Posted By: Erica
In December 2001, the Tora Bora mountains in eastern Afghanistan were believed to be the last refuge of Osama bin Laden. US air strikes barraged the Tora Bora area, dropping hundreds of bombs and artillery shells. Unfortunately, Bin Laden and associates were not the only ones hiding in the caves. Though sparsely populated, the Tora Bora area had been home to Afghan families for generations. When the bombing began, many of the families fled to refugee camps in Pakistan but not everyone made it out.
A few weeks ago I talked to Nazir, who lost family members in the Tora Bora bombings. He said half of his family had fled to Pakistan but that his brother stayed behind with his family in Tora Bora. Every night, he and his family would listen to the BBC and Voice of America on the radio for news of what was happening just across the border. One night he heard the news about Tora Bora and immediately headed back into the conflict zone to find out what had happened to his family. “I went from vehicle at first, then by foot. It took me two days,” he said. It is normally a 5 hour journey or less.
His cousin Amin was with him in Pakistan when the incident happened, and stayed with the family there when Nazir went back to Tora Borah. “When Nazir arrived to the village, he didn’t see any dead bodies. The dead were already buried. Those who survived told him [what had happened] and took him to the gravestones.”
Nazir’s brother Mohammad was dead, along with two of his children — Hashimi, age 2; and Ahmadzai, age 5. Amin’s father and mother had been killed, along with his 2-year-old sister Riana and his 4-year-old brother Mahmad.
The news of their lost loved ones was devastating for Nazir and Amin’s extended families but it was only the beginning of their troubles. When they returned from Pakistan, everything they had was lost. They had no home, no source of income and more burdens than before. Nazir now supported his family as well as the remaining members of Mohammad’s family. Amin supports 9 members of his extended family.
[Note: The names have been changed out of sensitivity for those interviewed.]