Afghans rush to Kabul airport amid rumors of Turkey support flights


KABUL — In a startling echo of the chaotic scenes that adopted the Taliban takeover 18 months in the past, a number of thousand Afghans rushed towards the airport within the capital late Wednesday after rumors unfold that planes have been taking volunteers to Turkey to assist with earthquake aid.

The stampede erupted spontaneously and movies confirmed swarms of males — all in road garments and with out baggage of any type — shouting and shoving at the hours of darkness as they run alongside the boulevard lined with elaborate marriage ceremony halls that results in the airport. They have been stopped by airport safety forces, who fired into the air and reportedly left a number of individuals injured.

The rush towards the airport seems to replicate the rising desperation of every day life in Afghanistan the place a extreme financial disaster has left individuals looking for to depart by any means attainable — even support flights to catastrophe zones.

At about 10 p.m., a authorities spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, tweeted that any rumors about particular flights to Turkey for “people without official documents” weren’t true. “Nobody should go to the airport with such intention and nobody should disturb discipline in the airport,” he stated.

The episode appeared to have been sparked by the Taliban regime’s announcement that it will donate $165,000 in support to earthquake rescue efforts in Turkey and Syria, a extremely uncommon diplomatic gesture by the cash-strapped Islamist authorities that has been ostracized by a lot of the world and faces heavy monetary sanctions.

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The deepening chill of Afghanistan’s second Taliban winter

In a proper assertion Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry stated the help was being despatched in solidarity with Afghanistan’s “Muslim brethren” in each international locations. It additionally stated that “emergency response and health teams” from Afghanistan “stand ready to participate in rescue operations” in Turkey and Syria if requested. No additional particulars have been offered.

But at residence, the magnanimous message of the announcement was misplaced, and as an alternative it triggered a word-of-mouth rumor that planes have been coming to Kabul from Turkey, providing Afghans an opportunity to get out. There was no reality to the rumors, however as they unfold, males throughout the capital merely jumped up and ran towards the airport.

“We were on our way to a wedding party when I saw people running toward the airport. In a moment, we heard gunshots and people said the Taliban are not allowing people to enter,” one witness was quoted in a tweet from an Afghan journalist, Mohammad Farshad. “People were saying they are taking people to Turkey. My brother and I also wanted to go and try our luck.”

While rapidly quashed and shrouded in darkness, the sudden mass try to flee evoked the a lot bigger and extra seen panic that gripped the capital when Taliban forces entered Kabul in August 2021. In chilling scenes proven all over the world, individuals have been crushed and trampled whereas making an attempt to enter the airport, and a number of other died whereas clinging to planes as they took off stuffed with luckier passengers.

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Since then, individuals in Kabul have adjusted to Taliban rule, the capital has been underneath tight safety, and the federal government has turn out to be extra skilled. But the sudden impulse to flee, based mostly on a rumor with no foundation and in opposition to all probability of success, mirrored the dire circumstances wherein many Afghans reside at the moment.

Millions of individuals are jobless, pressured to beg, borrow or scavenge to outlive. International support teams estimate that just about half the inhabitants of 40 million is affected by starvation this winter, and that 6 million of these face “emergency-level food insecurity.”

A sequence of repressive measures taken by the Taliban in current months have additionally contributed to public fears for the long run. The regime has banned females from attending highschool or faculty and dealing for international charities. It has additionally reinstated extreme bodily punishments for theft, adultery and different offenses.

“This shows the vulnerability and desperation of those who are attempting to flee the Taliban regime,” Khalid Amiri, a former Afghan TV information journalist dwelling overseas, stated in a tweet after information of the stampede unfold Thursday.

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