How Afghan refugees in Baton Rouge are rebuilding their lives—and the Capital City community

The day the Taliban took Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city, Abdul Shokour Faqirzada left his entire life behind with just his phone and the clothes on his back. Photo by Sean Gasser.

“It was very impossible for me to stay,” says journalist and Afghan refugee Abdul Shokour Faqirzada as he recounts the happenings of August 15, 2021. That was the day Kabul fell to the Taliban and the day his life changed forever. 

The 24-year-old Faqirzada had worked for not just the free media in Afghanistan, which openly broadcasted the atrocities carried out by the notorious fundamentalist group, but also for American organizations. His life was most certainly in danger. But as he entered Hamid Karzai International Airport, he was faced with the price of freedom. Accepting his ride to safety was also accepting a life without his family, friends, career and all he had ever known.

“I was leaving everything,” he explains. “I was letting go of my dreams, every goal I had.”

In the days and weeks prior, Faqirzada watched as Afghan provinces fell to Taliban control daily. “I would think, Oh my gosh, what will happen when the capital falls to the hands of the terrorists?” he recalls. “What will happen to me and my coworkers?”

That day arrived much sooner than anticipated. Faqirzada and his coworkers were forced to flee directly from their office to the airport in the hopes of making it to safety before it was too late. With just his uncharged phone and the clothes on his back, Faqirzada hid in the back of a cab in desperate pursuit of the one entrance still fortified by international forces. Once inside, the struggle wasn’t over, though. He waited three days for his spot on a flight out of the country, and from there it would be months before he made it to his final destination in Baton Rouge.

Click here to read the full story from our November issue.