An Update from an Afghan Family
The girls haven't been to school in more than a year. They've barely gone outside. But they're still alive, and thanks to you, they have food.
I wanted to give you an update on the family many of you helped. They’re still in Afghanistan. You’ve kept them alive for more than a year.
If you’re new, let me explain the story. Shortly after the fall of Kabul, I became acquainted with an Afghan family in an utterly desperate situation. They are couple with six children, of whom five are girls. The youngest is just seven years old. Before Afghanistan fell, the mother was a lawyer. She defended vulnerable women and children, putting their abusers behind bars. When the Taliban rolled in, they released the criminals. These men are psychopaths. They will kill her if they find her.
The father worked in the health bureaucracy, and before that, as a field trainer for a French NGO, now defunct, that carried out immunization campaigns. Because he worked for a western NGO, he too is a target for reprisal.
Initially, they contacted me because they thought I was someone who could help them make contact with the French government. My online presence had led them to believe I was greatly more influential than I am. Their son went to Abbey Gate in a desperate effort to find any French official who could help. Then ISIS suicide bombers blew it up. Thank God, he had left just minutes before.
After days of trying to find someone who could help, I came across an organization called Too Young to Wed. They told us that if the family could make it to Pakistan, they could organize an evacuation flight from there—but they couldn’t cover any of their expenses. So I started a fundraiser for them. Many of you contributed to it very generously.
Unfortunately, we were too late. Too Young to Wed stopped the evacuation flights. And France stopped conducting evacuation flights out of Afghanistan.
We haven’t stopped trying. We now think their best bet is Canada. There’s a program in Canada for people in their situation. It allows a community or group of five people in Canada to privately sponsor refugees. I have Canadian friends who say they would be willing to do this if I manage the fundraising.
To apply, though, you have to go to a Canadian Embassy outside of Afghanistan. (This is the crazy part: The people who most need this are trapped in Afghanistan.)
Their son thinks that he should go to Pakistan by himself and apply. Then, if he’s admitted to the program, he can bring his family. I don’t know if this is the right thing to do: Perhaps I should be giving them the advice that they have to all go to Pakistan, because reuniting the family if only one of them gets a visa will be impossible. But the amount of money it would take for them all to travel to Pakistan would be enough to support the family for several months in Afghanistan—and there’s no guarantee they’ll be admitted to the program. Understandably, the parents won’t consider going anywhere without all of their children.
I said I would help him raise the money to do it. I think there’s an outside chance it could work, and when you’re in the situation they’re in, even an outside chance is better than nothing. If anyone here has a better idea, by the way, please let me know.
We think his trip will cost about US$3,000 dollars—including food, transport, and a place to stay, possibly for a long time, because processing Afghan visas generally takes many months. We’ll assess the situation depending what the Canadian Embassy tells him. If they say they’d be able to provide visas for the whole family—providing they have a sponsor group and they make it to Pakistan—I’ll try to organize the sponsor group and raise the money.
Before Kabul fell, the son was a US visa lottery winner. He thought he was going to be going to the US to begin his studies this year. The frustration and desperation he feels—and the responsibility for his family, especially his sisters—is indescribable.
They asked me to pass the following messages to you.
From their mother:
Hello Sir and Madam,
I am █████, a lawyer and activist for women’s rights. You allowed me and my family to survive in this critical situation. When Kabul fell, most women like me were deprived of our human rights, which are work and education, and we have stayed at home. During years of humanitarian work, I had become accustomed and it was my duty to provide spirited support for the rights of women and girls, but now I and my family are facing an unknown fate. Since the launch of the campaign, we have used this money and survived. We had various plans to get out of Afghanistan, which unfortunately were not successful, but we still did not stop trying, and at the same time, Ms. Claire Berlinski and I have various plans to get out of this critical situation.
From the money which you contributed to my family, it covers the food costs, fuel in winter, housing, clothing, medicine, and other necessary things. We survived with your contributions in these bad situation. I and my family are grateful to yours which stands with us in a horrible situation and saved our lives.
I and Ms. Claire are working together to find a way to go out from these horrible situation and take out my family to a safe country.
Please don’t forget my family.
From their eldest daughter, age 26:
Hello to all.
I am a member of ████ family. I have a bachelor’s degree in law and political science, and my dream was to become a defense lawyer like my mother and work for the women and girls of Afghanistan and support them. This was my biggest dream, but with the arrival of the Taliban, all my dreams and those of other Afghan girls were destroyed. When the Taliban came, the girls stayed at home and were deprived of all rights. The Taliban’s extreme views against Afghan girls and women destroyed us and we no longer have the freedom we once had.
A dark year has passed, but I think this year has passed like many years. This was the most difficult year for me and my family because I had never experienced this problem and deprivation in the past. This exclusion still continues and I don't know what will happen to me and my family. But I must say that we had good luck that you stood by us and supported us and we will never forget your help.
From their second daughter, age 18:
Hello. I am ████. I have finished school. I wished to study journalism and serve the people of Afghanistan. I had big plans for myself to achieve big goals in my life and to be successful in life. With the arrival of the Taliban, all the dreams and hopes of my generation were destroyed. Taliban are leading Afghanistan to misery. I want to thank Ms. Claire and all of you, friends, for all the support you gave us and for not leaving us alone. I hope that one day these problems will end and we will enjoy our human rights.
From their son, age 23:
Hello to all who read this message, I am ████, the only son of the ████ family.
I want to thank all of you and I am grateful to you. I am indebted to each and every one of you who stood by us and supported us. When Kabul fell to the terrorist group, we lost all hope and motivation, but at that time, you stood by us and supported my family. You are like my family and I love you all.
But I must say that the current situation in Afghanistan is extremely critical because a terrorist group is the current ruler of Afghanistan. Taliban treat people like wild animals. They commit targeted killings, mostly human rights defenders. Defenders of women’s rights. Defense lawyers. Female judges and journalists are targeted. The Taliban deprived girls of their basic right to study and girls have no right to go to school. My sisters were also denied the right to education and cannot continue their education. Sometimes my sisters cry because they were deprived of their most basic right, which is education. It is really painful for all family members because we are facing a dark future in Afghanistan. But fortunately, there is hope and we are working with Ms. Claire Berlinski on good options to get out of this situation.
From the whole family:
My family is grateful to you and thank you all for understanding us and standing by us. All of you are like our family members and you supported us in difficult situations and did not leave us alone. We need more of your help to find a way out of this crisis. We are exploring various options and Ms. Claire Berlinski is helping us find a solution and end this nightmare. Please pray for us so that we can get out of these problems.
The ████ family
I asked myself why the youngest daughters didn’t write. Then I realized what the answer must be. It is painful to realize that.
➨ Here, again, is the fundraiser. Whatever you give will help them. It will either help them get to safety, in a civilized country, or it will help them to eat. Either way, it won’t be wasted.
Here are the articles we’ve published about them:
A letter to the world from an Afghan family. “I’m writing this letter from Kabul. I am the head of a family of eight: myself, my wife, my five daughters, and my son. My daughters have become teenage prisoners.”
A update to the world from an Afghan family. “I am writing this letter to inform you about our situation in Afghanistan. We are still hiding in Afghanistan, in a bad situation, in the darkness, disappointed. But we will never give up, we will try to escape from this situation.”
A letter from an Afghan mother. “The Taliban do not value the rights of women and girls. They hate women. The Taliban are against educating girls. The Taliban are against women working in society. They are savages and do not know anything about human rights.”
These articles appeared in other publications:
Afghan family of eight, hiding from Taliban, fear they’ll be killed and say terror attack left Kabul feeling hopeless
Afghanistan lawyer forced into hiding for work with abused women is crowdfunding escape with her six children.
As if their situation wasn’t dark enough, I learned something recently that I hadn’t realized. They’re Tajiks. Tajiks make up the bulk of Afghanistan’s educated detribalized, urban elite. They dominated the Northern Alliance, becoming the United States’ main ally and playing a vital role in defeating the Taliban. The National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, the last remaining force to hold out against the Taliban, is in Panjshir Province, largely a Tajik region. Tajik attitudes toward women are somewhat more liberal than those of other ethnic groups in Afghanistan. For all of these reasons, the Taliban loathe them. They’ve been killing Tajiks indiscriminately. Videos of these murders have circulated widely. I don’t need to explain the effect these videos have on them.
Every time I think about this family, my heart sinks. I suspect the whole Western world feels this way about all of Afghanistan, because the whole country has dropped completely out of the news—have you noticed? But Afghans are in just as dire a situation now—more dire, in fact—as they were when you saw them desperately clinging to that moving airplane.
Europe is now flooded with Ukrainian refugees, with whom Europeans feel a more instinctive kinship. Afghan refugees are unwelcome everywhere.
When Kabul fell, the family fled their home. They’ve been in hiding ever since, rarely even venturing outside. The parents are educated people, obviously, who have worked all their lives to provide for their children. Now they’re helpless, living on donations from strangers, their dignity taken from them. For girls and women, especially, life in Afghanistan has become a living death:
In less than a year, the Taliban have decimated the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. They have violated women’s and girls’ rights to education, work and free movement; demolished the system of support for women and girls fleeing domestic violence; arbitrarily detained women and girls for infractions of the Taliban’s discriminatory rules; and contributed to a surge in the rates of child, early and forced marriage. Women who peacefully protested against these restrictions and policies have been harassed, threatened, arrested, forcibly disappeared, arbitrarily detained and tortured.
As everyone with two firing neurons knew they would, the Taliban have broken all of their promises to respect human rights. (How adults could have believed otherwise, I’ll never understand.) Because the Taliban systematically looted health clinics and dismantled key institutions such as the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, maternal and infant mortality have returned to their grim pre-2001 rate.
The economy has collapsed, chiefly because the world has cut off foreign assistance and restricted international bank transfers. The World Food Program reports that 95 percent of the population hasn’t enough to eat. Millions of children are malnourished. The Taliban finances itself by selling drugs. It’s now the world’s largest producer of narcotics. Europe and Asia have been flooded with cheap heroin and amphetamines. The revenues are used to persecute and disappear their fellow Afghans.
Like everyone in Afghanistan, this family now lives in terror that their daughters will be forced to marry these animals. Forced marriage is now widespread.2 The Taliban conducts house searches and detentions. Reports of vengeance killings and other executions are commonplace.
I want to get this family out of there—all of them—while the youngest ones are still young enough to learn to read and write and lead normal lives.
If you can help, they would be grateful. So would I.
I’m not using their names because it still isn’t safe for them to be identified.
“Marriage” isn’t really le mot juste.