Thao-Nguyen Le did not Able to stop thinking about Afghanistan.
Pictures of Afghans trying to flee the country for Lee, who was imprisoned by the communist government of Vietnam after leaving the US Saigon in 1 For5, are causing a stir. People were seen clinging to a military cargo plane, scaling the walls with barbed wire and crowding the airport termina. Lee felt frustration, grief and anger at the news at his home in Paris and recalled painful memories of his childhood in post-war Vietnam.
Born in 1983 in Dalaa, a tourist center 190 miles northeast of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Le grew up in poverty, begged relatives for money and relied on neighbors to cook family meals. After being branded a traitor for fighting the Americans during the war, his father struggled to find work. In addition to his imprisonment after Saigon’s fall, he was captured for the second time since Lee’s birth when he tried to escape from Vietnam by boat. Now, while he is following the news of Afghanistan, Ley was worried about the fate of those like his family who could leave him behind 46 years ago.
“I think about my family, what they’ve gone through … and I think about what’s going to happen in Afghanistan [is] It’s going to be worse than I can imagine, “Lee told BuzzFeed News. “I mean, the worst thing is that they’ve been killed, but I think being away from society, being persecuted by people who came to power, I don’t know if it’s much better.”
In the days leading up to the Taliban’s occupation of Kabul, President Joe Biden and his administration managed to end the 20-year war by defending the withdrawal of American troops, dismissing comparisons with the fall of Saigon in 1975. But for Vietnamese refugees, their families, the chaos of the moment, and the potential effects seem annoyingly familiar.
“For me, looking at pictures of when Saigon fell and then it was very similar,” said Cami P., who grew up in British Columbia after her parents fled Vietnam in the 1980s. “It’s just that frustration and seeing people do what they can to leave their homes because their homes are basically gone.”
As North Vietnamese forces closed in Saigon in the final days of the Vietnam War in late April 1975, the United States evacuated thousands of Americans and Vietnamese citizens by helicopter, capturing exciting scenes in news coverage around the world. Thousands of Vietnamese people fled by boat and other planes. Over the next two decades, millions more left the country to escape the economic crisis and subsequent communist rule, seeking refuge in the United States and elsewhere. In their despair, some died at sea.
Hang Nguyen Mack’s father, Sam, left the North Vietnamese army in the early 1950’s and knew that if he was captured by communist forces, he would probably be sent to a prison or killed. So when Mack’s family heard that Viet Cong was coming to Saigon, they planned to leave quickly. On April 1, 1955, when the city fell to the North Vietnamese, six of them and more than a dozen of their extended family members boarded a ship outside the country.
Mack, now 60 years old and living in Southern California, spoke to BuzzFeed News about images obtained from Kabul that show Afghans “packed like canned tuner” inside a U.S. military plane to escape.
“That’s how we were on the ship,” said Mack, who was then 14 years old.
Mack recalled that he was tasked with making sure his 7-year-old sister and two nieces, aged 3 and 4, were out of town. When the crowd surrounded the ship, he grabbed the wrists of his sister and niece and jumped into the ship. They carry only cloth on their backs and sew their pants with gold as a barter for safe entry into the United States.
When he was walking down Saigon Road with his parents in the last days before he escaped, the hot air smelled of gunpowder. The children were screaming, and people ran around town with insane faces on their faces.
Mack said he was scared at the time, but when he saw the chaos at Kabul airport this week, he thought he was lucky.
“Yes, we were scared, but we were not in danger. They said, “I am afraid for them.”
Since taking control of Kabul, Taliban leaders have promised to respect women’s rights and forgive those who have fought against them, but Afghans have already faced violence. Many doubt that the regime will abandon its notoriously repressive path. More than 20,000 Afghans who helped the U.S. military, as well as thousands of their families, qualified for special immigrant visas in the United States but were stuck in a processing backlog until this year. After the Taliban took over, many civilians feared they could face retaliation or death. Outbound flights from Kabul are running, but only for those whose documents are OK – and who can arrive at the airport.
“Depression, it’s much more serious, and it’s certainly especially for women and young girls and children,” Mack said.
The fall of Afghanistan happened much faster than U.S. officials expected, but Americans in Vietnam who felt that America had similarly abandoned their families decades ago said it was not an excuse not to do more to drive their allies away quickly.
“We didn’t learn a lesson in Vietnam,” said Sonny Fan, who was studying at Kansas University on April 1, April 5, and lost contact with his family after Saigon’s fall. “I don’t think anyone is sitting down and making an eviction plan at all.”
Fan finally got the news just before Christmas in 1975 that his parents, brother and sister were alive. They decided to flee Vietnam so that they could be isolated at sea. A year later, Fan, now 69, learned how they struggled to find food and sold their levy jeans sent from America to survive.
“It was a very rough life,” Fan said, but they persevered.
Lee, whose family finally immigrated to the United States in 1993 through a program for inmates in prison camps, said that despite the Americans building a better life in the state, his father had not yet recovered mentally from his experience after the Americans left Saigon.
When they first found out about the program that allowed them to move, he didn’t believe it was real. When he was offered a promotion to his job as a Seattle Assembly Line worker, he thought his boss was trying to get him to do more. When Lee’s mother tried to convince him that they should buy a house, he was worried that it would be taken away.
“He’s never been abandoned,” Lee said.
Inside A Twitter thread Regarding his family experience and his concerns for Afghans, Ley wrote that when he was identified as a Vietnamese American, he had to bear the “duality of both America”. [her] Savior and [her] Invader. “
“Not being able to come to America, I don’t think I’ll be where I am now,” said Lee, who now works at a tech company based in New York. “Maybe I’ll be like a prostitute somewhere in Vietnam or I’ll be somewhere on the streets and in poverty. I don’t think I could have stayed where I am now. ”
But at the same time, he wonders if his family will be forced to leave their country if the United States is not involved in the war.
“I don’t know what would have happened,” he said.
Now the Vietnamese refugees are hoping that the United States and other countries will accept as many Afghans as possible and give them a chance to start anew.
Thui Kim, an Alabama immigrant at the age of 2 in 1 They1, said, “My family needed the same thing when they came here.” Of course the situation is a little different. It’s a different war, it’s a different time, but I think the most compelling commonality is that they are human too, and above all they need our support as human beings. 3