*Trigger warning: suicide
When the Kohistani family was evacuated out of Afghanistan following the U.S. withdrawal in August 2021, they did not assume they could duplicate their comfortable existence in Kabul. Lemar Kohistani risked his life time and again to ensure the U.S. forces had fuel for their war. What did the U.S. offer to Kohistani and his family? A home in rural Missouri seven miles away from the nearest grocery store, a place where they only mosque burned down after it had been shot up a decade ago. Due to an ill-equipped refugee system overwhelmed by the influx, the family was placed far from an aunt in St. Louis who could have helped the Kohistanis to navigate life in the U.S., potentially avoiding a tragic outcome for the family’s 14-year-old son, Rezwan.
How did the Kohistanis wind up so cut off from other Afghans? And how did Rezwan end up at a school that didn’t know what to do with him? The answer lies in a cascading series of failures that stretched from a tiny Missouri nonprofit to the White House, which was ill-prepared to handle the human fallout of America’s longest war.
Rezwan was buried on May 6 after a service in the mosque outside Joplin. Dr. Tabassum Saba, a leader of the area’s small Muslim community, started a fundraiser for the family. “Not everyone here is a hatemonger. Not everybody is KKK. But putting families in rural areas is going to be traumatic,” said Saba, who is a psychiatrist. “They would have been better off in many other places.”
The few students who’d befriended Rezwan grieved. A former classmate ran out of her classroom in tears when she saw his seat empty the next morning. “I think this whole thing could have been avoided if there were other Afghan kids and he had a group to be in instead of being alone,” his friend Beard recalled.
Others were callous. One student expressed surprise that Rezwan hadn’t died trying to “blow up the school,” multiple classmates recalled. The boys who had sat at Rezwan’s lunch table before he disappeared were asked about him by investigators. None recognized him. One said, “What’s a Rezwan?”