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Afghan Diaspora Protest In D.C. As Afghanistan Falls To Taliban

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

As today's events unfolded in Kabul, members of the Afghan diaspora and their supporters were gathering in several U.S. cities, including here in Washington, D.C. Right now, there is a crowd in Lafayette Park. That is just across the street from the White House. And NPR's Kat Lonsdorf is there. Hey, Kat.

KAT LONSDORF, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.

KELLY: All right. Just describe the scene. What can you see? What kind of a crowd has come out?

LONSDORF: Yeah. There are a couple hundred people out here right now, but I'm told more are coming down in buses from New York City to gather well into the evening. And I don't know if you can hear behind me, but they're chanting things like free Afghanistan and save Afghanistan. They're waving Afghan flags and holding signs that say things like America betrayed Afghans, and demanding that America open its borders to Afghans now. But I'll also say, as much as this is a demonstration or protest, it also seems like a gathering place for people to process and share their emotions. You know, people are telling me that this all just happened so fast for them. And it's helpful to have a community gather here to talk about it to feel like they're doing something.

KELLY: Oh, I can imagine, just the communal venting. And, yes, we can hear some of it behind you. How are they - aside from the speed, which has taken a lot of folks by surprise, how are they just getting their arms around what we watched today, the apparent fall of Kabul?

LONSDORF: I mean, I think people are just overwhelmed. I've seen several people here crying. There's just so much worry about family members who are back in the country and in Kabul. Nearly every person I've talked to says that they have someone in the country that they're in contact with. And people are especially worried about their aunts, their female cousins, the kids who are stuck there. I talked to one young man named Enayatullah Ahmadi (ph). He's 23. He came to the U.S. from Kabul in 2017. His dad was a translator for the U.S. military. And they came here on one of the SIV visas. But some of his family just went back to Afghanistan just for a visit two or three months ago, not thinking that the country could possibly fall this quickly. And now they're stuck there.

ENAYATULLAH AHMADI: We don't know what's going to be happen to our families. So I didn't eat since two days. I just drink the water. That's it.

LONSDORF: He says he's been talking to his mom constantly. She's back in Kabul. And she tells him that the Taliban are just a few kilometers away from where she is.

AHMADI: I told them to hide your green cards, your passport somewhere, because if they find that you guys have a U.S. green card, they're going to kill you guys. They're going to kill you guys for sure.

LONSDORF: He just seems so, so worried.

KELLY: Wow. That's a terrifying situation to be. Are you also, Kat, hearing anger? Are people there mad?

LONSDORF: Yeah. Yeah. There's definitely anger here, too. I mean, many people are mad at Pakistan, who they say is supporting the Taliban. But also, maybe obviously, there's a lot of anger at the U.S., too. People feel like the last 20 years of war was for nothing. One woman I talked to named Shaima Pople (ph), she came from Afghanistan 40 years ago.

SHAIMA POPLE: They gave Afghanistan in a gift box to them. They could have done it 20 years ago without all this war. They bombarded villages with cluster bombs. They dropped mothers (ph) of bomb on Afghanistan for this? I have a lot of questions.

LONSDORF: And that's something a lot of people here are saying. They need answers about what's happening and what happened. And they need action so that their families can be safe.

KELLY: Thank you, Kat, for your reporting.

LONSDORF: Thanks so much.

KELLY: That is NPR's Kat Lonsdorf reporting from this gathering tonight on Lafayette Park across from the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.