POWAY, Calif. (KGTV) - A Poway family is back home tonight after a harrowing escape from Afghanistan.
Yasin Royesh, his wife and two little girls, ages 3 and 6, arrived in Kabul in late July to visit family. On Aug. 15, as he was packing up for a flight in a few days, a family member rushed in with news of the Taliban takeover.
“I feel that it's the end for me and my family,” said Royesh.
Royesh and his family are Hazara, a long-persecuted ethnic minority in Afghanistan. He had also been living in San Diego with a refugee visa since 2016.
“They think that I'm an American person so they persecute me,” said Royesh.
Royesh knew they had to get out quickly. A friend put him in contact with someone at the US embassy.
Last Friday, Royesh was told to be at the airport's south gate the next morning, but amid the crowded confusion, they ended up at the wrong gate. The next day, the embassy contacted him with a new location. His family’s final trek would go through some six Taliban checkpoints.
“Most of them, they had M16s,” said Royesh.
Passing through each checkpoint was a frightening uncertainty.
“Because we had passports, they shoot us. All my body was cold. This is the end of my life,” said Royesh.
As the soldiers let his family pass, Royesh heard the reason why they were being let through.
“They said, ‘They’re not Muslim. We don't need this kind of dirty people,’” said Royesh.
He says while he is Muslim, the Taliban soldiers believed his U.S. visa tainted his beliefs.
After the checkpoints, his family and more than 100 other people were herded into a dirt lot, patrolled by Taliban soldiers.
“We thought that, okay, we are in prison,” said Royesh.
His panic ended after nine hours when the Afghans were allowed to leave. Royesh's family walked two miles to the airport.
"When I saw Marines, I said, ‘Oh my God. We’re good. We’re good now,’” Royesh recalled.
On Monday, Royesh's family made it back home.
“It’s a kind of dream. I can't believe this,” said Royesh.