ISTANBUL: Afghan pop star Aryana Sayeed recalls asking her fiance one thing as they snuck into Kabul's chaotic airport after the Taliban moved in: "Don't let them take me away alive".
Aryana, who brags of 1.4 million Instagram followers and is often likened to US megastar Kim Kardashian, had drawn the religious conservatives' ire for her women's rights activism and figure-hugging clothes.
A singer and former judge of a popular Afghan music talent show, the 36-year-old could not walk down the streets of Kabul without attracting a gawking crowd of selfie-snapping fans.
This made her escape from the city she loved that much more surreal.
Her first attempt on Aug 15 - the day the militants entered Kabul while US forces scrambled to evacuate foreigners and some Afghans after 20 years of war - failed because the plane never took off.
The stakes could hardly be higher when she made her second attempt the following day, with Kalashnikov-toting fighters surrounding the airport and allied forces trying to control the desperate crowds at its gates.
Her fiance and manager, Hasib Sayed, was communicating with her by walkie-talkie in a second car.
"I said to him, you know Hasib ... if I am about to be taken away alive, just shoot me. Just shoot me in the head," she told AFP at her swank Istanbul apartment.
"That was the only thing I was scared of. I wasn't scared of dying or anything."