Afghan businessman upbeat about new venture here

GHENT–There is a new owner of the Sunoco station/convenience store, renamed North Greenbush Logistics, LLC and located on Route 66, a few hundred feet north of where the highway intersects with Route 203 in Chatham. His name is Sayed Hashemi, age 36. He is from Afghanistan.

Sayed Hashemi. Photo by David Lee

Mr. Hashemi was the director of operations, for 12 years, for a contractor working with the U.S. Army and Special Forces. He was based in Kabul and says he was the point man on all matters regarding transportation for US forces in Afghanistan.

In 2017 he, his wife, Sara Ghafoori, 31, and their five children, now ages 6 to 13, left Afghanistan for the U.S. In August, they arrived in Albany, where the family settled in East Greenbush. Mr. Hashemi continued to work remotely for the U.S. government until August of this year, when he purchased the convenience store at 52 Hudson Avenue.

When first contacted by The Columbia Paper about being interviewed, he asked if he would be made famous by the publicity and might then be “kidnapped by terrorists, held hostage and killed?” After an awkward silence, light laughter filled the void. But a fear of being targeted by Taliban insurgents prompted the family to leave Kabul. “It’s a huge threat. We would be viewed as traitors” for working with the Americans, he said.

When asked his thoughts about the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, Mr. Hashemi protested that he is “not into politics,” that he did not “like to discuss politics” and that it was a “waste of time to talk about politics.” But he added, “Personally, I am not happy about the plan to leave.”

He noted that the purpose of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan was “to remove terrorists. Taliban are terrorists. [They have] killed thousands.” He also said they are “responsible for the attack on 9/11.” He lamented that America’s 20 years of investments in Afghanistan’s infrastructure—“tall buildings, paved roads, schools built, telephones, Army equipment”—are lost.

‘On a scale of ten to zero, life for women went to zero.’

Sayed Hashemi

Mr. Hashemi, who has two daughters, ages 12 and 9, was especially dismayed about the fate of women under the Taliban. “First thing they remove women’s rights. They must go outside fully covered.” He noted that the new cabinet recently announced by the Taliban has “no women. Before they were ministers and in Parliament.” Women worked “shoulder to shoulder” with men. Under the Taliban, “on a scale of ten to zero, life for women went to zero.”

When asked why he thought the Afghan Army offered little resistance to the Taliban, he firmly placed blame on former President Ashraf Ghani, who fled Afghanistan August 15. Mr. Hashemi was dismissive of President Ghani’s excuse to not see more Afghans die. “He sold the country to Taliban. He took money out of the country. Thirty to forty thousand insurgents on motorbikes and a rifle” defeat the “three hundred thousand Afghan Army.”

Mr. Hashemi gushed about his new life. “I am blessed to have opportunity. I’m able to support my family. Everybody is happy. We did not have electricity or water in Afghanistan. My kids study in a peaceful environment. There is no difference between my kids and other kids.” The children attend public school in Rensselaer County.

Despite working 18-hour days he says the “future is very bright. My kids can be whatever they want, doctor or pilot. My kids will be proud of their father.”

Like many Hudson Valley business owners, Sayed Hashemi is looking to hire.

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