Why were three Afghan women brutally murdered at the edge of Europe? A journey from Mazar-i-Sharif to Istanbul to Athens in search of answers.


“Just by being there, the border is an invitation.
Come on, it whispers, step across this line. If you dare.”
Kapka Kassabova

Life in a diaspora can have the dull ache of a phantom limb. In the Istanbul neighborhood of Zeytinburnu, in August 2021, the pain was acute. More than 2,000 miles away, the Taliban was starting to take back control of Afghanistan; within days the country would fall to an old regime made new. The events had plunged Zeytinburnu, an enclave of tens of thousands of Afghans displaced from their home country by war, poverty, and other ills, into a state of collective fear and mourning.

The context seemed to render my investigation, now dragging into its third year, futile. What did three dead women matter when a whole nation was having its heart ripped out?

The heat of late summer shimmered off the pavement as I spent long, liquid days moving from one person to another, displaying my phone screen and asking the same question: Do you know these women? I approached customers in call centers that promised good rates back home, patrons in restaurants where the smell of mutton biryani filled the air, elderly men sipping tea on wooden benches, and mothers watching children at a construction site that had been turned into a makeshift playground. I lost count of how many people I asked. Everyone gave the same answer: No.

Read the full story as published at The Atavist Magazine HERE.