Doing the impossible: my journey from Afghanistan

Read about Samiullah Fatih’s inspiring escape from Afghanistan to the United States. His perseverance and bravery allowed him to survive encounters with the Taliban and successfully make the journey.


Photo courtesy of Samiullah Fatih ’25

My name is Samiullah Fatih. I came to the USA on October 12, 2021. I’m one of the people you heard about in the news who was attempting to jump the gate at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Once I was in the Kabul airport I waited two nights before I could get on an airplane. There were many problems such as waiting in long lines without food, water, or sleep. The weather was very hot and there were thousands of people.

I did not get over the gate on the first try. I tried six times to pass the gate. I went to the airport in the morning and stayed awake throughout the night. If I slept I knew I would die. No one believed I could get to the airport, and past the gates. Many people in my life were laughing at me and thought I was foolish.  No one believed that I would make it out of Afghanistan. No one believed that I would make it to the United States. Today I am writing this note in my ELD class at LMHS from my laptop given to me to help with my studies.

I remember those challenging days very clearly: I wasn’t able to pass through the gate and the Taliban sent me back home. Despite all of that hardship, I never let myself feel hopeless or think about quitting. I never stopped trying. I did not let them break me. I gave myself pep talks “Sami, don’t give up.”

Afghanistan has 34 provinces, a province is like a state in the US. Can you imagine all 34 provinces rushing to the one single airport? Kabul was the only airport that was flying people out of Afghanistan. The other airports in Afghanistan were not equipped to handle the amount of people desiring to leave.

Because I never gave up on my goals, I made it here. If you have a positive attitude you can achieve anything. At times, getting into the airport and passing the gate seemed impossible. I felt I had nothing to lose. There were so many people with the same goal as me. The crowd was huge and everyone was competing to be the ones to make it through. Again, what got me through was believing it was possible. Remaining positive, even though it was hard, was the thing that saved me.

My sister tried to escape with me on my final try. We were successful, but with all the chaos rushing into the airport we lost each other. She ended up in Italy.

Once I was inside the airport there were many people waiting in line to be processed. I felt like I was in that line for years. Once I was cleared to go onto the plane I realized I only had ten Afghani, which equals one cent in the US. I thought if this didn’t work and I was taken to another place in Afghanistan, how would I find my way back to my family in Kabul with such little money!

Graphic by Julia Zorc ’24/Staff

The plane was full of complete families. I felt so alone as I had no family with me. I had no idea where I was going, but I was still very happy to be on my way to somewhere safe. This was no ordinary plane ride. All passengers were standing and taking turns sitting. It felt like 600 people were on the plane with me. Two hours into the plane ride there was an announcement that any person on the plane without proper documentation would be taken to another place in Afghanistan. I had a sick feeling in my stomach, because I did not have any of the papers they were looking for. I am not sure–and I still do not understand–why I was not removed from the plane. I did not have any documentation, but for some reason I was allowed to continue on the journey. It was such a relief.  I had many mixed emotions while on the plane, and my eyes were filled with tears. I was happy that I could have a bright future and study to become a person that could help my country and my people. On the other hand, I was also very sad to leave my country and my family, not knowing when I would see them again.

My first stop outside of Afghanistan was supposed to be Germany, but the plane diverted to Turkey because there was a sick person on the plane. It was a quick stop, maybe one hour. We headed to Germany shortly after the sick person evacuated the plane.

Once I got off the plane in Germany I went straight to the bathroom to look in the mirror to see the condition of my face and body. Before I was able to get inside the Kabul airport the Taliban had kicked me to the ground. After I looked at myself in the mirror, I instantly began to record my voice on a phone to document my experience. I felt relieved and free. I understood that my hard work and hope had brought me to this place where I felt safe and free.

I spent fifteen days in a camp in Kaiserslautern, Germany. The camp did not have basic amenities like a shower or luxurious amenities like the internet. After ten days we were finally able to shower. Food was also scarce, we were fed two times a day and the food was tasteless. Within fifteen days of arriving at Kaiserslautern we were transported to another camp called Frankfurt. The conditions in Frankfurt were better. We had access to food three times a day and could connect to wifi. Connecting to wifi was extremely important because it allowed me to contact my family. It was the first time I was able to speak to them since I jumped the gate in Kabul. They were worried as to be expected, because they had not heard from me in nearly seventeen days. My first wifi call was to my mom and dad. They were so relieved and very happy to hear my voice. They were equally worried as they were proud that I was able to make it out of Afghanistan.

Next stop, Philadelphia. Since I was under eighteen I was able to get off the plane sooner and start the process with the United States government. Within hours I was on another plane headed to Michigan. I stayed in a shelter in Michigan for four months with roughly 120 other children: twenty girls and the rest were boys. We were all staying there until someone sponsored us. At some point all the children were scattered throughout the US into different shelters. I was sent to Pittsburgh. I was there for four months before an Ardmore family sponsored me.

This has been a dream come true for me. There are many challenging moments. The biggest concern I have is worrying about my family who is still in Afghanistan. The Taliban is extremely dangerous. My family left our home to stay in a hotel for a month and a half. Most people who are in the hotel are able to leave the country within a few days, but not my family. I feel that they are stuck because we are Hazara. I talk to them every day through WhatsApp video calls. The Taliban does checks through the hotel often. Most of the guests at the hotel are people who worked for the Afghan

Fatih merely minutes before departing from Afghanistan. This flight marked the beginning of his arduous journey to the United States. | Photo courtesy of Samiullah Fatih ’25

government. The US is protecting the hotel, but the Taliban is still searching to see who is there. Both my parents, three brothers and one sister are in the hotel. My other sister is in Italy. They are trying to come to the US, but the process has stopped and I am not sure why.

There is a lot of discrimination of the Hazara people in Afghanistan. There are groups who want to destroy the Hazara people. This is absolutely impossible. This experience in my life has reminded me to keep big dreams and I can achieve anything. I tell my story so that all who read it can feel hopeful and positive about trying to do the impossible.

Many people in the world may think that Afghanistan is a bad place, but I love my country. I had a very good life there until the Taliban took control. While living in Afghanistan I had the opportunity to study English and eventually teach English to young kids. I went to school and loved to study. I trained to be an MMA fighter. I had many plans to attend matches in other countries. The Taliban stole these opportunities from me. At this time, I am still adjusting to life in the United States, but grateful to be here and for all the love and support I have received.

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