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Say Goodbye, Start Again

Updated: Feb 22, 2022

Leaving Afghanistan and starting a new life in the United States

by Haniya Tavasoli

On August 31, 2021, the Taliban took control of Kabul's international airport, and the frantic days and nights where Afghans desperately tried to flee by air came to a halt. On August 30, 18 year-old Ascend alum Haniya Tavasoli and her family boarded a bus that would take them to the north of the country to attempt an evacuation from Mazar-i Sharif. They would remain there for 34 days, along with hundreds of others, waiting and hoping for a miracle.

The now-infamous charter flights from Mazar were scheduled to depart the day after Haniya's arrival. As the Taliban scrambled to control the airport, flights were grounded. Negotiations wore on day after day. The Afghans waiting and hoping for an escape spent their days and nights in crowded wedding halls, sleeping on the floor, terrified when the Taliban came through looking for certain people. Some of them gave up hope and went back home to Kabul. Most stuck it out, determined to cling to this once-in-a-lifetime chance for a new start in a peaceful country.

This is Haniya's story.

Haniya's story

In the name of Allah.


It was the 7th of February. I woke up and realized it was my birthday!!! Except the date, which has not changed, nothing else is where it should be. I started to revisit all the past months, and that one day, the 15th of August.

Back in Kabul everything was getting better. I won an award for best writing, I got a medal for ice climbing, we won the school football cup for the fourth year and I passed the Kankor exam.

Out of the blue, it was the 15th of August. I remember that day all too well. Taliban are here in Kabul? It was like a joke. How could it be possible? Within thirty minutes all was chaos. Gun shots and screams, hiding and running, staying or leaving.

AND YES WE LEFT OUR HOMES. There is too much pain in this sentence. It is like we left our souls behind us. Months passed and here we are, refugees.

In between all this trauma one thing got me back on my feet and that is climbing. A few days ago, thanks to Ascend, I went to a gym and climbed again after many months. I can say it was the best day I had in a very long time.

After all I am here, thanks to each and everyone who helped us to be here, to be safe. There is a chance for a new life and I do my best to deserve it.

Thank You

Climbing again! In Minnesota after 6 months in camps, Haniya and her sister got on the wall.

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