My first assignment with National Geographic] and perhaps the closest to my heart, was supposed to be "a love letter to troubled Afghanistan." Little I knew this will become a goodbye letter to Afghanistan, as I knew it.
I am at a loss for words. While I'm still trying to process how 20 years was wiped in 20 days, I'm borrowing Ayesha WB words, who spoke my mind in her recent facebook post:
"As I write this note, I continue to receive desperate messages from people in and outside Afghanistan, asking for details about which gate to head to. If I can look for their missing family members. The pain of not being able to help is immense. But contrary to what I initially feared - the pain is not paralyzing. It is the kind of pain that makes you want to move mountains. I may not be able to actually move any mountains, but I know I can move minds. And that is what I intend to do."
I know I can move minds and that is what I intend to do!
This project would have not come together without the help of my wonderful fixers. Under normal circumstances, I would have named them one by one but I have to protect their identities until they all make it out safely.
Thanks to James B Wellford who trusted me with the story, had my back at every step, guided me through 'foggy' days and held my hand as I cried my heart out on final days. Thanks to Jason Motlagh for being such a wonderful partner in crime, throughout reporting and afterwards.
"Afghanistan's Dangerous Divide" is online on #NationalGeographic website now and in print in September 2021 issue of the magazine.
A photographer gives an inside look at the fall of Kabul, her longtime home
Kiana Hayeri chronicles the Afghan city’s tension, her evacuation, and the guilt she feels for leaving people behind.