Beavercreek family fights to help loved ones escape the Taliban

The Taliban had not yet taken over Afghanistan the last time Gulz had spoken to his mother and father.

His brothers, Zia and John (who uses an American name) had served as interpreters for the U.S. military. Now, the three are working to bring the family to America, and help them escape the Taliban.

The brothers, who asked that their last name not be published for the safety of family remaining in Afghanistan, came to America on visas. Zia attended Wright State University in 2014. John and Gulz joined him soon after. Gulz attended Catholic Central High School in Springfield, and recently graduated from Wright State with a degree in bio-engineering. He now plans to attend medical school.

The brothers had no news from their family until Aug. 24, when they learned their parents, siblings, and their nieces and nephews had escaped through the gates of the Hamid Karzai Airport. Less than 12 hours later, the family was evacuated by U.S. airlift.

Gulz’s parents ran a stationery and office supply shop. They often welcomed U.S. service members into their home to share tea and home-cooked meals.

“They’ve literally left everything, it’s all gone,” Gulz said. “They had a backpack with a change of clothes.”

“I can’t imagine how heartbreaking it is,” he said. “They’ve worked their whole lives, they’ve welcomed people, bought a house, built something for a better future. Just imagine, all of that is just gone.”

This family of 22 is at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, obtaining Special Immigration Visas before coming to the U.S.

“The process is kind of slow for now,” Gulz said. “There’s so many people that came in that had nothing to do with Americans. Thousands of people got into the airport without proper documentation.”

“There is a trend, which is really the story of this event, of people desperately trying to get to the airport, waiting in terribly long lines, hoping that the U.S. soldiers, or in some cases the Taliban, would let them in,” said Tim Sietman, founder of KeepOurWord.org. “How each person did it is a story on its own, which paper they showed to which person.”

The brothers are among thousands of Afghans who served directly or indirectly with the U.S. military. Their eldest sister and her family remain in Afghanistan. Her husband worked for 13 years with Catholic Social Services there, and their family was known to be affiliated with Americans. Attempting to contact her is incredibly dangerous, for fear of retaliation.

The brothers receive updates from their 22 family members, refugees at Ramstein Air Base, via text. Their family doesn’t have access to internet at Ramstein to call them. The conditions at Ramstein are unsanitary, they have been told, and there is a shortage of food. One of Gulz’s siblings texts him with a few laughing emojis: “The past five days they’ve been telling us we’d move out. They might be serious this time.”

Organizations like Catholic Social Services and Operation Allies Refuge are helping Afghan refugees, both American allies and civilians, adjust to living in America. The cost for such an endeavor for individual families is high.

“We spent 20 years in this situation in Afghanistan. It’s more than our government’s little project. It’s our project as the American people,” Sietman said.

Even when they arrive in America, it could be weeks before the brothers are able to see their loved ones again.

“There are other families in the same process, but ahead of us,” Gulz said. “Right now they’re stuck inside the base, running all the paperwork. It might be a month or more. We’re trying to let them know that we are here, and refer the family to us.”

The three brothers are hoping the same communities that welcomed them will welcome their families as they resettle in the Dayton area.

“I’m hoping people will treat them well, like we treated Americans when they were in our home,” Gulz said. “I hope to give a peaceful life to my parents among their children, because they’ve been through enough.”

About the Author