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Las Vegans with Afghanistan ties decry Taliban takeover

Watching footage of Afghans desperately trying to flee the Taliban at the Kabul airport over the last two days has been agonizing for Las Vegan Rokai Yusufzai, his family and friends.

“A lot of good people put their hearts and souls into this,” Yusufzai said of rebuilding Afghanistan. “They helped a lot, but sadly, and unfortunately, the governments destroyed everything.”

Yusufzai was born and raised in Afghanistan and came to the U.S. when he was 15. He and his daughter, Medinah, talked Tuesday about the heartbreaking Taliban takeover. They joined other Las Vegas residents with Afghanistan ties in a protest Tuesday afternoon in downtown Las Vegas.

In a post about the protest, a Facebook page called @AfghanCommunityLasVegas said: “Enough is enough, we want peace!”

Downtown protest

The protest drew about 60 people, who gathered outside of the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse. Several carried signs and flags of Afghanistan.

“You do not need to be Muslim or Afghan to stand up for Afghanistan,” one sign read. “You just need to be human.”

Organizer Hosai Wahab called on the U.S. to welcome Afghan refugees. Her parents emigrated here from Afghanistan before she was born, she said.

“The U.K. is helping us, Canada is helping us,” she said. “Why isn’t the U.S. helping us?”

The Yusufzais said they hope the protest reminds locals that there are thousands left behind in Afghanistan who need help. They want Las Vegas to know how devastating it is to see the Taliban take over such a beautiful country and its people. The Islamist militant organization has a history of extreme religious mandates and restricted liberties for women and girls.

“The biggest heartbreak for our people is the ladies,” Rokai Yusufzai said.

Medinah Yusufzai, 20, has friends in Afghanistan she stays in touch with over social media. She said everyone is terrified at the loss of human rights ahead for women.

“The education system was getting better,” Medinah said. “Now that is taken from them. They are going to be taught in Afghanistan, but what are they going to be taught? Only what (the Taliban) want (them) to know.”

‘Honorable, good people’

Rokai Yusufzai, now in his 50s, fought as a teen against the Soviet Army in the Soviet-Afghan war. His father decided he wanted a better life for his children, so he left for the U.S. with his sisters.

They eventually settled in Bloomington, Indiana, and Rokai became a U.S. citizen. He and his family have closely followed the events of Afghanistan while supporting organizations that provide Afghans with food, basic necessities and access to education. The family still has aunts, uncles and cousins there.

“The people of Afghanistan — they are honorable, good people,” Rokai Yusufzai said.

Rokai said said Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban is clouded by politics and that he is heartbroken by the loss of life, including all the U.S. soldiers killed during the 20-year war there.

He said he finds it hard to believe that U.S. leaders could so underestimate the ability of the Taliban to quickly sweep through the country after two decades of fighting.

“Really? We didn’t know how fast they were going to take over?” he said.

The Yusufzais encouraged all Americans to support the people of Afghanistan.

“We have an obligation as human beings to have compassion, to have dignity, to have respect, to have love,” Medinah Yusufzai said.

Contact Glenn Puit by email at [email protected] Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Alexis Ford contributed to this report.

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