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The People Who Fell from the Sky

by Asiya 9 months ago in humanity
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Afghan refugees in the US need our help

An Afghan flag in a refugee home

As we follow the news about the crisis in Afghanistan, it is important to think about the consequences for Afghan refugee families here. Imagine getting a call from your family back home telling you that they can no longer talk to you.

That's what happened to Shams, an Afghan refugee last week. The Taliban invaded his village in Khost province. He shared that families with relatives in the US have become targets of revenge. Shams asked us to remove his pictures from our website [amnasanctuary.org] because he is worried about his family back home. Anxiety for family members still in their home country seems to be the main concern for Afghan refugees right now, and rightly so.

"My family are okay now, but only God knows what will happen."

Ahmed, another Afghan refugee, expressed the same sentiment. "My family are okay now, but only God knows what will happen." He hasn’t heard from his family in Kunar province since their Internet connection was cut off. “I have a sick sister, and I will have no way of checking on her."

Amna Sanctuary serves Afghan and other refugee families who have been in the US for less than five years. As part of our mission to help them adjust and thrive to their new homes, we went to visit them and see how they are doing during this humanitarian crisis. During our visit, one female refugee shared, “My aunt told me that with the Taliban entering the village, she will have to take the flag of Afghanistan down. Afghans are proud people. I put the flag up in my apartment for all my relatives who can't have the flag up." Another refugee woman said, “I am starting my English class in a nearby community college, and I feel kind of guilty knowing that my female cousins will not be allowed to go to school.”

Her colleague, who had never spoken to her before, asked her if she had seen videos about Afghans falling off airplanes.

The Afghan refugee families we serve generally keep to themselves, and language barriers prevent them from having American friends. But the ones who have limited language skills and managed to join the workforce have had different, and unsettling experiences. One female refugee confided that her colleague, who had never spoken to her before, asked her if she had seen videos about Afghans falling off airplanes, then proceeded to show her one on his phone. She didn’t know how to respond. She smiled awkwardly and left. She was very distraught, not knowing how to explain why her people would choose such a desperate act rather than the fate that awaited them.

I can relate. As a newly-arrived Arab immigrant in 2001, I faced exclusion, outright racism, and threats. I went into hiding with my son, and eventually managed to relocate to a safer place. One consequence of my fear was that I decided to not teach my native language to my boy. Although the danger to us receded with time, it was fraught with anxiety and lack of opportunity to make an independent living. But we never lost faith that America would give us a chance, and we succeeded.

It may become harder for Americans to realize that Afghan refugees who came here were not pro-Taliban.

With more stories about Americans getting hurt in Afghanistan, Afghan refugees are afraid they will be seen as foreign enemies. It may become harder for Americans to realize that Afghan refugees who came here were not pro-Taliban. It is even likely that Afghan refugees will face even more barriers to inclusion.

Even as Afghan refugees improve their language abilities and learn about mainstream American norms, these stereotypes will become obstacles impeding their social and professional success. We need to provide tools for Afghan refugee families to enable them to deal with the crisis in Afghanistan.

Amna Sanctuary is fundraising to provide counseling hours for the Afghan refugee families. You can show solidarity by making a donation at https://amnasanctuary.org/donate or sharing our website. These new and vulnerable Americans need our help.

humanity

About the author

Asiya

Asiya is my Sufi name given to me by Sherif Papa, my spiritual guide. I was born in Cairo, Egypt. I am a spoken word poet. I love writing short stories. Feel free to email

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