Please bring your passports: Afghans are lining up for a chance to flee the country.
Abdel Khalid Nabyar, like hundreds of his countrymen, waited outside Afghanistan’s main passport office to apply for the valuable travel document that would allow him to leave the war-torn country.
Many Afghans – at least those with the means – are seeking for a way out as the Taliban make major strides in the countryside as Western forces wind down their withdrawal.
“If things get worse, we might have to leave,” said Nabyar, 52, who feels especially vulnerable because he used to run a shop near a NATO military installation.
Not everyone will leave right away, but most people desire the security of knowing they can leave at any time.
“People want to be prepared ahead of time in case something goes wrong,” Nabyar remarked.
Most days, dozens of people begin forming a line at Kabul’s passport office before daybreak, and by eight a.m., the line had already stretched for several hundred meters.
Applicants shuffle forward, their paperwork in see-through plastic folders in their hands. On rare occasions, a police officer is required to apprehend queue-jumpers.
One official appeared upset by the journalists’ fascination with the crowd.
“For any Afghan, getting a passport is a routine request,” she explained.
However, the number of applicants has been unusually high in recent weeks.
One police officer remarked, “We’re getting roughly 10,000 individuals a day versus 2,000 people regularly.”
Khalilullah, a 36-year-old engineer, and his wife and three children arrived at 5:00 a.m.
“There were already 300 people in line,” he told AFP after waiting for more than three hours.
Applicants must have their pictures taken, their eyes biometrically recorded, and their fingerprints taken as part of the application procedure, which also includes a full security frisk.
When Zeenat Bahar Nazari talked to AFP, she had been waiting for hours.
“Our relatives used to say that the Taliban… slaughtered people and made them disappear when we were kids,” said the 23-year-old computer science student.
“They were aggressive toward women, denying them access to education and depriving them of their fundamental rights.”
While Nazari was too young to recall the Taliban’s initial reign, which lasted from 1996 to 2001, she is well aware of their subsequent actions.
“All I know is that the Taliban has a terrible face – warfare, suicide bombers, and bloodbaths,” she stated.
“When you go to school or university, you expect for a bright future; however, if the Taliban come to power, that hope would vanish.”
Many people in line had no idea where they were going. Brief News from Washington Newsday.