RICHMOND, Va. -- Chef Hamid Noori opened his Afghan restaurant The Mantu on Thompson Street in Richmond's Carytown in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 forced many Richmond restaurants to close and later alter operations. Those made for some dark days for the chef who left Afghanistan in 2015 amid violence in his home country.
"When there was a tough time you could always come to a restaurant and cook food," he said. "It's like pain relief, and suddenly changes all those sorrows that I have."
But sorrow returned this week when President Joe Biden said he had to choose between sticking to a previously negotiated agreement to withdraw U.S. troops this year or sending thousands more service members back into Afghanistan to fight a “third decade” of war. He chose to withdraw troops. The Taliban, a militant group that ran the country in the late 1990s, quickly regained control.
"I've been in Afghanistan until the end of the Taliban regime. It was a disaster. It was hunger. No education," Noori said. "Now we're back in the same situation. We lost whatever we gained. My brothers, my sisters, my cousins, I have a lot of family in Afghanistan. They're scared."
Some of Noori's family members were killed by the Taliban when Noori was a child, he shared.
The Richmond chef's thoughts are now with his family 7,000 miles away.
"Right now, they're staying in their homes and see how the situation is turning out," he said. "I'm physically safe, but mentally, I'm feeling broken now."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
On the farm with Libby Lewis