Native Afghan, U of U professor on mounting concern in Afghanistan

Posted at 9:46 PM, Aug 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-17 00:00:38-04

SALT LAKE CITY — On Monday afternoon, Shabir Baher sat on his couch scrolling through pictures and videos sent to him from friends and family in Afghanistan. Baher showed videos of Taliban members removing flags in small towns and replacing them with their own, followed by photos of crowds fleeing gunfire in another town. Baher was born and raised in Afghanistan but calls Utah home. Many of his family members still live in Afghanistan.

“I received a text message from one of my friend who were part of the civic movement and he mention exactly that the Taliban is searching door-to-door for those who work for U.S. or for the Afghan government,” Baher said. “People are helpless and hopeless right now.”

Baher showed a text message thread with his brother from Monday that showed his grave concern for Afghan citizens with the recent Taliban takeover.

“They say, ‘Brother, I’m not sure whether I would be alive tomorrow or not,’" he said.

Baher is a local leader of the small Afghan community in the Salt Lake area. He says there are more than 500 people in Salt Lake County with ties to Afghanistan.

“I can ask that Utahns that keep those people who are surrounded by the brutal regime of the Taliban in their pray[ers]. This is the only thing we can do right now, and I hope the U.S. government act immediately to support the civilian[s] in Afghanistan,” said Baher.

University of Utah Law Professor Amos Guiora isn’t surprised with what he’s seeing in Afghanistan over the past few weeks.

“If I’m an Afghan who’s been working with the Americans, I’m desperate, asking myself, 'How do I protect my family?'” Guiora said via Zoom from Jerusalem. “The Taliban are about power and message sending and ruthlessness.”

Guiora doesn’t believe it was the wrong choice to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan, but says it was executed poorly. He also believes that the Taliban takeover is going to get worse.

“The Taliban have a long and undistinguished history of committing terrible crimes and that’s what’s going to happen here,” said Guiora.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox weighed in on the situation in Afghanistan on social media by saying: “I’m sickened and devastated at the scenes coming out of Afghanistan and at the terrible miscalculation by our government. While there isn’t much Utah can do, we can open our homes and hearts to the brave people that stood by our military heroes. God help us. Utah stands ready.”

Jennie Taylor, the widow of late Maj. Brent Taylor, a member of the Utah National Guard who was killed in 2018, spoke with FOX 13 about her husband's sacrifice amid the Afghanistan crisis:

Jennie Taylor on husband's sacrifice amid Afghanistan crisis