Her family ruled Afghanistan for generations. Now an Afghan princess living in Connecticut is vowing to keep her late father’s humanitarian efforts alive as his home country descends into chaos.
Alia Seraj hasn’t slept in days.
“I don't know if any words do the emotions justice,” she said. “Stunned. Shattered.”
From the safety of her home in Milford, through harrowing scenes on television screens, she’s watching the crisis unfold in Afghanistan, where her father was a direct descendent of nine generations of kings. Prince Abdul Ali Seraj was forced to flee a life of royalty following the communist coup d’état and the killing of President Daoud in 1978.
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“My parents made it out by the skin of their teeth,” Seraj said. “My father was marked for execution. My two older sisters were babies at the time. And I was the first one fully born and raised in the U.S.”
The prince’s published memoir “The Lost Kingdom: Memoir of an Afghan Prince” describes the escape, the family traveling in disguise in a caravan into Pakistan before eventually arriving in America as refugees. The Serajs built a new life in Milford in 1979, opening a restaurant and other businesses while raising three daughters.
After the fall of the Taliban in 2001, the prince finally returned to Afghanistan.
“He said when he went back for the first time in 2002, he fell out of the airplane and kissed the ground, because he was marked for execution and never thought he would see his country or his people again,” Alia said.
In 2009, Prince Seraj became an Afghan presidential candidate. He eventually dropped his bid after negotiations with Hamid Karzai but continued his humanitarian fight until his death from cancer in 2018.
It’s a fight his daughter wants to take up now in his honor, especially in light of this week’s developments.
“I’m an American girl with an Afghan heart,” she said. “But I want people to see my face and know that there is humanity behind everyone we are leaving behind.”
Seraj is currently working to raise funds for a rescue effort aimed at “350 families who are highly targeted by the Taliban”, and encourages people to do their homework before donating to refugee relief efforts. She recommends supporting established and experienced organizations like IRIS of New Haven.
“It's very important to trust in legitimate organizations choosing right now to focus on refugees, to really focus on those who are getting relocated out of Afghanistan to make sure that they have the kind of support, even if they don't have the family like my family had to really build a new life here.”
As for the women and girls who can’t escape Afghanistan, now facing an uncertain future under Taliban rule? Seraj hopes heightened international scrutiny will force the Taliban to prove their claims of a more “inclusive” rule.
“We will not let the veil fall over Afghanistan and let it happen without public oversight again,” Seraj vowed. “There is no way it can be done in secrecy. We will see it and I just hope the world reacts fast enough to save as many of you as possible. Your world is much bigger than underneath that veil. And you have every right to every happiness in it.”