The first time I arrived in Afghanistan several years into the United States’ 20-year war, I was scared. Then I met Farouq Samim, and the only thought I had was of coming back again. Farouq was my interpreter and guide, so well known by locals that a colleague dubbed him the “mayor of Kabul.” But most of all, he was my friend.
Today, Farouq lives in Ottawa, Ontario, and he is still reaching out a hand to those who are scared. This time, however, they are his fellow Afghans, and he is trying to get them out.
The Monitor has long had close ties with Afghanistan. It means we know many Farouqs. Like me, each of our reporters has been cared for by drivers who encouraged us to take a dip in the Jalalabad River on a hot summer day or interpreters who knew which market had the best melons.
For many at the Monitor, this is personal. We’re working with Farouq and others to try to save those left behind. The situation is rife with rumor, misinformation, and fear. Even Afghans with all the right documents are caught in a limbo that has no clear end.
About 30 former colleagues have reached out to Farouq. Some have no documents. Others (according to Afghan tradition) have no last name. Navigating American bureaucracy from Ottawa for those still in Afghanistan is no easy task. The rules mean he can’t even get his extended family out of Afghanistan. But he wants to do what he can for others, and his voice breaks as he remembers the Afghans who clung to the bottom of a departing U.S. military plane in a fatal attempt to flee the Taliban.
“So many friends are helping,” he says. “We need to get people to safety.”