Hossa Skandary-Macpherson has barely slept since the Taliban seized power of the country where she grew up.
Wracked with worry for her loved ones who are now in hiding, the charity worker remembers all too well how volatile Afghanistan is.
Mrs Skandary-Macpherson was a child when the Mujahideen warlords fought each other for control of Kabul and the country was in the midst of a civil war.
Now living in the north-east with her husband, she said: “Three of my primary school classmates, all from the same family, were killed as they walked to school. It was out of this horrific civil war that the Taliban emerged.
“My childhood was spent in lockdown, but not from a virus, but from bullets and explosions.”
Members of her family worked for the previous government, meaning they were at risk when the Mujahideen took control.
However, they managed to leave the country in the early 1990s and Mrs Skandary-Macpherson is now settling in the north-east and works for Aberdeen Cyrenians.
She is devastated that the Taliban have taken control once again and is worried about the people in Afghanistan.
“What they are openly saying about an amnesty for government employees and the Afghan army is simply not true, and the biggest concern is for the safety of the tens of thousands of people at risk,” she said.
“I am receiving messages every hour from people who are in hiding because they have been threatened.”
‘You feel powerless’
The 40-year-old has managed to remain in contact with her loved ones, but admitted it was “harrowing” to know they are in hiding, likening it to the Nazi regime.
“It is good to be able to speak to them and support them,” she said, “but it is also harrowing. You feel powerless, and they are at risk.
“I have hardly slept. My family who still live there face an uncertain future.”
She does not believe her family will be able to leave the country, as the Taliban have now set up check-points and barricades.
Earlier this week, chaotic scenes emerged from Kabul Airport with thousands of people storming the tarmac desperate to get on a plane out.
She said: “What happened at the airport, can you believe the people who tried to grab a plane just by hanging on, they are uneducated, illiterate and poor people.
“If they are that much afraid that they just go and commit suicide basically, how do you think all our intellectuals all our journalists all our special forces who actively fought next to the American troops, next to the Nato troops, UK, European Unions – they fought against Taliban, how would they feel?”
Mrs Skandary-Macpherson is the founder of a social enterprise called Ertebot, which supports development projects in Afghanistan and professional opportunities.
She now believes those people her network supported are living in fear for their lives and worries that all the humanitarian work they were doing in education and more will be lost.
‘Their promises mean nothing’
The Taliban has said they are no longer opposed to women attending school but have not set out a clear policy on women’s rights.
Mrs Skandary-Macpherson believes that girls’ education and female rights will suffer under the Taliban regime.
She said: “I helped a teacher friend set up an online business school which had male and female classes. He is now in hiding after being threatened because he was teaching girls.
“The Taliban are very skilled at propaganda and I am currently being targeted by them on the social media platforms that I use. They have clearly learned a lot since being in exile about how to communicate to the outside world – their promises mean nothing.”
Many fear the Taliban will reimpose the harsh interpretation of Islamic law that they relied when they ran Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
They have pledged to enforce Islamic law but say they will provide a secure environment for the return of normal life after decades of war.
Mrs Skandary-Macpherson said: “They have promised that there will be an amnesty and that there will be no violence, but look what has happened with initial protests.
“I am also hearing from people who have seen members of the Afghan army special forces being taken from their homes; mobile phones of everyone at the scene are confiscated first so no one can film it.
“They have been planning retribution for a long time. Now they have the chance to carry this out.”
Today is #Afghanistan’s Independence Day and we are proud of everyone who showed courage to march for our true flag, and true identity. The #Talibans will never triumph! #SolidaritywithAfghanistan pic.twitter.com/M4lsi5KdLF
— @ertebot 🧡 (@ertebot) August 19, 2021
A humanitarian and global crisis
Mrs Skandary-Macpherson described the Taliban takeover as a humanitarian and global crisis due to the wave of refugees.
She is urging people to support organisations that are trying to alleviate the refugee crisis, such as the Scottish Refugee Council and Refuweegee.
The organisations have created petitions asking the UK government to assist in evacuating and resettling refugees.
Mrs Skandary-Macpherson has also suggested contacting MSPs and MPs explaining that “effective lobbying is desperately needed”.
The Scottish Refugee Council has tweeted a link that can help people find their local MP and compose a letter asking them to urge the UK government to offer safety to the refugees.