SAN RAFAEL (CBS SF) — The Zia family was safe back on American soil Sunday morning, but their thoughts were still focused on family members, friends and colleagues who remained back in Afghanistan under Taliban rule.
It was a night of celebration as they returned to a homecoming in San Rafael after arriving on a flight hours earlier at San Francisco International Airport.READ MORE: FBI Gang Enforcement Operations Lead to Charges in 2 Attempted Homicides in East Bay
“At least now I’m a little bit relaxed,” said Ahmad Seyar Zia.
What was supposed to be a routine trip from Afghanistan back to California in mid-August for the family of four turned into a nightmare as the Taliban took over the country.
Seyar, as he prefers to be called, his wife and son are green card holders and they’ve been living in Sacramento since 2018. Their daughter is a U.S. citizen having been born here in the states.
They originally flew to Afghanistan in March because Seyar’s father passed away from COVID-19.
They did not anticipate the chaos that ensued once the Taliban seized power.READ MORE: Conservatives to QAnon: Facebook Researchers Saw How Its Algorithms Led to Misinformation
Seyar described one of several attempts he made to escape at the airport in Kabul. He says he was brutally beaten and turned away.
“He (a Taliban) started beating me and calling me ‘son of a green card’ in his native language,” Zia recalled of one attack on him. “So without saying anything, without hearing from me and I was able to walk, and he was coming after me and continuously beating me.”
With the help of the State Department, he was finally successful in getting his family out of the strife torn country.
“In telling Seyar’s story, it’s a story of hope,” said Founder & CEO of Roots of Peace Heidi Kuhn. “This gentlemen took 9 times, and risked his life, viciously attacked on two occasions at the airport, and yet he kept going back. He kept going back with the hope of getting here to California.”
The humanitarian non-profit Roots Of Peace helped facilitate the family’s safe passage. Seyar works at the organization, which employs hundreds of Afghan farmers. Now, they’re focused on getting their most vulnerable workers out of the country.MORE NEWS: Police Surround San Jose Home in Armed Standoff with Resident
“We hope that today with the evacuation of this one family led by an American baby…We hope and pray that that opens up the window for the additional 76 most at-risk people, primarily women, who have put their reputations and their lives on the line,” added Kuhn.