At dawn on Tuesday, at least 26 Afghan officials, an entire team of runners, and more than 100 of their relatives and supporters sought shelter on the roof of the cricket stadium in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. The officials were believed to be among scores of citizens and war refugees from neighboring Uzbekistan who had escaped the Taliban-controlled Afghan province of Jowzjan last week.
But the Afghans returned to their country on Tuesday after they were allowed to leave the stadium, where they had been staying since Sunday. It was an unprecedented event in Afghanistan — 80 percent of the capital’s families are now refugees.
Welcome home pic.twitter.com/HFAMVWJNqj — MS Pranita (@ms_ranita) August 14, 2018
Officials had earlier tried to convince the refugees to leave the stadium but were met with hostility. The Afghan government and the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) eventually allowed the Afghans to leave only after threatening to block international flights to the city.
Hundreds of people seeking shelter in the Mazar-i-Sharif stadium after fleeing Taliban #Afghanistan. pic.twitter.com/BNVbFNNCxE — Women’s Site (@pimrhannah) August 14, 2018
The move will be welcomed by Kabul officials, who have been struggling with mounting unrest as many country’s leaders remain in their foreign exile, and as a result the central government has been unable to assert authority in the country’s south, in particular.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s sole team in the Asian Games, which opened in Jakarta on Thursday, made a strong start on Monday, defeating a Chinese team.