Free World - September 15, 2021

Mustafa Barakzai thinks about his mother and siblings in Afghanistan at each mea…


Mustafa Barakzai thinks about his mother and siblings in Afghanistan at each meal. Without the money he sends his family via Western Union monthly, the London resident said, they are running out of food. ⁠⁠
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Many Afghans get by with financial help from family members living abroad. But those remittances became much harder to send and receive in the weeks since the Taliban gained control of the country.⁠⁠
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The Taliban’s rise to power triggered Afghanistan’s rapid disconnection from the global financial system. The U.S. Treasury Department halted the shipment of dollars to the country and blocked Taliban access to the Afghan central bank’s reserves, most of which are held overseas. Bank branches temporarily closed, and ATMs ran out of money.⁠⁠
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Money-transfer companies Western Union and MoneyGram International resumed services in the country last week after suspending transfers for more than two weeks in part to avoid running afoul of U.S. sanctions. Disruptions in the country’s money-moving apparatus choked off a key source of income for ordinary Afghans. Some $790 million in remittances flowed into Afghanistan in 2020, according to an estimate from the World Bank. Remittances typically increase in a country during times of crisis.⁠⁠
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Barakzai can now send about £500, the equivalent of $689 or about 55,000 afghanis, to keep his family afloat for the next month. When money-transfer services were suspended, he said he talked to his mother about selling valuables, maybe some of her jewelry, until he could find a way to help her and other relatives leave the country.⁠⁠
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“It’s just been an absolute nightmare,” Barakzai said.⁠⁠
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Read more at the link in our bio.⁠⁠
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📷: @jeremiesouteyrat for @wsjphotos⁠⁠



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