Kabul’s autumn evokes memories of Saigon’s evacuation

Shekib Rahmani / AP

On August 16, hundreds of people gathered near a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane near Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan.

Thao-Nguyen Le has never been Can stop thinking about Afghanistan.

After the United States withdrew from Saigon in 1975, his father was imprisoned by the Communist Party of Vietnam. The image of Afghans trying to flee the country is triggering.People have seen people clinging to a military cargo plane, Climbing up the wall of barbed wire, crowded the airport apron. Watching the news at home in Paris made Le feel desperate, sad, and angry. It also brought back painful memories of her childhood in Vietnam after the war.

Le was born in 1983 in Da Lat, a tourist destination about 190 miles northeast of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). He grew up in poverty, begging for money from relatives and cooking with neighbors’ oil. After being labelled a traitor for fighting alongside the Americans during the war, her father struggled to find a job. In addition to being imprisoned after the fall of Saigon, he was captured when Le tried to escape Vietnam by boat for the second time after Le was born. Now, when she pays attention to the news from Afghanistan, Le is worried about the fate of those who might be left behind like her family 46 years ago.

“I think about my family, what they have experienced… what I think will happen in Afghanistan [is] It will become so much, even worse than I thought,” Le told BuzzFeed News. “I mean, the worst thing is that they were killed, but I think they are ostracized by society and abused by those in power. I don’t know if this is much better. “

In the days when the Taliban occupied Kabul, President Joe Biden and his government Defend their handling of the withdrawal The U.S. military acted to end 20 years of war, Ignore the comparison with the fall of Saigon In 1975. But for Vietnamese refugees and their families, the chaos and potential consequences of this moment are disturbingly familiar.

“For me, the photos I saw when Saigon fell were very similar to the scene at the time,” said Cammie P., who grew up in British Columbia after his parents fled Vietnam in the 1980s. “It’s just desperation to see people leave as much as they can, because their homes are basically built.”

Jean-Claude Rabe/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

The fall of Saigon in April 1975

In the last few days of the Vietnam War in late April 1975, North Vietnamese troops approached Saigon. The United States used helicopters to evacuate thousands of American and Vietnamese civilians. News reports around the world captured the tension. Tens of thousands of other Vietnamese continued to flee by boat and other planes. In the next two decades, hundreds of thousands of people sought refuge in the United States and other places in order to escape the economic crisis brought about by the war and subsequent communist rule. In their despair, some people died at sea.

Hang Nguyen Mac’s father, Sam, left the North Vietnamese army in the early 1950s and knew that if he was captured by the Communist army, he was likely to be sent to a prisoner-of-war camp or killed. Therefore, when Mike’s family learned that the Viet Cong was coming to Saigon, they quickly made a plan to leave. On April 30, 1975, when the city fell into the hands of North Vietnam, a family of six and a dozen extended family members boarded an outbound ship.

In an interview with BuzzFeed News, 60-year-old Mac, who lives in Southern California, talked about the photos of Kabul, which showed Afghans “crowded like canned tuna.” Inside a U.S. military aircraft get away.

“This is how we are on board,” said Mac, then 14 years old.

Offered by Hang Nguyen Mac

In early 1975, Hang Nguyen Mac (central defender) and her family were at their home in Saigon

Mike recalled that she was responsible for ensuring that her 7-year-old sister and two 3- and 4-year-old nieces left the city. When the crowd surrounded the ship, she grabbed her sister and niece by the wrists and jumped onto the ship. They only carried clothes with gold sewn into their pants as a bargain for safe passage through the United States.

In the last few days before her parents fled, when she and her parents walked through the streets of Saigon, the hot air was filled with the smell of gunpowder. The children were screaming, and people hurriedly looked at their faces around the city.

Mike said she was scared at the time, but when she saw the chaos at Kabul Airport this week, she thought she was lucky.

“Yes, we are scared, but we are not in danger. They are,” she said. “I am scared for them.”

After Taliban leaders took control of Kabul Commit to respecting women’s rights And forgive those who fought with them, but the Afghans have Encounter violenceMany people suspect that the regime will abandon its notorious methods of repression.More than 20,000 Afghans who helped the U.S. military, as well as their tens of thousands of family members, are eligible for U.S. special immigrant visas, but its stuck In this year’s processing backlog.As the Taliban took over, many civilians Fear They may face retaliation or death. The evacuation flight from Kabul is still in progress, but only for people who have complete documents and can reach the airport.

“Despair is much more serious, and this is of course especially aimed at women, young girls and children,” Mike said.

Associated Press

On August 18, people boarded an A400 aircraft of the Spanish Air Force at Kabul Airport in Afghanistan as part of the evacuation plan.

The fall of Afghanistan was much faster than American officials expected, but Vietnamese Americans who believe that the United States also abandoned their families decades ago said that this is not a good enough excuse for not taking more measures to withdraw from their allies as soon as possible.

“We didn’t learn our lessons in Vietnam,” said Sonny Penn, who studied at the University of Kansas in April 1975, who lost contact with his family after the fall of Saigon. “I don’t think anyone sat down to prepare an evacuation plan.”

Phan finally got news before Christmas in 1975 that his parents, brothers and sisters were still alive. Fearing that they would be separated at sea, they decided not to flee Vietnam. Many years later, Phan, now 69, learned how they struggled to find food and sold the Levi’s jeans he sent them from the United States in order to survive.

“It was a very difficult life,” Pan said, but they persisted.

Le’s family finally immigrated to the U.S. in 1993 through a plan for detainees in concentration camps. She said that although a better life was established in the U.S., after the Americans left Saigon, her father’s psychology still remained unchanged. Recovered from the experience.

When they first learned about the program that allowed them to move, he didn’t believe it was true. When he was promoted as an assembly line worker in Seattle, he thought his boss was trying to trick him into doing more work. When Le’s mother tried to persuade him to buy a house, he worried that the house would be robbed.

“He never came out of being abandoned,” Le said.

Thanks to Thao-Nguyen Le

Thao-Nguyen Le (right) and her brother Trung Le at their grandparents’ home in Dalat, Vietnam in 1993

exist A tweet topic Regarding her family’s experience and her concerns about Afghans, Le wrote that although she considers herself a Vietnamese-American, she must bear that “the United States is both [her] Savior and [her] aggressor. “

“If I can’t come to the United States, I don’t think I will be who I am now,” said Le, who now works for a technology company in New York. “Maybe I will be like a prostitute somewhere in Vietnam, or I will live on the street and fall into poverty. I don’t think I can be who I am now.”

But at the same time, she wondered whether her family would be forced to leave their country if the United States were not involved in the war.

“I don’t know what will happen,” she said.

Now Vietnamese refugees hope that the United States and other countries will receive as many Afghans as possible and give them a chance to start again.

Thuy Kim, who immigrated to Alabama at the age of 2 in 1991, said: “They need the same things my family did when we came here. Of course, the situation is slightly different. This is a different war, this is a different one. Era, but I think the most binding commonality is that they are also humans, and they need our support as humans above all else.” ●

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