AUSTIN (KXAN) — “It is not an airport, it’s a frontline war.”
That’s how Rafi Azim, a former U.S. Military interpreter and now Austin resident, describes the scene in Kabul as thousands of people tried to escape after the Taliban took full control of the city.
Azim is bruised and scraped all over his body. He said he doesn’t know how he’s alive. He got back to Austin on Saturday night.
“It all felt like a dream,” Azim said. “When I look at this picture, I feel like how come you were one of them? Because I had lost hope.”
Azim said he went back to Afghanistan at the beginning of August to help relocate relatives to a safer area. But he got stuck, which put him eye to eye with the Taliban armed with U.S. military equipment.
At the airport, Azim said the Taliban are on one side and the U.S. military on the other. He got out on the third day of trying to escape, Azim said.
“The American pushed the crowd backward, at the same time, the crowd pushed forward. And I was at the corner of the crowd,” Azim said. “One of the American sergeants tried to shoot in the air — like a warning shot as they do all the time…and then he pulled back his weapon and that’s when his gun went off, just as he pulled down. It hit my pants, and made a hole through my pants. It did not hit my leg.”
Azim said a U.S. soldier then asked if Azim was shot. “I said yes. It was a complete lie, I understand that. He grabbed me…and threw me into the American crowd,” Azim said.
Azim was with his brothers and lost their grip as he was pulled to safety.
“I was holding onto two of my brothers and I lost the grip,” he said. “I screamed, ‘My brothers!’ And I hear ‘I’m sorry, I can’t do anything right now.’ I still feel guilty. I should’ve stayed with them.”
Azim said on his journey back to the U.S. he helped translate, trying to do everything he could to help others who were in the same stressful situation.
While he holds on tight to what he has, he said he’ll keep contacting U.S. government representatives to get everyone, including his family out safe.
Azim asked, “Is there anyone that can answer me, where are the human rights?”
KXAN has been in contact with another interpreter who hasn’t been able to get out of Afghanistan yet. When this interpreter tried the other day, he said he and his family were beaten in the chaotic crowd, attempting to flee the country.
This is a developing story that we’ll be following closely.