How I escaped from the Taliban

My journey from Afghanistan to Switzerland


Hello and Good Day. I have worked as an Afghan journalist for the past several years. First and foremost, I would like to thank you for inviting me to this conference, so that I can be a voice to the people of Afghanistan, particularly to Afghan women.

Today, Afghan women are deprived of all their basic rights under the Taliban rule.

Currently, no Afghan girls can study or be enrolled in universities.

This is a vital issue that is causing the country to increasingly go backward.

In the past 20 years, Afghan women continuously strived to be involved in the society and to make a difference.

They became ministers, parliament members, journalists, teachers, and more.

Unfortunately, now, the Taliban increasingly erase women from the public scene.

Despite all the challenges, brave Afghan women try every single day to not have their voices silenced and to demonstrate for their rights.

Nevertheless, for the past 2 years, their voices have not been heard and the United Nations and the International Community have been silent. I represent those women here today, and I hope to be able to be their voice.

I have been a journalist and civil rights activist and strived to make a difference in my country to the extent possible.

I am also one of the victims of the Taliban’s explosions against freedom of speech.

When Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, everyone started to panic and find a way to flee the country.

I, also as someone who was previously threatened by the Taliban had to find a way before the Taliban looked for me.

Unfortunately, for about a month, I couldn’t find a way to flee the country, so I moved to a hidden and relatively safer location.

Later, I spoke to a smuggler about leaving the country illegally.

On the same day that Afghanistan was supposed to fall to the hands of the Taliban, before 12 o'clock, everyone was going about their usual normal and daily lives.

But when suddenly the news of President Ghani leaving and the Taliban entering spread, I felt like it was going to be the last day of my life. I said goodbye to my mother and left my house with a single bag, so that they couldn’t find me.

I left the house, the weather was very hot, and the city was chaotic. I saw the Taliban but got myself to my destination with covered face. A month later, I was able to leave Afghanistan illegally.

It was dark at night and it was around two o'clock in the morning, a car came towards us, and I was wearing a burqa so that no one would recognize me, and my brothers were covered with scares and masks, and we left Afghanistan and went to Iran.

We left Afghanistan in a horrific way, and eventually, we were able to enter Iran in 4 days. When we got near the mountains of Urmia, we had to climb up several mountains, and it was unimaginable.

We could not find water to drink, and it was really difficult. We finally got ourselves to Turkey and when we arrived in the city of Van, the smuggler told us that he was going to get us a car ticket from Van to Istanbul. It took is 30 hours to get to Istanbul, which was our destination.

When we arrived, we had no place to stay and no house, so we went to the house of the smuggler, and this is where the story of getting from Turkey to Europe began. It is the hardest job in the whole world.

Going from Turkey to Europe is literally called a “game”. We initially thought that perhaps, it was possible to go from Turkey to Italy sooner, but challenges and difficulties on the road resulted in us being involved in this game for almost one year.

It was as if we felt failing at the game, or having the game cancelled. For instance, we were going to the forest, spending day and night there without food or water, and hoping to get the boat, but we could never make it happen.

Finally, in June, we were able to get into a boat, and the boat started to move toward Italy. The boat moved toward Italy at around 10:00pm, and we spent 3 nights and 2 days successfully. On the third night, the boat suddenly encountered a strong storm in the sea, and the captains were unable to move the boat forward, so they asked the passengers to call the police, else the boat would sink.

There were 110 passengers on this small ship, half of which were women with small children, and the rest were single guys. Everyone started calling the United Nations and the police until the police came in the middle of the night and only surrounded the ship until the next morning, and they did nothing to save us from this ship. We stayed in the ship suspended in the water until the next morning.

It was 12:00pm when a big ship arrived. This is also known as the NATO ship, one that is often controlled by very dangerous marine police. We saw angry men in this big ship who had masks and had their heads covered.

They finally moved us from the boat to their big ship as they beat the passengers.

They also stole all of our items, our phones, and even our money.

I once accidentally made eye-contact with one of the policemen, and he told me to look away. I did not look away, and he started to beat me terribly, not even respecting that I was a woman. My brother, who was sitting next to me, only watched me and cried. And that was very annoying for me.

The big ship started moving toward Turkey again. When we arrived in Turkey, they wanted to throw us on a small transfer ship.

At that time, I begged them for my journalist ID card, but one of them slapped me in the face and they started to throw us like animals from the big ship into a small inflatable boat in black colour.

They immediately left the place afterward. Later, the Turkish police come and save us from the sea but the Turkish police wanted to deport us back to Afghanistan, but luckily, they did not deport me, because me and my brother were a family.

However, they did deport the single guys that did not have their families with them. In the one year that we lived in Turkey, we never left the house, fearing that the Turkish police would ask us for documents which we did not have.

We feared that if they catch us without documents, they would deport us back to Afghanistan, just like they deport dozens of Afghans back to the Afghanistan every single day.

We tried to hopelessly leave again on October 20th of 2022. We left Istanbul to Izmir, and finally in 6 days, we entered to Italy. In these 6 days, we were inside a ship without food and with many others families.

We entered Italy on October 27th, and the Italian police rescued us from the Italian waters when we were close to drowning and there was no hope for life. Luckily, we managed to enter Europe. However, the police arrested us according to the Dublin law, and they took our fingerprints. We then moved toward Switzerland, and we had no money left, so we borrowed some money, and managed to enter Switzerland on November 2nd.

Now I am very happy that I was able to reach Switzerland, and it gives asylum to me and my brothers then we can have a peaceful life here, but we are still worried about our family in Afghanistan, who are struggling every day with problems in Afghanistan and under the rule of the Taliban.

Immigration is a very difficult and unbearable task. Let's sympathise with immigrants and recognize them among the elite immigrants who can do very creative things in a society. Thank you for your attention,

Elaha Omari