout of the international force nears, it seems more people are trying to leave. If they stayed, they could help bring change and improve our situation. Their studies and experience in leadership in high-level government jobs are important assets needed to strengthen our country.

Since reading the book “Power Struggle over Afghanistan,” written by Kai Eide—the UN special envoy for Afghanistan from 2008 to 2012—I am becoming more distressed about the likelihood of change in Afghanistan. I wonder if my country will ever improve. Every page of this book makes me wonder who will stay and work for Afghanistan if young people leave for a more comfortable life in Europe or in the U.S.

I am not sure about how to resolve this complex issue. Can those of us who remain in Afghanistan without much power or influence bring about change? I believe Afghans should have hope and can bring improvements. In the meantime, those who think there is no hope will continue to leave and it appears there isn’t much we can do about that.

By Sitara

Photo by Waseem Khan


  1. liz titus says:

    Dear Sitara,
    I was not aware of this situation and I thank you for bringing it to my attention. It is indeed a serious situation, this sort of “brain drain,” and I am worried as you are. I will read the book you mention. But please do not lose heart! There will be those who remain in their country, along with you, and they will never stop working for change in the country they love.

  2. Sitara, I want to write that I understand your sadness, but I know that I only understand a fraction of it. What a heart-sickening situation. If this were simply a story, I’d say, yes, you’ve shown us the perfect dramatic struggle, for I can understand fully why someone would leave, and I can understand fully why someone would stay. The closest situation I’ve been personally close to was New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. I have friends and colleagues there, and everyone I knew had to daily ask themselves “am I staying or am I going?” There was total uncertainty and real consequences whether you acted or you didn’t act. In New Orleans, the struggles to rebuild and survive were so so intense, yet if you drove an hour away, suddenly everything was back to “normal”–so for some, it seemed crazy to stay in what felt like misery. But for many in New Orleans, it was home to them, the only home they ever knew, the place where their family lived, the place where their ancestors are interred, the place where their roots are, pure and simple, so it was never so easy as get in the car and go. And now, I think about the “runaways” you describe, and I ache for all of you, because as I said before, I can fully understand why they left, and I can fully understand your sadness. I am also sad because I know that the exile’s life, while possibly comfortable and happy in some ways, is filled with sadness and yearning in other ways, for they have left their home, and no matter how hard and cruel it could be, it was their home.

    Thank you for sharing this story, Sitara. I hope many of your peers at home will read it, and there will be more conversations about what is the right thing to do.

    All best,

  3. Diba Hareer says:

    Dear Sitara, while appreciating your feelings of patriotism I also acknowledge your expression of the current saddening situation in the best articulate way possible.

    Let me say that I share the same feelings with you. It is a paradox where you don’t know to stay or to leave because the vague picture of the future leaves you uncertain of the consequences of your action. You could be miserable either way. Having lived abroad for more than a year I read about the lives of Afghans very closely. It is far from enjoying for some people. The crisis of identity, the feeling of being in a competition with the citizens of their host country, the struggle for a decent life, overcoming the language and cultural barriers are a few to name. This is sad that any bird traveling far from its nest wishes reunion. But some just cannot make it when survival from brutal war, living in peace and staying as a glimpse of hope for their families come as their first option.

    While we as citizens are concerned, our government for sure is in the picture of what is going on, must do what it can to keep Afghanistan stable beyond 2014. Who knows, maybe “the brains” and “the hearts” start flowing back home..


  4. It is word of every friend and people in their gathering. When I listen to people who are talking about Afghanistan’s security satiation, at the end, all say this country is never going to be safe. They are talking about how they can leave the country. It brings sad and fear to those who never can leave Afghanistan due to any reason. They recall the memories of civil war which happened after leaving of Russia. They recall all other unstable Afghanistan’s government which never could bring permanent peace to Afghanistan. I can understand people’s concerns. But I also can see the changes which have happened since 10 years. We have many positive achievements including, more educated people, civil organization, media, and educated women. People should look at them and make hope among themselves. This time after foreigner’s troops withdraw nothing bad will happen to Afghanistan. This is our country and run out is not solution for our problems. We should stand once forever and prevent the repeating of history.

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