How 148 Afghan students of Asian University for Women were evacuated from Kabul
The 148 Afghan students of Asian University for Women (AUW) in Chattogram, who were stranded in their country following the Taliban takeover, have been safely evacuated from Kabul in US military planes.
Kamal Ahmad, founder and trustee of AUW, in an open letter on the university's website, confirmed the development.
"Our students and alumnae have been evacuated in US military planes, out of Kabul. They have now safely reached bases in the Middle East where they will be processed for their onward journeys. An extraordinary group of people helped us pull off this miracle. Those contributions will be appropriately acknowledged at a later date," wrote Kamal in the letter.
The AUW students went to their country on vacation in June and were stuck after Taliban took over.
A team of seven of the students, led by Sepehra, took up the responsibility to communicate and assemble others at predetermined locations where buses would wait to pick them up.
A total of seven buses were used in this purpose while each bus was staffed by an unarmed security person as well as a driver who would negotiate at checkpoints to secure clearance. The vehicles were stocked with water, food and battery banks, according to AUW sources.
The student leader, Sepehra, in consultation with her six-member team -- Frough, Batool, Sabira, Humaira, Niab and Samira -- made on-the-spot decisions.
After five days of repeatedly unsuccessful attempts to get through all checkpoints into Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport, the students made it on the sixth day.
But three of the 148 students got left behind while in sleep.
Eventually, after communicating with the team through WhatsApp, the trio could catch the next Milair flight to Doha, Qatar with the help of a volunteer from Direct Relief (which is helping the AUW students with a shipment of Covid-19 supplies to campus), the AUW sources said.
By the time the three reached Doha, others had already gone to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
All of the 148 students managed to reach the Middle East on Saturday after remaining stranded at the Kabul airport for around 40 hours in total.
"This ordeal succeeded only after two grueling but failed attempts with our students huddled in a convoy of seven buses for 40 straight hours. Our Afghan student leader and six others who supported her in the overall coordination and communication, showed a measure of competence, tenacity, and what Ernest Hemingway described as grace under pressure that I have not seen before, even myself as a child of a civil war of our own in Bangladesh. My deep gratitude to each of them," reads the open letter of Kamal Ahmad.
"We have no illusions as to the convictions of and methods used by the Taliban… Neither do our students nor alumnae. Under these circumstances, we are preparing to not only evacuate our Afghan students but also our alumnae who may want to return to AUW for graduate-level courses and further prepare for a better day in their country," Kamal wrote in another letter on June 30.