Two weeks after fleeing Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and after complicated negotiations with government officials from several nations, a group of Afghans who worked for the New York Times reached the United States with their families.
The 124 people, including reporters, drivers, cooks, interpreters and more than 60 children, arrived at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport Tuesday after taking a Times-paid charter flight from Mexico City. They were accompanied on the flight by a team from the Times and at the airport by representatives of the Catholic Charities Relocation program.
By Thursday, all but one of the 124 people had been released by US Customs and Border Protection officials to leave the airport. Farooq Jan Mangal, an Afghan journalist who had worked as a full-time stringer for the Times in eastern Afghanistan in Khost, remained in progress.
“We hope the border guards will quickly resolve any issues that have delayed processing of a remaining Times journalist, Farooq Jan Mangal,” said in a statement.
The 123 Afghans who were allowed to enter are to be accommodated in furnished apartments with the help of Catholic charities as soon as the members of the group are entitled to work. There are a total of 26 families, according to The Times.
9/2/2021, 4:54 p.m. ET
“It is hard to overestimate my admiration for the courage and perseverance these colleagues and their families have shown on this difficult path,” Sulzberger said in a statement to the Times staff on Thursday. “Every step of the way, they were supported by caring, tireless and sometimes genuinely heroic colleagues from across the company who worked 24/7, moving mountains to keep this group safe and continuing to do so for others ahead Place are. ”
The Afghans were evacuated from Kabul on August 19, with the assistance of the Qatar government, which arranged the passage to Doha. From there, Mexican officials helped facilitate travel to Mexico City, where the group had stayed since last Wednesday while they waited for the Times to set up relocation services in Houston.
Understanding the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan
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Who are the Taliban? The Taliban emerged in 1994 amid the unrest following the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989. They used brutal public punishments, including flogging, amputation and mass executions, to enforce their rules. Here is more about their genesis and track record as rulers.
Who are the Taliban leaders? These are the top leaders of the Taliban, men who for years have been on the run, in hiding, in prison and dodging American drones. Little is known about them or how they plan to rule, including whether they will be as tolerant as they say they are. A spokesman told the Times that the group wanted to forget their past but had some restrictions.
People lived in company apartments in Mexico City, where they took medical exams and Covid-19 tests, and were offered trauma counseling. Colleagues from The Times helped them with clothes, diapers, and even Kandahar raisins and other dried goodies bought at an Afghan market in Washington.
Sulzberger said in a statement that he was grateful for the support of the American government in handling the group’s entry into the country quickly and also thanked the Qatari and Mexican governments for their help in the rescue. The Times supports the group, which is entering the US on a humanitarian probation program, on immigration issues. Some Afghans who worked for the Times are staying in transit, Sulzberger said in a statement.
“We are doing everything we can to get other former colleagues on the ground to safety and we will continue to urge the international community to protect the many braver Afghan journalists who are still in danger,” he said.
Most journalists working for international news organizations have left Afghanistan in the past few weeks as the Taliban swept through the country and recaptured cities at breakneck speed, but many Afghan citizens who worked with the media have stayed there. The Taliban have officially pledged to protect the news media, but they harassed and beaten journalists who work for an Afghan television station, according to a recent report by Reporters Without Borders.