Afghan dad whose teen fell from US cargo plane blames ‘Americans’
As the first anniversary of the United States’ disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan approaches, a victim of one of its most horrific tragedies finally has a name.
Zabi Rezayee, 17, was one of the desperate civilians who clung to the landing gear and wheel covers of a US Air Force C-17 as it taxied down the runway at the international airport Hamid Karzai from Kabul on August 16, 2021 – only to fall to his death on the tarmac, his father told The Sunday Times of London.
And Zabi’s brother, Zaki, 19, who joined his attempt to escape from the Taliban, has not been heard from since, Mohammed Rezayee said.
“I’m in pain, I’m angry, but I can’t do anything,” said Rezayee, 42. “I buried one son and I don’t even know if the other one is dead or alive.”
Horrifying cellphone videos of the young men who grabbed the giant cargo plane on takeoff, then fell helplessly to the ground as it soared, gripped the world as the US war in Afghanistan neared its end chaotic and ignominious end.
At least five potential stowaways were killed, although the exact number was never determined. Two landed in a residential area, splattering a homeowner’s roof with blood. One was found crushed in the plane’s wheel arch when it landed in Qatar.
And two, including Zabi, crashed on the runway.
“I blame the pilot and I blame the Americans who were responsible for security at the airport,” Rezayee, a father of eight, said bitterly.
“Why did the pilot make the decision to take off when he knew people were clinging to the plane? asked the distraught father. “I don’t think those hanging on really believed the plane would leave.”
The Air Force cleared the plane’s crew last month, Military.com reported.
The teenagers did not inform their parents of their intention to flee the country.
“I found out when I got a call from them at the airport,” their father said. “They looked excited, they said they were about to get on the plane. I was happy for them, happy that they were going somewhere safe because we were all so terrified of this what would happen here with the Taliban in charge.
The call only lasted a minute or two. “That was the last time I spoke to them,” he said.
A few minutes later, a stranger called Rezayee from Zabi’s phone.
“The guy on my son’s phone said they found Zabi’s body,” Rezayee says Vice News this week. He ran the four miles to the airport. “I found it in pieces.” Someone had draped a scarf over the teen’s bare, broken lower half.
But a search of Kabul’s hospitals and prisons for the father turned up no sign of Zaki, his eldest son.
“To date, I have never received any information about Zaki,” he said. His ‘tormented’ wife ‘says a little prayer every time she hears her phone ringing, desperately hoping it will be news’.
“It’s the not knowing that’s the hardest thing to deal with,” he said.
“They were nice boys. They liked to play football,” Rezayee recalls. “They were educated. Zaki could speak English. He used to teach his younger siblings a bit.
The family struggled as the grip of the Taliban plunged half the country’s population into near starvation. Without the help of his sons, Rezayee said, he would no longer be able to run his fruit and vegetable store.
“It’s like a waste of time being mad at my sons. I have to use that energy to find a way to provide for my remaining children,” he said.
“But I would give anything to find out what happened to Zaki.”