With a gorgeous and cheerful countenance, Fatima Hanim was plucking green chilies from her kitchen garden, which she loves to have at her home in Kabul’s posh Kolola Poshta neighborhood.
The 52-year-old Turkish national left her homeland and has been living in Afghanistan for the past nine years, which she asserted is because she adores the Afghan people and the country.
Fatima, who lost her husband several years ago, said she first lived in Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of northern Balkh province, for two years before moving to Kabul and opening a beauty parlor.
When the Taliban fighters took over Kabul on Aug. 15, thousands of Afghans tried to flee the country, but Fatima, a mother of two, told Anadolu Agency that she is safe here and does not want to leave.
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She added that she did not have any security issues during her stay in the country and that she did not consider leaving even during the most intensive period of conflict and bombings.
The working mother, who has earlier worked as a chef in restaurants in Istanbul, Ankara and Bolu cities in Turkey, explained she came to Afghanistan for a tour in 2012 on the invitation of friends who were doing business here. However, her stay was extended as she began a new career as a beautician.
She worked at a private company at first, but when it closed down, she was rendered jobless. “I started working at a women’s hairdressing shop in Mazar-e-Sharif,” she said of her early days in the country, which has been devastated by violent strife for the past two decades.
“However, I soon opened my beauty salon in Mazar-e-Sharif,” Fatma said, adding that she moved to Kabul and took up the same profession, with 11 employees working with her now.
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“There are a lot of Turkish-speaking people here,” she added when asked about her difficulties speaking the native Dari or Pashto languages. “Even my clients communicate with me in Turkish, and if they are unable to do so, my employees translate for them in Turkish,” she continued.
No plan to return
Her relatives tried to persuade her to return to Turkey, but she refused. She stated that she has grown to love Afghanistan and has found the Afghan people to be warm and loving.
“I don’t plan to go back, I’m comfortable here. I love it here like my own home. I love its people. People are very helpful since I’m a Turk,” she continued.
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Her daughter and son live in Turkey and visit her once a year, and she also visits her relatives there once a year.
Fatima believes she is not alone because she lives with Kral and Pamuk, two white and brown-black dogs. She has also formed real bonds with her neighbors, customers and friends, she added.
Business down because of COVID-19
Fatima, like many people around the world, has been struggling financially, as she stated her salon closed twice. First, owing to the COVID-19 shutdown for five months, and again for 15 days last month when the Taliban fighters took control of Kabul on Aug. 15, until the US forces were completely withdrawn from the country on Aug. 31.
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“Our business is doing okay right now… but I am sure it will pick up in the coming days,” she hoped.
Women photographs in several businesses in Kabul were sprayed with colors, “but I don’t feel harassed,” she asserted, dismissing any pressure from the new Taliban administration.
Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk