Wais Aria has done this walk outside his Alexandria, Virginia home many times.
But these days the stroll has never been more comforting.
“I feel safe. More relaxed,” Aria said.
What You Need To Know
Aria and his family immigrated to the United States three years ago
They were visiting family in Afghanistan this summer when the Taliban seized Kabul
Aria said his frightened young daughter fainted, and he was beaten by the Taliban when they tried to evacuate
Two weeks ago Aria was halfway across the world on a vacation in his native Afghanistan when the country suddenly descended into chaos.
“It was a disaster,” Aria said.
He and his family immigrated to the United States three years ago. A medical doctor, Aria said he was threatened for running a nonprofit organization helping children and women in Afghanistan.
Aria, his wife and four children returned to visit family earlier this summer. At the time, the situation in Afghanistan was stable.
But it’s a trip he now regrets.
“We never thought that they would capture Kabul in presence of U.S. soldiers,” Aria said.
After the Taliban unexpectedly seized control of the Afghan capital in early August, Aria and his family tried to evacuate. But there were large crowds of Afghans outside the airport clamoring to leave and Taliban fighters blocking them.
“When I ask him ‘listen sir, I have document. I received a call,’ he said ‘no, it’s impossible,’” Aria said.
Aria said his frightened young daughter fainted, and he was beaten.
“They beat me with a gun, they beat me with rope … still I have signs of beating on my shoulder,” Aria said.
After repeated visits to the airport they eventually got in and made it onto a plane, just days before the last U.S. troops left.
But he still did not feel safe.
Aria said he believes no one actually checked the identities of the people who boarded the jet. He was afraid the members of the Taliban or some other insurgent group were on board.
Although Aria and his family are back in the U.S., they are not yet at ease.
“One of my daughters has nightmares,” Aria said.
His parents and his co-workers were not able to evacuate with him, and he fears the country he tried to help will be forgotten by the world.
Still, he hopes to build a new life here. He holds a green card and is working to become a U.S. citizen.
“Now I have a home in the U.S., and it would be good if I forgot for a moment that I have a second home,” Aria said.