Voices From Kunduz: Fearing the Worst as the Taliban Close In Again

During the second fall of Kunduz, my family was visiting relatives in Takhar. I was alone at home with one of my children. The rockets were scaring my son, so we left again to Khanabad and my family came there, too.

The situation now is not good. We have no expectations of this government. On normal days, I could work and make about $70 — these days, I can’t even make $20. People are afraid. Last year, they were stuck, hungry, there was no food in the city. I was in Khanabad and people from the city would call and ask me to send them food. People don’t want to be stuck again.

There is fighting in Charkh, in the east of the city. This morning my family was scared, so they called me to say there was fighting. But this time we just don’t have the patience to move again — or the money. If the government can’t do it, they should leave it to the people. The people will figure out a way to protect the city. What kind of government is this?


Najim Rahim/The New York Times

Khadija Nabiyar, 25, is a civil society activist and university instructor:

The second time Kunduz fell, we went to the city of Mazar-i-Sharif on the sixth day of fighting. We were lucky to be able to rent a house there — those who couldn’t were living with health and food problems at a camp. One of my brothers stayed in Kunduz to guard the house. When we returned after 16 days, those people who had abandoned their homes found them damaged.

The situation in Kunduz is critical again. When the Taliban have enough force to control four districts, they obviously have enough men and equipment. Officials are saying we will not let the city fall, but the people are living in fear. Many people have taken their loved ones out of the city. We hear the sound of fighting on the outskirts of the city every night.


Najim Rahim/The New York Times

Pir Mohammed Popalzai, 61, left, has been a school headmaster for 33 years:

We were displaced twice in the recent fighting. The first time the Taliban took over the city, we moved houses just down the road — because close to us was a security department and the Taliban said that was their target. There was also a tall building just across from our house, so we thought the Taliban might take over that and fight from there. Then the fighting continued, and we were forced to leave there, too — first to Sayedabad, then to Kabul. …

The city might fall again. At night, I wake up several times to listen to what is happening. Believe me, when I wake up for dawn prayer and leave for the mosque, I leave with a lot of concern — it could be the Taliban outside.


Najim Rahim/The New York Times

Farzana Sadat, 26, works at the provincial directorate of women’s affairs:

We have kept a temporary rental house in Kabul, out of fear that Kunduz might fall again. My mother and younger brothers went back to Kabul. I stayed, with my father and some siblings, because I work for the government — I can’t take leave all the time.

Believe me, I have no sleep at night. During the day, you don’t hear much fighting. But when it is silent at night, you hear all these sounds — rockets and explosions and small weapons. When we heard all the sound, we almost decided to leave but then we said let’s just submit to God’s will.

Our fear increased in recent days because the government dismissed the university — that is not a good sign, that increases our concerns. The government is basically showing its weakness, saying, “I can’t defend you against them.” And when the government shows weakness, I get scared.

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