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.
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 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 at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
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.
Dr. Payab and his family currently reside in Philadelphia where he works at Drexel University’s Sustainable Water Resource Engineering Lab. His wife, Hosay, recently gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Eliyeen. Their eldest son, Muqeet, started elementary school back in January of this year. All of his children are already speaking English and adapting well to their new lives in America. Dr. Payab, his wife, and their four children are currently sharing an apartment with his mother, Najeeba, and his brother. The family still tries to maintain ties to their roots, attending a mosque within walking distance to their apartment and staying in touch with family and friends back in Afghanistan.