Afghanistan, chaos at Kabul's airport

Turkish nationals evacuated from Afghanistan speak of chaos in Kabul

Turks evacuated from Afghanistan tell stories of despair at Kabul airport. “We have seen very sad things,” they say.

Turkish citizens evacuated from Afghanistan have been able to speak to the media upon their arrival in Istanbul and relate the chaos and scenes of panic they experienced at the Kabul airport, where hundreds of Afghans have been desperately trying since Sunday to catch a plane to escape the country, after the withdrawal of US troops and the collapse of the Afghan government, which has allowed the Taliban to take over the entire country in just 10 days.

Doğan Özlük, a professor who had travelled to Afghanistan to visit Kabul University, was one of the 324 Turkish citizens who arrived yesterday afternoon in Istanbul aboard a Boeing 777-300 ER of the Turkish Airlines company, chartered by the Turkish Foreign Ministry. Özlük explains that the Turkish embassy contacted him as the Taliban approached Kabul, and they transferred him to a safe area on Sunday.

Özlük confirms that there were several disturbances at the airport, and that some Afghans tried to break through the security wall of the place, holding a sit-in protest on the landing and take-off runways of the airport. “There was a delay of several hours, we saw them (from the plane). There were no protests near our plane, we saw them in the distance”, explains the professor, who adds that the centre of Kabul remained practically calm except in the banks, where many Afghans crowded to withdraw money.

Musa Mutlu, a construction worker also evacuated, said for his part that the Turkish Airlines plane that brought them to Turkey was forced to return to the airport apron when it was about to take the runway for take off, due to the riots that broke out at the Kabul airport. Mutlu adds that Afghans did not approach the plane, and that Turkish soldiers stationed around the plane took steps to ensure that the plane could take off safely.

“We have seen very sad things… Afghans threw themselves in front of planes to flee”

Cem Ayşen, an engineer by profession who usually lived in Afghanistan, tells how the entry of the Taliban into the capital changed everything. “Soldiers started coming out from everywhere. We heard shots. Then our company contacted Turkish Airlines. Planes began to arrive for evacuation. We got on at dawn, but we waited three hours on the plane because there were Afghans on the runway who wanted to flee”, he explains.

Ayşen recalls that due to all the chaos at the airport, the plane could not take off and only when the Turkish troops – who control the Kabul airport together with the United States – cleared the runway, the plane was finally able to take the runway and leave towards Istanbul. “There was a US cargo plane that took off before us. We saw some people fall from it… It was something we could not believe”, says Ayşen, who assures that the situation they saw was terrible from a humanitarian point of view.

Şenol Çelik, an official who worked at the Turkish embassy in Kabul, was another of the Turkish nationals evacuated from Afghanistan who arrived in Istanbul on Monday, and who speaks of the chaos at the Kabul airport, where he says the plane waited almost four hours because there were Afghans on the runways who wanted to get on a plane and flee. “We are sorry for the people there. They threw themselves in front of the planes (to escape from Kabul). We have seen very sad things”, he concludes.