Pennsylvania Man Worried About Family Stranded in Afghanistan

By Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje
Reporter
Beth Brelje is an investigative journalist covering Pennsylvania politics, courts, and the commonwealth’s most interesting and sometimes hidden news. Send her your story ideas:
August 18, 2021 Updated: August 18, 2021

It has been two days since Syed Parast heard from his brother-in-law, an American citizen trapped in Afghanistan with his wife and four children, ages 4, 7, 8, and 13.

The family had gone to Afghanistan for a wedding and stayed a few months to visit with family. They planned to return to the United States days before the Taliban took over, Parast said, but when they went to the Kabul airport, the ticket price went up an additional $2,000 per person—that’s $12,000 for a family of six. They couldn’t afford it so they will wait in Afghanistan and hope things change.

The stranded brother-in-law owns New York Chicken and Grill restaurant in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Parast, owner of the Flame Kabob restaurant in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, came to the United States in 1988 but still has family in Afghanistan. He has not been able to reach them since the Taliban took over.

“Most of the phone and internet is not working,” Parast told The Epoch Times, adding that the Taliban disconnects phone service overnight, from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. “It’s horrible and the whole world is watching.”

He is worried about his family; keeping a close eye on social media; and Parast and his wife eagerly wait for brief text updates from family.

Airports, government services, and most shops are closed, making it impossible for people trapped in Afghanistan to find solutions.

“People are scared right now to talk to any person from the U.S.,” Parast said. “People are scared of the Taliban. It’s terrible. We had a good system and unexpectedly, the system collapses and everything is surrendered to the Taliban? Everybody is heartbroken right now. Why does nobody like us? Why does everybody want to kill us?”

Television coverage of people clinging to the airplane taking off in Kabul, then falling to their deaths, shows how much people fear the Taliban, Parast said.

“They did horrible things in the past,” Parast said. “Under the Taliban, you have to have a beard to live or visit there. Women can’t come out of the house by themselves and they have to be covered up. There is a lot of social media you can’t use. It’s like living under control. You can’t have free will there. You have to follow the rules if you want to be alive there. You can do nothing freely. You can’t wear different clothes or speak a different language. To use a lot of English words there is dangerous.” That is another reason to worry about his brother-in-law’s American-born children.

Parast has seen on social media that most of the Afghan generals have disappeared.

“We don’t know where they are. They were picked up from their houses—the ones who were against the Taliban.”

On Wednesday, Afghan locals attempted to show resistance toward the Taliban by removing the white Taliban flag and waving Afghanistan’s three-colored flag. The Taliban responded with gunfire.

“You don’t have the right to say things are right or wrong,” Parast said in response to this incident. “You’ve got to like them 100 percent or you’re in trouble. It’s like jail there. People are scared of their neighbors.”

Parast doesn’t understand why did so many Afghans died and millions of dollars were spent over the last 20 years, only to surrender to the Taliban.

“We had soldiers there and they all disappeared. It doesn’t make sense,” Parast said. “They [the U.S.] made the Afghan government surrender to the Taliban. If they didn’t have help from a world power, they could not take over Afghanistan. And now the same people who were in U.S. jails are in power and you are sitting there negotiating with them? Yesterday’s enemy; today’s friend.”

“On the news, they talk about humanity. What—Afghans don’t matter? Afghans are not human?”

Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje
Reporter
Beth Brelje is an investigative journalist covering Pennsylvania politics, courts, and the commonwealth’s most interesting and sometimes hidden news. Send her your story ideas: