Shafiqa Saeise knew the Taliban would kill her if she stayed in Afghanistan.
Shortly after Kabul fell to the militants, “my landlord called me and said there were people outside the house looking for me,” she told The Post. Family warned her not to come outside.
Though she’s only 26, Saeise had reason to be afraid. As a prosecutor in the capital city, she had put away murderers, domestic abusers and corrupt public officials. Amid the chaos of the U.S. departure, many of them were back on the streets.
Saeise, a graduate of the Gawhar Shad women’s college in Kabul, has little memory of Taliban rule and had come of age during the American-backed Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. She has been repeatedly honored by the state for her work and still carries with her a large wooden commendation from former President Ashraf Ghani. Before her work as a prosecutor, she previously was employed by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.
Now, however, even In the best case scenario, she said, there was no chance she would be keeping her job or finishing her master’s degree in the Afghan capital. After the Taliban takeover, she was denied access to her office — and the future looked much worse.
“Woman in Afghanistan will be eliminated and won’t have any kind of rights or any human treatment,” She said. “The Taliban wanted all women to just be sexual slaves for their people.”
Both her father and uncle spent time in Taliban jails during the 1990s, and she didn’t buy their promises of freedom today.
“Have you ever seen any photos of female members of the Taliban?” she asked.
So together, with her family, Saeise hatched an escape. Unlike many Afghans who have made their way to Kabul’s international airport, the prosecutor, her four sisters, three brothers and mother piled into a truck and out to a frontier city planning to travel overland out of the country.
“At the checkpoints [The Taliban] stopped us and they asked where are we going and we told them we were going for medical treatment,” Saeise’s brother Khalilullah told The Post, saying at least some of the militants were wise to the ruse but let it slide.
“They smiled and let us pass. He knew we were escaping. They even joked with me.”
After a two day journey, with many checkpoints (and bribes), the family ultimately reached their destination, a small guest house in a neighboring country — which they will not name for safety reasons — on Saturday afternoon.
“The US government could have had a little more of a coherent strategy to get out of Afghanistan … In this way it was just a disaster. They just left all the people to be killed by the Taliban,” Saeise said. “We are not angry, but we feel that [President Biden] could have been more careful … Especially he should be responsible for the women and the investment that Americans made for women in Afghanistan. We expected a responsible exit.”
For now the future remains uncertain, but they say ultimately they would most like to come to the United States.
Saeise and her family’s escape was facilitated by Moti Kahana, a gadfly Israeli-American businessman who heard about the difficulties Afghan women in the legal profession faced after reading news reports. Kahana had already made contact with his operatives in the country to try and rescue Zebulon Simantov, Afghanistan’s last Jew (who ultimately elected to stay put).
Kahana — who lives on a farm in Randolph, N.J. — decided to see what he could do.
“Why am I doing it? Because I can. That’s the bottom line,” he told The Post. “You contact people you know and I say I need your help to save people’s lives.”
Both Saeise and her brother credited Kahana for their escape.
“He saved our lives,” Saeise said.