Afghan family of 15 safe from Taliban after Missouri military veterans step in to help

Published: Apr. 17, 2022 at 10:26 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) - Two refugee families are safely out of Afghanistan with the help of some Missouri military veterans. The long journey out of Kabul, Afghanistan, to Canada took months. Now, the family is talking only to News 4 detailing their exhausting, life-threatening trip.

“When they woke up early in the morning, all the people were running different directions, seeking safety. The situation was really bad. They also saw the Taliban in the street,” Ahmad Alokozai translated for his brother, Siam Alokozai.

Ahmad Alokozai has lived in Virginia for years. His brother Siam Alokozai and his family stayed in Kabul until they began trying to leave on August 15, 2021. On the same day, the Taliban overthrew the Afghan Government.

“They heard the president escaped Kabul, and also some ministers, and generals. They heard the rumors those people had left and escaped Kabul,” Ahmad Alokozai said.

It was at that time that Siam Alokozai and his family made the decision to try and flee the country. When they headed to the airport, they said it was worse than expected.

“It was violent, it was chaotic, people were walking over each other. It was a horrible environment, but it was the only thing we thought we were gonna be able to do,” Timothy Griffin said.

Griffin is a Missouri native and former U.S. Counter Insurgency Specialist. He met Ahmad Alokozai in 2013 while deployed in Afghanistan. Now, he’s helping Ahmad Alokozai’s family escape.

“I would have to convince them over and over again to make the journey to the airport, evade Taliban checkpoints, wait there all day in record heat, thousands of people there,” Griffin explained.

Griffin worked alongside Ahmad Alokozai, other Americans and Afghans to get Siam Alokozai, his family, his sister and her family, out. The entire mission, from Siam Alokozai and his family going to the airport, ending in Canada, took 68 days. Early in their attempts to leave Afghanistan, a suicide bomb went off at the Kabul Airport. Siam Alokozai and his family missed the attack by minutes.

After more than a week of trying to get on a plane, the 15 Afghan natives finally made their way to Pakistan. The two families stayed at different hotels, in different cities, until they were able to fly to Canada more than two months later.

“They didn’t have money to actually feed the family and all that stuff,” Ahmad Alokozai said.

That’s where Griffin and his team got creative.

“We knew Afghans who were living here in the United States, who had shopkeeper relatives in Afghanistan. We would give them the money and they would have the shopkeeper give our people the money,” Griffin said.

This exact scenario happened several times throughout Siam Alokozai and his family’s escape. Now, the two families are living in Canada. Siam Alokozai said they wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for Griffin and his team.

“These were the people that actually saved their lives. Transporting them from Kabul into Peshawar, he said they were grateful for their help and that made them save their lives,” Ahmad Alokozai said.