ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - Four days, four planes, and help from a U.S. senator from Arkansas is what it took to get 29-year-old Englewood, Colorado, resident Haroon Zarify, his wife, and two daughters out of Kabul, Afghanistan.
“I am here today, safe because of the people who heard my voice and prayed for me and my family,” Zarify said.
One week ago, Zarify begged for help getting his family to safety while he was stuck in Kabul.
Zarify said shortly after he told his story on Denver7, U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, reached out to him via social media.
“Mr. Tom Cotton and another guy named Zack Willey who connected us … they worked together to get me out,” Zarify said. “I don’t want to go into detail on how, but without him it was not possible.”
Zarify said he first flew from Kabul to Qatar.
“From Qatar I got another plane to Bulgaria,” Zarify said. “Then we had to go to Ireland, we had to go there to get fuel. From there we went to Washington, D.C. The security (officers) in the airport, they were so welcoming, they were helping people a lot and everything was provided for the kids, they were so nice. I was so happy; my kids were so happy.”
Zarify said for weeks he worried about how the violence his children witnessed would impact them.
Last week while trying to leave Kabul, his 2-year-old and 4-year-old daughters saw Afghan forces shooting guns and throwing flash bangs into a crowd outside of the airport.
“My youngest one, she was scared when they were doing the shooting and firing right in front of her,” Zarify said. “She was asking, ‘What’s going on? Why are they shooting?’ She was holding her ears. I told her it was Christmas, it’s fireworks.”
For his 4-year-old daughter, the danger was even closer.
“The flash bangs, pretty much one touched her before it blew up. My brother slapped it away and it went to another lady. So, I saw the thing blow up on (the lady’s) neck and she was down and started bleeding. I think she died,” Zarify said.
Zarify’s father, siblings, and in-laws are still in Kabul. They return to the airport each day in hopes of leaving the country.
“I’m here physically, but emotionally and mentally I’m back in Afghanistan,” Zarify said.
Zarify said his father and father-in-law have all the paperwork they need to apply for a special immigrant visa, but the embassy is closed and there’s no one to process their applications.
“Certifications, appreciation letters, his badge … he has all of the paperwork,” Zarify said.
Zarify said his dad worked as a security guard for American soldiers in Kabul.
“My dad … he works for the Americans for almost 10 years,” said Zarify “When I was young he was the one who told me, ‘Son, you need go find a job to support America with their mission in Afghanistan.’ So that’s what I did. I learned English and I started being a translator for America, for the Marines and the Air Force.”
Zarify said now his family needs the American government’s support.
“They’re all targets now because they’ve been going behind that wall at the airport everyday with documents. So, the Taliban sees that,” said Zarify. “Please, now it’s time for America to help them, save their lives. They don’t want anything else from you just save their life.”
“Evacuation operations in Kabul will not be wrapping up in 36 hours,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said Thursday morning. “We will continue to evacuate as many people as we can until the end of the mission.”
For a list of ways to help people in Afghanistan, click here.