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The Afghan boy Murtaza Ahmadi, who rose to fame when in 2016 photographs went viral showing him wearing a T-shirt made from a plastic bag with the name of football player Leo Messi and his number 10, is now in hiding in Kabul for fear of possible reprisals from the Taliban.
The young boy, who is now ten years old, lives with his family in a small apartment in the Afghan capital, where they fled two months ago from their home village in the southern province of Ghazni, also escaping Taliban attacks.
However, they did not expect that shortly afterwards the Islamists managed to take control of Kabul after a lightning offensive, capturing the capital on August 15 without meeting any resistance from Afghan security forces.
“I am trapped at home and I can’t go out because I am very afraid of the Taliban,” the young Murtaza, who belongs to the attacked Shiite Hazara minority, a constant target of attacks, especially by the jihadist group Islamic State (IS), told Efe news agency.
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“I want to travel to a safe place from Afghanistan. Please save me from this situation,” begged the boy, who asked for help from the world’s football players, especially Messi, so that he can leave the country with his family and “play soccer in peace.”
Something that Murtaza does not stop doing at any time, even if it is indoors, a passion for the ball that was clear since in 2016 he was photographed wearing a shirt made with a plastic bag with the blue and white stripes of the Argentine national team and the name of Messi and his number 10 painted on it.
But those images, which allowed him to meet his idol in person in Qatar, have brought him more misfortune than joy, as his sudden fame brought with it threats from extremists or even the fear of the possible kidnapping of the little boy, as many thought that the Argentine star had made them a large donation.
The little boy’s journey since then even took him to Pakistan, where they came to seek asylum in the United States without success, or to live in other Afghan provinces, including Kabul itself, where they fled for the first time in a hurry in 2018, leaving at home the ball and the signed jerseys that Messi had given him.
The nightmares of the Afghan boy Murtaza Ahmadi
The boy’s family and Murtaza himself claim that sometimes, during the night, the young boy wakes up screaming in fear of the insurgents: “In my dream I see the Taliban coming, knocking on the door and shouting at me.”
After the Taliban took full control of Kabul last August 15, and after the total withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan this week, with the end also of regular evacuation flights, the boy’s family now fears that the Islamists will start “door-to-door” searches.
“What will happen to us? We were already under threat,” explained a 22-year-old sister of the boy, who detailed that when they arrived in Kabul two months ago, the city was safe, and they even had police and soldiers protecting them.
Now “we have no one,” and whenever “there is a knock at the door, Murtaza thinks it is the Taliban and runs to me or my mother to hide,” she said.
The threats even prevented Murtaza from going to school for years, and now the family just wants to leave the country to find a safe haven away from the Taliban, who, according to some reports, have begun to retaliate.
Tens of thousands of former government employees, members of the security forces, activists or journalists have already left the country on one of the recently completed international evacuation flights, and many others dream of fleeing in some way.