Brothers Zaki and Zakir had a close bond and enjoyed life before the Taliban.
Zaki Anwari was just 17 years old and a striker for the national youth soccer team when he attempted to flee Taliban rule by climbing onto the fuselage of a US cargo plane in Kabul.
Ironically, the images of his body falling in August 2021 echo those made famous by the so-called “falling man” following the Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks almost 20 years earlier, on September 11, 2001. On that day, a man was seen falling from the ground. top floor of the North Tower where, until this morning, he worked at the Windows on the World restaurant.
It was, of course, these attacks that brought the West into Afghanistan and ushered in two decades of growing prosperity, nascent democracy and real hope for a historically unlucky country.
The last two years have seen this hope dashed by a ruthless fundamentalist sect riven by internal conflicts.
“Zaki and I were not yet born when the last Taliban regime took place, but we were told a lot of stories and the ugly face of the Taliban was on everyone’s mind,” said his brother Zaker, aged 20 years, from his home. in Kabul last night.
“Because we had seen videos, videos of men and women being beaten, men being beaten just because they shaved their beards and wore Western clothes, we never imagined that the country would allow them to return to power so easily.
“But in the end, the treacherous leaders escaped and turned the Taliban’s dreams into reality.”
Unsurprisingly, Zaker’s life was completely transformed, from a life of middle-class comfort to eternal misery – and fear.
LEARN MORE: Taliban described as ‘judge, jury and executioner’ silence Afghan women
Zaki (left) and Zaker (right) in happier times before the Taliban took power.
“I lost my brother and my father, who died of grief a few months ago. Over time, my studies stopped and we lost our job and our store. Then I lost my freedom,” did he declare.
“Now we live in secret, fearing that the next Taliban we will be forced to face will be the last. I can’t go to college, I can’t play sports or go to soccer or the gym sports. We are alive but we are not living.”
Zaki’s death left a void so immense that no amount of time can ever fill it.
“There are so many memories that are very difficult for me to recount,” Zaker said. “Zaki was my friend, my companion, a supporter – he was my whole being.
“One of my fondest memories was playing Playstation with Zaki. In real life we both supported English teams – he followed Liverpool and I’m a Manchester City fan – but when we were playing PlayStation we were both fighting to be Barça (FC Barcelona).
Although Zaki was nicknamed “little Messi” after the Argentina captain for his skills on the pitch, on the couch it was a different matter.
“Zaki was very smart but he would hate to lose to me,” Zaker said. “If I ever got two goals ahead of him, he would stop the game and leave.”
The brothers had a particularly close bond, with Zaker often choosing to copy his brother’s outfits while attending the prestigious French-Afghan Esteqlal high school.
As provincial capitals began to fall to the Taliban in the weeks before the government collapsed and President Ashraf Ghani’s despicable flight, the boys even united to raise funds for displaced Afghans who had fled to what they hoped would be the security of Kabul.
Two of seven siblings, they had enjoyed a prosperous middle-class upbringing in the Kohte Sanghi neighborhood of Kabul.
Zaker’s father, Gholam Ghaws Anwari, worked for the Ministry of Telecommunications and the family supplemented their already good income with income from an electronics store owned by the older brother, Zekaria, who had failed his university studies when the Taliban last reigned between 1996-2001.
HORROR: Zaki fell from a cargo plane
Zaker was studying political science at the private university in Rana. He had already secured an undergraduate place at a Turkish university, but was unable to attend due to the pandemic. Her older sister was studying at Kabul University and her other sister was studying theology at a seminary.
Nasser, the second son, finished high school in 2004 and worked in the Gulf.
As the only sibling with a passport, it was Nasser who was encouraged to attempt to legally board a flight on that fateful day of August 16, the Taliban’s second day in power.
“It was 10 a.m. when Zekaria returned home to pick up Nasser. He told her: “Take your papers and your passport. We’re going to the airport.”
“Zaki was sitting next to me, studying math for an exam. Although he hoped football would be his future, he also wanted to study abroad.
“Suddenly he stood up and said he had to go too, because the airport was very busy and they would need someone to take care of the car. The mood was light, they were laughing everyone, as if it was all a joke. They I left and stayed at home.
At 11:45 a.m., Zaker received a phone call from his brother.
“He told me he was inside the airport,” Zaker said. “He told me: ‘It’s a chance, I want to go’.
“I got angry with him and said: ‘How do you want to go out without an ID card and a passport when you have nothing?’ He simply said, ‘Pray’ and hung up.”
Zaki then called his mother, telling her not to worry when she asked him the same questions, and asking her to pray for him.
Less than half an hour later, Zaki’s mother received a call from her phone. His sister answered it. But instead of hearing Zaki’s voice, a stranger told him to come to Fardgah with an ambulance and collect his body.
It was Zaker who went there.
“After much searching, I found him at Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan Hospital,” he said.
“There are too many stories from that day that cannot be told. What I saw and how badly I was tortured by the Taliban, to the point that even my clothes were covered in blood. The state children whose parents had disappeared was so bad that I still have nightmares about those days.
“I was first shown a photo and then I later identified his body at the hospital.
“I recognized him by his hair. His face was completely gone, meaning it was flattened and covered in blood, making him unrecognizable. It was a very bad day. I couldn’t bear what I saw and I passed out. I still have nightmares about that day. »
He added: “We need the support of the world; support from caring people and people who value human beings and humanity.
“We need a business or charity to get us out of here. We have so much to offer.
“At any moment it is possible that the Taliban will reach us and destroy us. Without anyone knowing. And even thinking about that day and imagining that day is very difficult and that fear is always with me.”