Invaded, massacred, now 'abandoned': Afghan trauma from US continues
A US strike on August 29 killed 10 innocent people — including seven children — in a war crime that eviscerated the 20-year US occupation of Afghanistan.
A US strike on August 29 killed 10 innocent people — including seven children — in a war crime that eviscerated the 20-year US occupation of Afghanistan. Today, the survivors of the 2021 drone strike are grappling in California as they wait for any sort of US redemption following all the atrocities the "Land of Liberty" committed in Afghanistan.
Weeks after the massacre, which targeted an aid worker that intelligence authorities allegedly mistook for someone else, the US made a public vow to compensate and assist survivors in relocating. Some of those survivors, including two of the aid worker's brothers, Emal and Romal Ahmadi, and their families are now left alone in California, barely able to provide food and shelter for their bereaved families.
The trauma of being uprooted after 'suffering unimaginable losses'
Meanwhile, volunteers and community groups that have monitored them, as they struggle to adjust to life in a new country, reported that they feel "abandoned" by the US government. One volunteer recently organized a fundraiser to assist cover the living expenses of certain family members.
“They are living day to day in a very stressful environment of bills, and making sure they have their rent, and do they have enough food, and why did the utility bill go up this month?” Melissa Walton, who visits members of the family, said, as quoted by The Intercept. “It’s stressful, and they didn’t ask for any of this, to have to leave their country and come to a different country and start over.”
“Now that Emal and Romal Ahmadi’s families have been resettled in the United States, we look forward to productive discussions with the Department of Defense regarding the compensation promised to them,” John Gurley, Sylvia Costelloe, and Joanna Naples-Mitchell, attorneys representing the Ahmadi brothers, wrote in a statement.
“Our clients arrived in the United States penniless, after suffering unimaginable losses. For that reason, a community volunteer has launched a fundraiser to help them meet their basic needs while our confidential discussions with the U.S. government continue,” they added.
According to Zuhal Bahaduri, executive director of the 5ive Pillars Organization, an Afghan American-led group formed following the United States' hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan to assist thousands of refugees left abandoned in the US, the Ahmadi family's trauma adds to the many challenges confronting the 76,000 Afghans who have arrived in the United States over the last two years.
“There’s a lot of hurt and a lot of anger and a lot of frustration. The country that is responsible for the death of their children has helped them out by getting them here, but they do not feel fully supported,” Bahaduri said, as quoted by The Intercept.
“I don’t understand why it’s taking this long,” she added, referring to the condolence payments “Do they think that all they had to do was relocate the family and that’s it? That that’s where their responsibility ends?,” she added.
Read next: US not to punish troops over deadly Kabul airstrike
The pain deepens for families of Afghan children killed by US strike
Walton was told not to gush too much over their newborn baby boy when she offered to take Romal and his wife Arezo to pick up donated clothes and household things for their temporary, empty apartment.
Hadis, now 8 months old, was not the couple's first child, according to Walton: their three elder children, Arwin, 6, Benyamin, and Aayat, 2, were all murdered in the Kabul drone hit.
say their names— “Jacob” 🐐 (@nbasoyboy) September 10, 2021
Farzah Ahmadi, age 9
Faisal Ahmadi, age 10
Zemari Ahmadi, age 40
Zamir Ahmadi, age 20
Naseer Ahmadi, age 30
Binyamen Ahmadi, age 3
Armin Ahmadi, age 4
Sumaya Ahmadi, age 2
Malika Ahmadi, age 2
Ahmad Naser, age 30
killed 08/29/2021 by a US drone strike https://t.co/v1y8Wj4oIU
The strike was the United States' last atrocity before withdrawing its soldiers from Afghanistan after a two-decade brutal occupation.
By October, the Pentagon had pledged to pay survivors but only after family members notified reporters that they had not yet been contacted by US officials.
Romal and Arezo were the first to arrive in the United States last summer, followed by another brother, Emal, his wife, Royeena, and their 8-year-old daughter Ada a few months later.
In the strike, Emal and Royeena's second daughter, 3-year-old Malika, was murdered.
Others have subsequently joined them in California, but some are still in Afghanistan or refugee camps in Kosovo and Qatar.
However, life in the country responsible for the brutal killing of their children and family members has been difficult for the Ahmadis.
The Ahmadis, like tens of thousands of Afghans who have relocated to the United States since 2021, discovered that the 90 days of refugee assistance services they got upon arrival fell short of meeting many of their urgent needs, let alone assisting them in getting back on their feet. A federal refugee financial support program pays $325 per adult and $200 per kid per month for eight months, barely putting a dent in the expensive Bay Area rents and cost of living they now face.
On Aug 29, the #US bombed a residence house before its withdrawl from #Kabul, killing 10 civilians from one family. Among the victims were seven children, including two-year-old girls, Malika and Sumaya. pic.twitter.com/MeF1qDSBpP— Hua Chunying 华春莹 (@SpokespersonCHN) September 12, 2021
Trauma after trauma
Meanwhile, the trauma of the drone strike is still present. Romal's sparsely furnished flat is adorned simply with a photograph of the ten relatives murdered in the strike, a reminder of the tragedy that caused his family to flee.
“He keeps saying, ‘I lost all my kids,’” said Bahaduri, of the 5ive Pillars Organization. “He hasn’t had a chance to deal with that, but on top of that, he has to find a way to make ends meet now, so it’s trauma after trauma, one crisis after another crisis.”
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