'Kite Runner' author says Afghans are 'right to be scared'

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Afghan-born US novelist Khaled Hosseini
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Afghan-American novelist Khaled Hosseini on Tuesday said that Afghans were justified to fear the return of the Taliban, with memories still fresh of the brutality of their last time in power.

The 56-year-old best-selling author was born in Kabul and fled with his family to the United States in 1980 after the Soviet invasion.

"Afghans know the Taliban... They remember what happened the last time they were here and they are right to be scared," Hosseini told BBC radio, stressing the hardline Islamists' "excesses" and "draconian restrictions".

He has written a series of bestselling novels that feature Afghan settings, including "The Kite Runner" (2003) and its follow-up "A Thousand Splendid Suns" (2007).

Hosseini said he had spoken to relatives in the western city of Herat, who "described to me the sounds of gunshots and fighting going on" and seeing Taliban flags appear.

"Now they're home, they're anxious, they're worried, they're scared, like millions of other Afghans," he said.

"I don't believe the Taliban to be representative of the Afghan will whatsoever," the author stressed, pointing to desperate scenes at Kabul airport as thousands attempted to flee.

Afghans "face the very unenviable reality that they live under a regime that proved to be extremely brutal when they were in charge in the 1990s," he said.

The writer runs a foundation providing humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. In a statement on its website, he said he was "gravely concerned for the country," fearing a "humanitarian crisis".

He urged the US and the international community to pressure the Taliban not to "enforce violence punitively on the Afghan citizens" and to respect human rights, "particularly those of women and girls".

On Monday Hosseini tweeted urging Washington and its partners to accept refugees from Afghanistan like at the end of the Vietnam War, when some 130,000 from South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia moved to the US.

"The United States has a moral obligation. Admit as many Afghan refugees as possible," the author wrote.

Hosseini told the BBC he had voted for US President Joe Biden, but castigated his speech on Monday for its lack of a "statement of empathy" with the Afghans left behind.

"The other thing I didn't hear -- at least clearly -- from the president is what is the legacy of the last 20 years?" he said.

"What was all this for?"

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