The questions were coming at me fast: “Who are you?” “Why are you here?” “Are they really Afghans?” It was after midnight in the brightly lit, busy Islamabad International Airport. I was being questioned by an official from Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and trying to quell my rising panic. As I sat across the table for what seemed an eternity, the prior four months flashed across my mind. A family of nine Afghans and I were attempting to board a flight to Athens. I glanced back at the base camp the family had set up nearby. Hopelessness was written on their faces. Farhad stood in front of them, gripping his documents—he was shaking, he later told me, from the stress. I met his anxious gaze, wanting to reassure him that we were getting on that plane.
Farhad and his family were among the thousands of Afghans forced to flee their homes after the fall of Kabul on Aug. 15, 2021. It’s been a year since the Taliban marched into the capital, restoring their control of Afghanistan two decades after a US-led coalition deposed them. The world saw desperate scenes of Afghans fleeing to Hamid Karzai International Airport, including the harrowing image of some clinging to a US Air Force C-17 and falling to their death. For about two months, there was a persistent drip of stories about Afghan refugees aided by foreign governments, the private sector, and individuals spanning celebrities and military veterans. But by October, the international press had largely moved on.