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Since November, I have spent most of my days sitting in various rooms just a short drive from my Maryland home with newly arrived Afghan families, those fortunate enough to have made it through the bloodied Kabul airport after the Taliban seized control of the country. Inside the rooms can feel like a world away from the highly trafficked suburb in which this safe haven sits, within walking distance of a small theater, a Metro station, and a showroom for kitchen remodeling.
I am part of a team of civilians working with the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants to assess how people are coping after leaping headfirst into a world of uncertainty, having left family and friends behind in a dissolving homeland. We are there to listen and support, to look for those thrown off balance in hopes that we can catch them before they fall. I find myself connecting most easily with the women. They share the reasons they ran—the fear of being tortured or killed for having been part of the national army, the threat of being married off to a Taliban fighter, or the terror of worsening religious persecution. As we coax them to exhale their anguish and center their thoughts on the new opportunities at their tired feet, I see hesitation. They are worried, as am I, about what will become of their classmates, their colleagues, the loved ones they have left behind.
These photographs, shot in October by Mehri Jamshidi after the United States left Kabul, capture those suspended fates.
In conversations with Mehri, the women she photographed likened Taliban-controlled Kabul to Barzakh. In the Qur’an, Barzakh is the isthmus between the corporeal and ephemeral worlds. It is the place where the incapacitated souls of the dead linger, divorced from their physical bodies. Barzakh is likened to the place where fresh and salt waters intermingle but do not become one. Resident souls persist in this uneasy space, neither heaven nor hell, cognizant of their sins but without a redemptive path to Paradise.
They are trapped,…