Kabul - Zurich - Biberbrugg

The Taliban took control of Afghanistan mid-August 2021. The allied forces, led by the USA, withdrew completely from the country after a 20-year presence. This caused panic to spread among the population. Many people not only feared the reintroduction of bans and rigid laws, but saw their lives in the country at the Hindu Kush directly threatened.

By the end of August, Switzerland had evacuated around 400 people from Afghanistan. Those in great danger at the time were above all people who had been supporting Swiss organisations or had even worked for them. This was also the case for Rahmatullah and his family. He tells the story of his escape – from the anxious moments at Kabul airport to the warm welcome he received in Switzerland and his initial efforts to integrate into daily life.

Haus in Kabul
"I saved money for this house in the center of Kabul for 16 years. That’s why I couldn’t buy my wife clothes every week, we didn’t allow ourselves any luxuries. We put everything aside for a house of our own. Unfortunately, we could only live in it for one week. Then we had to flee from the Taliban."
2 zwei Maedchen
"This is at the airport area in Kabul. After five or six attempts, we were finally able to pass the checkpoint. It was extremely hard, also because of the extreme heat on the ground. My mother collapsed while waiting, and my older daughter hyperventilated. German soldiers then gave us water to drink."
3 Flughafen
"There were daily deaths at the gates at the airport. The creek that runs by there was red because of all the blood."
4 Flug
"Here we are together with about 300 other people on board of a German evacuation plane that took us from Kabul to Tashkent. My mother and wife took seats, the daughters and I sat on the floor of the plane. From Tashkent, we then flew via Frankfurt to Zurich. We were on the road for about 36 hours."
5 Zuerich
"When we reached Zurich late in the evening of August 25, we were completely overtired. This was also due to the fact that our tension was finally released after the successful escape."
6 Zuerich see
"This experience was very special for us because it was the first time we sat in a boat, the first time we moved above water on Lake Zurich. My mother immediately sent a picture to my father, who had stayed behind in Afghanistan."
7 essen im BAZ
"In the federal asylum centre Zurich everything was different, we no longer had to live in constant fear. It was very impressive and beautiful to experience how Switzerland welcomes refugees from all countries. The event organized by Cuisine sans frontières touched us very much. We were able to experience firsthand how the Swiss cook. And in Afghanistan, people from the office would never cook for refugees. Office people don’t do that there. In Switzerland, it’s different, and we were happy about that."
8 Essen mit Freunde
"Eating together with friends is firmly rooted in Afghan culture. Here we cooked ‘Kabuli palaw’, the Afghan national dish of rice, carrots, raisins and lamb, at friends’ homes in Bern. My mother enjoyed it very much. But she still misses a bit the typical Afghan green tea. But she has now started cooking Afghan food here at the Biberhof Integration Center."
9 Weihnachten
"We saw Santa Claus for the first time and celebrated Christmas. We also went to Zurich to marvel at the beautiful Christmas lights in the streets. Although I go to German classes for a morning several times a week, our daughters already know a lot more German words."
10 Maedchen Schnee
"Sure, in the Hindu Kush, we know what snow is. But because of the drought in recent years, we haven’t seen snow for a long time. There is generally too little water in Afghanistan. When we sent the father the pictures from Switzerland with snow, water and the green meadows, he said he wanted to breed sheep then, when he also came to Switzerland. Those are very good conditions, he said."