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'I can’t even think about going back'

Apr 20, 2022

Months after fleeing Afghanistan, refugees hope for affordable temporary housing

'I can’t even think about going back' | Months after fleeing Afghanistan, refugees hope for affordable temporary housing

This month, the University of Maryland opened temporary housing for Afghan families at its campus in College Park.

Author: Tom Dempsey (WUSA)
Published: 9:41 PM EDT April 19, 2022
Updated: 11:26 PM EDT April 19, 2022

WASHINGTON — Last August, Mohammad Sharif Haidary found himself among the massive crowd of people at the Kabul airport trying to evacuate Afghanistan as the Taliban moved closer to completely taking over the country as American forces withdrew.

Starting at 5 a.m., Haidary would head to the airport with his pregnant wife and 3-year-old daughter to wait in line for up to eight hours a day. The temperatures were sweltering, and the crowded mass of people meant only moving a few yards each day while in line.

"It was impossible to pass through that crowd," Haidary says of the time. "Everybody was pushing. I couldn’t risk (his daughter and wife's) safety."

During this time, simply being in the country was a fearful experience for Haidary.

As a supervisor at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, he said he began receiving threatening letters from the Taliban mentioning his family.

With his apartment located just across the street from the local police station, he decided to move his family into various homes of friends and family to avoid whatever would happen to him when the new regime took power.

"That two weeks was my hardest time in life," he said. "When they (the Taliban) came, they took over the police station. For me, I can’t even explain (the fear). Anytime they could come.”

Haidary and his family were some of the lucky ones who made it out of Afghanistan.

After staying at a military base and then a hotel, the three are now living in an apartment in Landover with his new four-month-old baby, a cousin's wife and her child.

Haidary also has a temporary contract job in D.C. with the Office of the Attorney General and has received his green card.

"We’re just trying to settle here," he said. "I can’t even think about going back.”

Haidary is one of the many refugees now trying to make a new life in America after fleeing the takeover of Afghanistan by the brutal militant group.

In Landover, he told WUSA9 that safety can still be an issue. Haidary said robberies occasionally occur close to home.

Now, he is among the many refugees hoping to get temporary housing as part of a resettlement program.

"I’m just trying to find an apartment for myself and my family where we can feel relaxed and we can feel safe," he said. "In a new society, you need help with everything. Even if you know the culture, you need help for your family.”

For some, assistance has come from organizations and nearby universities.

This month, the University of Maryland opened temporary housing for Afghan families at its campus in College Park.

The families, who can qualify for the housing if they worked alongside U.S. personnel in the country, can stay for up to a year.

On Tuesday, a University of Maryland manager told WUSA9 that four families consisting of around 35 people total had already moved in this month.

According to the school, the campus has the capacity to house two additional families.

React DC, founded last year by Afghanistan veterans and their spouses, is also on the front lines of helping Afghan refugees in the region. According to founder and CEO Amy Marden, the group assists 600 families each month.

"We call them Afghan allies. Most of them were directly assisting U.S. coalition forces," she said on Tuesday. "They are in desperate need of assistance. They all want to be self-reliant. They want to stand on their own but they need some help getting started.”

Over the past several months, Marden said finding temporary affordable housing has been a challenge.

However, by building partnerships with housing agencies and other groups, React DC hopes to help even more Afghan families in the weeks and months ahead.

"Housing was a challenge early on and it continues to be a challenge going forward. The cost of housing is very expensive," Marden said. "We are making progress. People are getting established. They are finding jobs and getting settled and we’ll make sure they’re okay.”


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