HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE – In the town square recreation area in the village of Aman Omid on Holloman Air Force Base, children and parents play in the cool morning weather in early November.
Near the outdoor recreation area is the Women’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation Center, where girls and women dance the Attan, the Afghan national dance. Nearby, other women crochet and watch over children who picture themselves and are entertained by a Bollywood movie.
The refugees – Task Force Holloman calls them guests – live in the tent city on the base, which months ago was a desert full of bushes. It was out of this desert that grassroots staff and the refugees themselves founded the village of Aman Omid – a name given by the village’s governor, Colonel Curtis Velasquez, which expresses what every person there is looking for: peace and hope.
Velasquez said the village was “Ellis Island of This Generation,” the New York Harbor immigration control post that was active between 1892 and 1954. The residents of the village of Aman Omid do not leave the village until they are ready to fly to their resettlement site.
As of August 31, Holloman Air Force Base has hosted a moving average of approximately 4,500 Afghans. The number changes due to the nature of the relocation process.
The team of Americans working with the Afghan refugees on the ground is a cross-departmental group known as Task Force-Holloman, made up of the military, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of State, and the Department of Defense.
“The joint efforts of the DHS, the State Department and [Department of Defense] focus on one simple goal and that is the successful relocation of every single Afghan guest we have under our care, ”said Matt McKeehan, Department of Homeland Security. McKeehan is the federal coordinator for Operation Allies Welcome at Holloman Air Force Base.
McKeehan said resettlement begins with the processing, reception, nutrition, safety, cultural orientation, training and education of every person in the village.
Adults and children are taught in English and take cultural orientation courses. You will learn about daylight saving time and the history of Thanksgiving Day, concepts that are commonplace to Americans. If you are hungry, you have access to two canteens that serve halal food and drinks. Children will receive toys donated by Toys for Tots – a choice of child-sized guitars and Minnie Mouse plush dolls.
“A Bad Nightmare”: Bibi’s Story
To protect the Afghan refugees who are at Holloman Air Force Base, they are neither photographed nor fully identified. This also includes the employee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bibi.
Bibi shared her experiences during the fall of Kabul, her trip to the Holloman Air Force Base and her plans once she and her family – those who escaped from Afghanistan – settle down.
“It was a really bad experience,” said Bibi. “It was very urgent. We were overcrowded and the Taliban surrounded us. “
The Taliban shot at Bibi and her family, although they asked why they wanted to go to the airport, Bibi said.
After four days, Bibi and her family arrived at the airport but were separated from their father, uncle and cousin, who are still in Afghanistan, Bibi said.
“The Taliban beat us. They hit my mother, my aunt and my brother with a gun and with such a large stick in the right shoulder, “said Bibi and made the approximate width of the stick with her hands.
Bibi said she and her family had been attacked and were then told that there were no planes available to take them to the US and that they should leave the airport. A second violent encounter with the Taliban was followed by a three-hour wait for Bibi, her mother, aunt and brother, who then managed to enter Kabul airport, Bibi said.
“It was like a bad nightmare,” said Bibi. “This was the first time I saw the Taliban.”
It wasn’t Bibi’s mother’s first experience with the Taliban.
“About 20 years ago the Taliban did the same thing to the women again, now they are beating the women,” said Bibi. “(The Taliban beat) children, even the men who had hairstyles or wore pants, not like Peraahan-Tonbaan what Afghani wears. You beat my brother for wearing a locket. “
When Bibi, her mother, aunt and brother were at the airport in Kabul, they were met by nice US soldiers, Bibi said.
“They told us, ‘You will be fine, you are our citizens now. You will become an American. We protect you from the Taliban. You’re good, ‘”said Bibi. “Now I’m just worried about my father [my uncle and one of my cousins] because we broke up. “
Bibi and her family were brought from Kabul to Qatar, where they stayed for 14 days before leaving for Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.
Bibi said the Qatar experience was nice.
The trip to Aman Omid Village had another hardship when Bibi and her family were at Ramstein Air Base, she said. Her mother was attacked by an Afghan in the Ramstein Air Base refugee camp, she claimed. Her mother brushed her hair and had taken off her headscarf before the attack.
The family stayed in Germany for two months before being transferred to Holloman Air Force Base.
“I’m very happy here,” said Bibi. “Maybe we have a great future here. I’m happy.”
Bibi hopes to get her pilot’s license one day.
“A shocking incident”
Rohafza Sajid and Yunus Sajid have two young children in the village of Amad Omid.
“It was a shocking incident that happened two months or more before in Afghanistan and nobody expected it,” said Yunus. “But it happened and we were in an unwanted situation.”
The US government helped the Sajid family, said Yunus.
However, the process of leaving Afghanistan is fraught with hardships, especially when going through the Taliban checkpoints, said Yunus.
“It was terrible (when entering Kabul airport) and we will always remember it,” said Yunus. “We finally made it and came to Ramstein (Air Base) in Germany and spent more than a month there. So we jumped over and entered the USA and finally to our last stop here at Holloman Air Base. “
Holloman Air Force Base is the last stop before resettlement for the remaining Afghan refugees.
Aman Omid Village is still a tent city for all its amenities.
“It’s a temporary place, so [it has] Basics of life, ”said Rohafza. “We hope to achieve our ultimate goal; our own house, our own rooms. We appreciate all the facilities they offer. We don’t have that many expectations … it’s better than some other places we’ve heard from our friends. “
The situation is a new experience, also for the youth, said Yunus.
”[The U.S. government] try their best to provide what is necessary or necessary, but of course it is not desirable, ”said Yunus. “We hope that we can get out of this situation. That is not a permanent condition. “
Contact the distributor of this article, Alamogordo Daily News, for copyright information.