Family Of Afghan Hells Kitchen Restaurateur Rescued From Kabul HELL’S KITCHEN, NY — The owner of an Afghan restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen is full of gratitude and disbelief after his wife and children were successfully evacuated from Kabul — thanks in part to a local congressman and a global network of do-gooders.
Mohammad Wali owns Ariana, a small Afghan kebab eatery on Ninth Avenue near West 53rd Street. Last month, he watched with horror as the Taliban closed in on the capital, Kabul, where his wife, Aishah, was living along with their three children as she cared for her ailing father.
Around Aug. 16, Wali — who lives in Plainview, Long Island — contacted the office of his congressman, Tom Suozzi, to describe his family’s plight. It was one of dozens of pleas that Suozzi received from constituents with relatives in Afghanistan, the congressman said at a news conference Wednesday outside Wali’s restaurant.
“I was struggling, I was pain, I was not able to work my business,” Wali said.
Mohammad Wali’s wife, Aishah, his three children, and his brother-in-law before leaving Kabul last month. His brother-in-law is holding the red bandana they were told to bring so that they would be recognized as eligible to fly out. (Office of U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi)
But Wali’s family was luckier in one key respect: two of his children, eight-year-old Omar and six-year-old Zahra, were already U.S. citizens through their father. His wife was not, nor was his baby son, Yasir, but they could gain entry into the U.S. by escorting the minors.
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Suozzi’s office reached out to more than a dozen potential helpers, eventually landing on Adam DeMarco: a military veteran who hastily founded a nonprofit, Allied Airlift 21, that is working to evacuate families trying to flee.
Days later, after making a two-hour trek, Wali’s wife, children and brother-in-law arrived at the gate to the Kabul airport, his youngest child sporting a red bandana that they had been instructed to bring so that Allied Airlift’s staffers would recognize them.
Their ordeal continued for another 48 hours, as the family contended with desperate crowds and occasional gunshots ringing out around the airport. On Aug. 23, they finally boarded a plane, flying to Qatar and then a U.S. military base in Germany before arriving at Washington’s Dulles Airport — 12 days and hundreds of calls and WhatsApp messages later.
Late last week, Wali was finally reunited with his wife and children, two weeks after he first made his plea to Suozzi.