Dr. Payab’s story

Dr. Payab was at work the Sunday that the Taliban took Kabul for a second time. He told his colleagues to go home and destroy any sensitive documents. What was normally a five-minute drive home took Dr. Payab one hour as he navigated the crowded and chaotic streets, passing people robbing drivers at gunpoint. With no government to enforce law and order, anarchy ensued.

The Taliban had a list of names of people to target, and Dr. Payab knew that he and his family were in danger because of their ties to the US.

Dr. Payab earned his BA in engineering and spent three months studying in Canada before completing his PhD in water resources. He later served as advisor to the ministry of agriculture and joined USAID’s irrigation management project as the deputy chief. Throughout his career, Dr. Payab was offered a number of influential positions and even had the chance to live in Canada, where there would be better opportunities. But he turned them all down with the goal of staying in Afghanistan to serve his country.

“Our country needed us. Since 2001 things [had] changed and we didn’t want to go back to the suffering we experienced 11-12 years before. We wanted to go forward,” Dr. Payab said.

Dr. Payab shows Spirit of America CEO, Jim Hake, and Europe Regional Director, Colleen Denny, pictures of the fall of Kabul and the conditions inside the airport.

While constantly moving his family from place to place for safety, he got word that the Taliban raided his and his sister’s houses. He decided not to risk walking up to the airport gates figuring that, “instead of dying there [airport] it’s better to die here [home].”

Eventually, Dr. Payab and his family joined a convoy of buses headed to the airport. Once inside, they faced the same bleak scene described by so many other evacuees. Stress, fear, hunger, and sleep deprivation pushed Dr. Payab’s brother to a breaking point; he suffered from a panic attack that left him weak. Dr. Payab’s daughter, Rahwa, who has a congenital heart defect, fell asleep sitting upright among piles of trash. They would have to chance the health risks of flying in her condition.

It was difficult for them to leave everything behind: their home, the memories, all of their belongings. Dr. Payab had worked hard to save money and give his family a good life. Now they were starting over with nothing.

Dr. Payab’s daughter, Rahwa, sleeps sitting upright among piles of trash in the Kabul airport. Rahwa has a rare congenital heart defect.

Dr. Payab and his son wait in the long line at a biometric checkpoint before boarding a plane headed to Albania.

Dr. Payab and his family were evacuated to Albania where they joined a group of 121 evacuees supported by Spirit of America. Our organization provided room and board and material aid, as well as meeting other major needs such as healthcare and education for the group of Afghan evacuees while they awaited resettlement to the US.

When we learned that Rahwa had a rare congenital heart defect, we knew we had to do everything we could to save her life. Rahwa and her family landed in the United States on October 28 so that she could receive treatment from a top children’s hospital.

Despite all that he has endured, Dr. Payab stays busy and hopeful. He recently wrote an article on the Taliban’s lack of attention to climate change and environmental issues. He hopes that his work will encourage others to press the Taliban to change their position on the environment.

Rahwa is now receiving medical care at a top children’s hospital in the United States.

Rachael Mohr joined Spirit of America in August 2017 as a Program Assistant, working in support of the regionally aligned field team. Currently, she serves as the Digital Content Manager. Prior to working at Spirit of America, Rachael studied at Villanova University where she graduated cum laude with a double major in political science and history. Recently, Rachael completed a certification course in digital media marketing through Cornell University and earned a Digital Marketing Professional Certification through the Digital Marketing Institute.
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3033 Wilson Blvd.
Suite 700
Arlington, VA 22201

Follow Us

No endorsement of Spirit of America by the US Department of Defense, Department of State, or US personnel is intended or implied.

Registered 501(c)(3). EIN: 20-1687786

“You don't have to wear a uniform to serve the nation.™” and “Patriotism without politics.™” are trademarked by Spirit of America.

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