SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — As the world anxiously watches Afghanistan fall to the Taliban, many living in the Bay Area with family and relatives overseas worry about what the future of the war-ridden country will look like.

“On Sunday when I woke up to the news that Kabul had fallen to the Taliban, it was devastating, it was emotional,” said San Jose State Journalism lecturer Halima Kazem-Stojanovic, who was part of the first large wave of refugees that came to the states from Kabul in 1980 as a child when the country was taken over by the Soviet Union. 

“And so as each city fell and was taken over I would hear from people,” said Kazem-Stojanovic. 

“So on Sunday when Kabul was taken, that was a blow, that was devastating, all hope was lost at that point.”

What’s at stake?

All this is unfolding just weeks before U.S. troops were set to withdraw from the country after a costly two-decade war.

Afghans worry how the country will look like in the coming days and weeks. 

“What’s at stake … is first and foremost is the lives of millions of Afghans there,” said Kazem-Stojanovic.

“They are humans, they are vulnerable, we have a tendency in the west to make people from other places seem disposable,” Kazem-Stojanovic added. 

“And they’re not.”

Women’s Rights

Kazem-Stojanovic tells KRON4 News there is growing concern over how the country will change under Taliban control. 

Taliban leaders reassured world leaders they vowed to respect women’s rights, forgive those who fought against them and ensure Afghanistan does not become a hotspot for terrorists. 

“But that’s all lip service. We’ll see what the daily effects of this kind of fear and operating in this kind of fear will do,” said Kazem-Stojanovic. 

“They will stop going to school, they will stop going to work because it will be too hard to do that.”

Press Freedom

In a press conference Tuesday — the Taliban’s spokesman, Zabihhullah Mujahid, reassured journalists that the group is committed to protecting the rights of media workers. 

Kazem-Stojanovic says she has been helping former colleagues and friends who are still in Afghanistan apply for visas as the situation in Afghanistan intensifies.

The human cost of a 20-year war 

Since U.S. troops first stepped foot in Afghanistan and Iraq — thousands of lives have been lost. 

Here are some of the numbers of human lives lost to the war, according to the Associated Press:

  • 2,448 American service members killed in Afghanistan.
  • 3,846 U.S. contractors.
  • 66,000 Afghan national military and police. 
  • 47,2745 Afghan civilians. 

“All the U.S. troops that have lost lives, that have given their service, all of their efforts will go to waste if we can’t continue the support and the progress,” said Kazem-Stojanovic. 

How to help

Family and friends back in the Bay Area feel stuck, as they can only watch and help from afar. 

It’s important to recognize that we have connections here and there is so much people can do,” said Kazem-Stojanovic. 

Kazem-Stojanovic says for those who want to help, they can call their state and local elected officials and ask that they allocate resources into processing visas for Afghans who are fleeing.

In addition, people can call elected officials to create a “Humanitarian Corridor”, aimed to assist Afghans who want to leave the country.  

“That means flights in and out of Kabul airport, security at Kabul airport, evacuation instructions and cooperating with local officials to allow people to safely get to the airport,” said Kazem-Stojanovic. 

“This is just the first step.”

If you would like to help — the International Rescue Committee’s Northern California and San Jose State’s Department of Justice Studies have both set up a fund to assist Afghan refugee families.