Five years ago, Breshna Musazai was studying law at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul. Her future seemed bright. She was attending the best university in Afghanistan, a coed institution offering an American-style education and was on a full scholarship provided by the US government.
Then, on August 24, 2016, Taliban gunmen stalked the campus killing anyone who moved. One of them shot Musazai in the leg. She pretended to be dead and the gunman shot her again to finish her off. A bullet struck her in the foot. For the next six hours, as the terrorists rampaged on the campus Musazai lay motionless in a hallway. The Taliban killed a total of 15 students and staff that day. The university was a prominent symbol of the American presence in Afghanistan, which made it an appealing target for the Taliban. For students, particularly women like Musazai, the university represented the modern world of Enlightenment values to which the Taliban have long stood in staunch opposition.
Five years after their assault on the American University of Afghanistan, the Taliban took over the whole country. Much of the world may have assumed that the evacuation of at-risk Afghans following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in mid-August is over. But for many Afghans the story is ongoing. Of the 4,000 students, alumni and staff of the American University of Afghanistan, only around 600 are now estimated to have departed Afghanistan, the university’s President, Ian Bickford, told me.
Breshna Musazai was one of the lucky ones who survived the Taliban assault on her university in 2016, but she was grievously wounded and spent four months in a hospital in Kabul. She was then flown to Dallas, Texas, where she spent over six months at the First Baptist Medical Center. Doctors performed surgery on her leg, which saved it. In the summer of 2017, Musazai, now using a wheelchair, returned to Kabul to complete her studies at the American University of Afghanistan. The following year at her graduation ceremony the audience stood up and applauded when 28-year-old Musazai accepted her degree.