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As Taliban Advance, Thousands of Afghans Seek Refuge in Turkey

July 26, 2021, 11:52 pm
As Taliban Advance, Thousands of Afghans Seek Refuge in Turkey
VAN, Turkey—When the Taliban swept across northern Afghanistan in June, burning shops and executing government soldiers, Jamal Naser and Farida Kohi fled with their four children. Instead of heading to Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul or on to Pakistan—the destination for many Afghan exiles—the 41-year-old mechanic and his wife from Faryab province paid a smuggler $4,000 to take their family into Iran. They walked across the country, with little food and water, for 18 days before scaling a mountain to reach Turkey. Now the family hopes to reach Europe. “I want my daughters to go to school,” said Mr. Kohi as he sat resting with his family on the concrete floor of a half-built house on the edge of the city of Van, in eastern Turkey. The fresh influx of Afghan migrants to Turkey shows how the U.S. military drawdown in Afghanistan is rippling through the wider region. Ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline set by President Biden to withdraw U.S. troops from the country, the Taliban have seized swaths of the Afghan countryside and are threatening some cities. Civilian casualties surged in the first half of the year, according to a United Nations report. Increasing numbers of Afghans are fleeing their homes, with many headed to Turkey, say migrant aid groups. If the flow continues to escalate, it could echo the wave of Syrian refugees who fled that country’s bloody civil war. Some 3.6 million Syrian refugees still live in Turkey.
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