When Shakiba Dawod was reunited with her mother on Friday, all the stress and terror of trying to get her family out of Afghanistan evaporated, and she broke down and wept.
Standing outside a reception centre near Paris, Dawod, who has lived in France for 12 years, hugged her 56-year-old mother Qadira, who arrived with another daughter and three sons on a rescue flight out of Kabul. The two women sobbed and caressed each other’s faces and hair.
A shopping bag with provisions that Dawod had brought for her family lay forgotten on the pavement nearby.
“There’s lots of emotion today,” Dawod, 36, told Reuters a few minutes after the encounter. “The moment I saw my mother running towards me, all those fears fell away.”
Dawod said her family felt they had to flee Afghanistan because of pressure from the new Taliban rulers. One brother, she said, had served in the Afghan army and was killed by the Taliban in 2019.
The family said they spent days and nights trying unsuccessfully to get beyond the crowds of people and military checkpoints blocking access to the airport.
Finally, they made it after Dawod – back in France – helped them contact the French contingent at the airport. They were flown out of Kabul on board a French aircraft. When they arrived on Tuesday, they were sent to a reception centre on the outskirts of Paris for quarantine as a COVID-19 precaution.
“I don’t know how we reached here. It’s like a dream,” said one of the brothers, 34-year-old Mahdi.
Dawod brought them bags of supplies on Thursday, but was turned away by police guarding the entrance. They were finally allowed to step outside the reception centre briefly on Friday, when the restrictions were eased.
“In Afghanistan, everything came crumbling down, their hopes and their dreams crumbled,” said Dawod after being reunited with her family. “I hope I’ll be able to help them to dream again and to rebuild their lives.”