Stranded at Tajik sanatorium, pregnant Afghan pilot fears for unborn child


WASHINGTON, Oct 6 (Reuters) – She did not overlook the prenatal nutritional vitamins – that was one of many few issues this U.S.-trained Afghan pilot might seize from her Kabul airport workplace earlier than she left the nation aboard an Air Force airplane through the Taliban takeover.

But after fleeing for her life and that of her unborn baby in August, the 29-year-old says she will’t even get an ultrasound or go to a hospital.

Instead, she fears her son might quickly be born into an odd type of captivity in rural Tajikistan, alongside greater than 140 different Afghan army personnel, nearly all of them males, who flew throughout Afghanistan’s northern border collectively and are actually being held at a sanatorium within the mountains.

“I am really, really worried about my baby,” mentioned the Air Force captain, whose state of affairs was first reported by Reuters in September, in her first feedback to a reporter.

She was talking on a cellphone saved hidden from guards, after Tajik authorities took the Afghans’ identification paperwork and telephones away. She requested to stay nameless over fears for her household in Afghanistan.

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Despite her mid-November due date, Tajik authorities have dismissed her request to be moved nearer to a hospital that is an hour or extra away, she mentioned.

“They say: ‘No. When your delivery time comes we will take you to the hospital and bring you back here’,” she mentioned.

Her group has been detained in Tajikistan for practically two months, hoping the United States will finally fly them in a foreign country to be processed for refugee standing in America. But for causes that aren’t clear, that has not but occurred.

They say Tajik authorities hold telling them to attend.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin informed a congressional listening to final week he was involved concerning the pilots in Tajikistan and would work with the State Department to “see if we can move this forward.”

Republican Congressman Austin Scott, who raised the case of the pregnant pilot through the listening to, expressed frustration with the State Department’s dealing with of her case.

He mentioned the division informed his workplace the Tajik authorities was “very aware of the pregnant pilot’s condition” and that anybody needing emergency medical providers could be taken to an area medical facility.

“Aside from that, they have been zero help with any of this,” Scott informed Reuters.

The State Department mentioned that it was “coordinating with the government of Tajikistan” on the matter however declined to clarify the delay or why the pilots are being detained.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby mentioned the U.S. Defense and State departments have been working carefully collectively “as we pursue appropriate options for these pilots.”

“We believe we owe it to these brave individuals and their families to do what we can to help them relocate,” Kirby informed Reuters.

A U.S. official, talking on situation of anonymity, mentioned it was difficult to get entry to the Afghans on the sanatorium.

Tajikistan’s healthcare ministry declined to reply particular questions from Reuters concerning the state of affairs or the delay, however mentioned the sanatorium was staffed with medical employees.


U.S.-trained, English-speaking Afghan pilots have been among the many Taliban’s greatest targets through the struggle.

The Afghan air pressure personnel in Tajikistan are the final main group of such personnel overseas nonetheless believed to be in limbo after dozens of superior plane have been flown throughout the Afghan border to that nation and to Uzbekistan within the closing moments of the struggle.

Earlier in September, a U.S.-brokered deal allowed a bigger group of Afghan pilots and different army personnel to be flown out of Uzbekistan.

Luckily, the pregnant Afghan pilot’s husband – who labored on the U.S.-backed authorities in Kabul – evacuated along with her. But they really feel trapped.

She mentioned she feared medical personnel on the sanatorium, situated exterior the capital, Dushanbe, weren’t certified to cope with pregnancies.

“We are like prisoners here. Not even like refugees, not even like immigrants. We have no legal documents or way to buy something for ourselves,” she mentioned,

Reuters has realized that U.S. officers have began amassing biometric data to substantiate the identities of members of the group, in an indication that assist could possibly be on the way in which. An analogous effort in Uzbekistan preceded these pilots’ switch.

But folks near the pilots say the United States nonetheless hasn’t collected biometric knowledge on a few third of the group.

The pregnant pilot sounded relieved to report that a global group this week dropped off winter garments for the Afghans on the sanatorium, in addition to a number of provides for her child, together with heat garments.

But that additionally meant she was bracing for the thought of an extended keep in Tajikistan.

“They are providing clothes and lots of things, so it means we are going to stay here,” she mentioned, including in a defeated tone: “I don’t know about the future.”

Reporting by Phil Stewart;
Editing by Mary Milliken and Sonya Hepinstall

A pregnant U.S.-trained Afghan pilot, who is being held at a sanatorium and who asked that her face and name be concealed due to security concerns, poses for a photo in Tajikistan October 5, 2021. Picture taken October 5, 2021. Handout via REUTERS