Forced to Flee: Wali's Story

I was born in a village and moved to Kabul when I was six or seven. I was there when the U.S. came to Afghanistan. When the U.S. came, it changed the whole story of Afghanistan. The people began to choose, and our good time started. I saw the progress and improvement of our society. I saw the end as well and in the end we had to leave. I am here, my wife is still there.

I was a dentist back in Afghanistan. I had my own practice and it was growing. But when Kabul collapsed, it was unexpected. Everybody had gone to their job. I was practicing in my office and saw a tank passing my dental practice. I closed my practice, sent all my patients back to their homes and went home. When the U.S. government was there it was safe, but after the collapse of Afghanistan to the Taliban, it was like a day became night and the day never came back.

My brother, Azim, was working with the U.S. Army as an air traffic controller, and with NATO. He and his wife had SIV visas and had booked their flight to leave. But, before their flight happened, Kabul collapsed. On the day of the collapse, Azim was in the airport. His American friends didn't allow him to leave the airport. He was evacuated directly to Qatar, and from Qatar to Texas, and then to Utah. He had to leave his wife behind and he asked me to bring her to the airport.

The Taliban was targeting those with a work history with the U.S. My whole family was in trouble because of our work with the U.S. Army and U.S. projects. We tried multiple times to get Azim’s wife to the airport, but it didn't happen until the fourth time that we tried. On the fourth time, I reached out to a U.S. officer. He saw that she had a SIV visa, she wanted to leave, and that we needed them to help. But, about thirty minutes after we arrived at the airport there was an explosion. We are incredibly lucky none of us were hurt.

I was evacuated with my sister-in-law by the US Army to Qatar. My wife wasn’t with me. I haven’t seen her since the moment I left to take my sister-in-law to the airport. 

The Qatar camp was full. We came to Germany. Then from Germany to Virginia, from Virginia to Indiana for a couple of months. Finally, we reached Utah and Catholic Community Services. I really appreciate Catholic Community Service for their help and support. They helped with jobs, paperwork, health problems, and education.

When we came here, my brother and sister had their SIV visa so they didn't have any problems. The difficult part was for me. The person that really helped me through all this the last 19 months is Alyssa. She is the Immigration Program Manager. I can't compensate for her kindness and goodness. And I really owe Catholic Community Services and all its staff for their help. Initially, CCS found me a job as a server at the Grand America Hotel. I'm still working there part time, but the main job I have now is as a dental assistant. When I wanted to continue as a dentist, they searched for opportunities to get my license and introduced me to different organizations that offer educational support.

I applied for asylum. I talked to Alyssa for hours and hours about what to do and how to get my permanent residency. She put different options in front of me. First, we tried for a green card, but after waiting 3-4 months that didn’t happen. I went back to Alyssa and she said I needed to apply for asylum. She gathered lots of documents. Then she submitted them for me. It was a very long process. I really appreciate her passion. She listened to me for hours and typed my story. It’s lots of work. I waited something like seven, eight months and it got approved in February. 

The day I got the result, I went directly to Alyssa because I was happy. She was busy with another client, but when she saw me behind the door, she came out and said, "Congratulations, I can't meet you today, but make an appointment and we'll see you soon and start on your wife’s application." 

I took all my wife’s documents to (Alyssa) and applied for asylum for her and I'm just waiting for the result. They told me, "I can tell you that your wife will be here one day, but I can't tell you when because the time frame is not in my hands." So I'm just waiting for them. 

I'm really counting seconds and minutes to the day when she comes here and we start our lives here in the U.S.

The freedom here means a lot. In Afghanistan there were lots of limitations. I served lots of different people at the Grand America hotel. They share their stories. I see their goodness. There is freedom of speech and freedom of religion. There are lots of prohibitions and limitations in Afghanistan. If you're a believer in a different religion, you won't have a quiet, good space to practice your belief. And for sure, there is no freedom of speech. Afghans can't bear criticism. Here in the U.S., it's different. This level of prosperity, progress make this a really great country. 

But it's really difficult to be alone. Back in Afghanistan, families are all living together in big houses, but we have been separated for two years. I should also hope to have my mom here one day, and one of my brothers, who was a civil engineer who worked for a long time with lots of U.S. projects, and again we could have a happy family and a strong family.

I don't think it would have been possible for us to stand up again if it wasn't for CCS.

Learn more about CCS' Immigration team here.

Wali's story was written in collaboration with Their Story is Our Story. Story edited by Their Story is Our Story's Nicole Taylor. Learn more about Their Story is Our Story here.