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'Who Will Feel My Pain?' Parents Of Young Afghan Man Who Fell From U.S. Plane Tormented By Tragic Death


Fida Mohammad Amir was killed on August 16, 2021, when he fell from a U.S. C-17 as it took off from Kabul airport.

Payenda Mohammad Ibrahimkhel will never forget the day his eldest son died.

It was August 16, 2021, a tense day for more than 5 million residents of Kabul because the Taliban had seized the teeming Afghan capital the previous day. But the lack of violence during the Taliban's capture of the city encouraged some residents to venture out of their homes.

Ibrahimkhel's son, Fida Mohammad Amir, a young dentist, left for his private practice in a bustling Kabul neighborhood after breakfast.

The family began to suspect something was wrong when he failed to call his wife around 10 a.m., the time he used to call every day to assure the family he had reached his clinic safely.

Ibrahimkhel said he received a call from a stranger that afternoon, and the caller quickly asked him if Amir was his son.

"Your son has fallen from an airplane," he recalled the caller telling him after he confirmed that Amir was his son. The caller asked him to rush to a Kabul neighborhood to collect his son's corpse.

He had great hope for his 26-year-old son and had invested everything he had into his education and marriage. He said Amir had not talked about leaving Afghanistan, but the $13,000 he had borrowed for Amir’s wedding a year ago weighed heavily on his son’s mind.

Ibrahimkhel said he constantly thinks about why the U.S. military pilot and ground traffic control didn't do more to save the lives of his son and two others, all of whom fell to their deaths from a C-17 Globemaster military transport plane. Washington and its allies used such giant aircraft to evacuate more than 100,000 Afghans in the chaotic two weeks after the pro-Western government in Kabul collapsed on August 15.

Hundreds of people run alongside a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane as it moves down a runway of the international airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021.
Hundreds of people run alongside a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane as it moves down a runway of the international airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021.

“Why didn’t they stop the takeoff to keep everyone safe,” he told RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi. “International forces were firmly in control of the Kabul airport, while the Taliban fighters secured its perimeters from outside.”

Shajan, Amir's grieving mother, who goes by one name only, said her son's tragic death has shattered her life. She told Radio Azadi that Amir became the family's sole breadwinner soon after he became a dentist two years ago.

Shajan said her eldest son was looking after his wife, four younger brothers, and five sisters from the meager profits his clinic was earning.

The United States used giant C-17s to evacuate more than 100,000 Afghans in the chaotic two weeks after the pro-Western government in Kabul collapsed on August 15.
The United States used giant C-17s to evacuate more than 100,000 Afghans in the chaotic two weeks after the pro-Western government in Kabul collapsed on August 15.

"He could see that we were buried in debt and our financial situation was worsening by the day," she said, speculating on why her son made the desperate move to flee Afghanistan by clinging to a military plane.

"This happened because Afghanistan again met another tragedy," she said. "We were facing imminent destitution. Otherwise, why will a doctor be so desperate [to get out]?" she asked, implying Amir had sensed the economic doom following the return of the Taliban to power.

The chaotic exodus from Kabul that began on August 16 also resulted in the young Safiullah Hotak falling next to Amir on the concrete roof of a house near the airport. And Zaki Anwari, 17, a member of Afghanistan's national youth soccer team, also died while holding onto an area above the planes' wheels. Media reports said his remains were found in the plane’s wheel well when it landed at Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar several hours later.

The $13,000 Amir's father had borrowed for his wedding in 2020 had weighed heavily on his son’s mind.
The $13,000 Amir's father had borrowed for his wedding in 2020 had weighed heavily on his son’s mind.

The traumatic deaths led U.S. officials to offer psychological counseling to its air-traffic controllers in Kabul and the crew of the C-17.

"Faced with a rapidly deteriorating security situation around the aircraft, the C-17 crew decided to depart the airfield as quickly as possible," Ann Stefanek, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Air Force, said after the tragedy turned into a top global headline.

She said the plane was loaded with cargo, but instead of offloading it, the crew decided to fly away when it was surrounded by hundreds of Afghan civilians who had rushed to the runway in chaos.

Amir, Hokat, and Anwari were not the only ones to die during those chaotic days.

On August 26, a suicide bomber killed more than 173 people, including 13 U.S. soldiers. The ultra-radical Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) claimed responsibility for the attack. A U.S. investigation established that a lone bomber was responsible for the attack.

In Kabul, there is no consolation for Amir’s parents in the details of what happened to their son. Shajan said they have lost everything with his death.

Shajan, Amir's mother, said he was looking after his wife, four younger brothers, and five sisters from the meager profits his clinic was earning.
Shajan, Amir's mother, said he was looking after his wife, four younger brothers, and five sisters from the meager profits his clinic was earning.

"Who will feel my pain?" she asked. "All my other children are young and we had pinned all our hopes on Amir."

When Amir was in seventh grade, his family moved to Kabul to ensure he could get a better education. Shajan said neither the Taliban or the U.S. government has done anything to compensate them.

"When media outlets come to get our story, we feel that they are rubbing salt into our wounds," she said.

“No one ever apologized or tried to comfort us,” Ibrahimkhel added.

Ibrahimkhel said his son had grand ambitions for his future and wanted to pursue higher education in the dentistry field. "He was bright and wanted to get ahead in life," he said.

For Shajan, there is no end to her grief: "Each day I feel like his corpse has just left the house for burial."

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