(Updated 17 September, 2021, to include current conditions, money-transfer logistics, resources for helping would-be refugees submit their paperwork, and more humanitarian organizations.)
Many of you want to help. For that, I and my Afghan friends are immensely grateful. I have been slow to come back with a list of organizations. I did not want to steer you astray.
Conditions inside Afghanistan: As of September 17, 2021, the situation has deteriorated for people I know both in Kabul and Kandahar. In Kabul, door-to-door searches are underway. In Kandahar too: one former employee, who lives in a village west of town, says former government employees are being yanked out of their houses at night, three or four bodies showing up in the vineyards the next day. "It's according to a list," says the employee. Prices for basic necessities are up by 70-100% since the fall of the Afghan government.
And border-crossing is almost impossible. "The scene at the Chaman gate is indescribable," says the same employee. "Some people have stayed for days. Some are trying to force their way across and are being shot. But people can cross from Pakistan into Afghanistan with no problem. If Washington wants freedom of motion for Afghans, pressure is needed both on Pakistani government first, then Taliban. Any humanitarian aid should be revocable, and tightly conditioned on cessation of night-time assassinations, and freedom of motion.
In this context, if you want to help identified individuals, I invite you to throw a couple of dollars into the GoFundMe campaign I am organizing with my friend of 3 decades and former partner in skin-care Jennie Green, on behalf of former members of our cooperative, Arghand. Here is the page. You can find more info on that page and below.
Here are a few organizations I feel comfortable highlighting.
For Afghan refugees who have left the country:
The International Association of Women Judges: This international organization (with an office in Washington DC) has been working with Afghan counterparts for years. They have been leading the effort to extract female judges from Afghanistan — given their particular vulnerability. I have publicly stated my belief that the Taliban are unlikely to go on a mass rampage slaughtering hundreds of random females. It would, on the other hand, be consistent with their style to make examples of particularly visible or galling — to them — women. I’d put judges at the top of that list. (See this Reuters article.) So…please help if you can.
Here is a reply to my query from Hon. Vanessa Ruiz (District of Columbia Court of Appeals):
“IAWJ has established a fund for Afghan Women judges for evacuation, resettlement and other support during this difficult time. Donations can be made online at www.iawj.org. Those who prefer to donate by check or wire should contact our Executive Director, Christie Jones, email@example.com."
Here is a Washington Post article on their efforts (PDF below):
Rubia, Inc., an NGO that has worked on marketing Afghan traditional crafts has set up an emergency fund both to support refugees and those who can't make it out.
In the midwest, please consider The Kentucky Refugees Ministries. Strongly recommended by a sterling community organizer in Lexington.
From a member of our fellowship located in Virginia, good impressions of the Mennonite Central Committee.
In Atlanta, from another member of our group: Refuge Coffee Co. Perhaps folks in the Atlanta area could band together to support a position at RCC for an incoming Afghan.
In California: JFCS East Bay
I was interviewed on WHYY, the main Philadelphia public radio station, right behind a representative from the Nationalities Services Center. She sounded serious and forward-looking — in terms of refugees’ likely future needs, emotional as well as material. But I don’t have personal experience with their work.
A Washington D.C.-based coalition, connected with Georgetown University, focusing its efforts on women: Vital Voices.
Please reach out to local organizations in your own communities that you know and trust. Perhaps band together with two or three other households, friends and neighbors, in order to collectively participate in helping smooth one Afghan family’s transition. These are difficult rites of passage, whose challenges far outlast the headlines. Heartsick, disoriented Afghans will need the patient gentleness of a whole American “village” to help them adjust.
For those remaining inside Afghanistan:
For those seeking to leave, and anyone seeking to help them enter the United States, here is the best website on available avenues I have seen: https://refugees.org/resources-for-afghan-allies/
While they are waiting, and for those who don't fit the tight guidelines and/or get jostled out of line by the apparently arbitrary procedures... Some of the above organizations work in country. For them and in general, the first major problem is that the Taliban government has limited cash withdrawals -- from Western Union as well as banks -- to just under $300/week. That means that no organization can withdraw enough cash at once to help many people. And lines are hours long at ATMs and Western Union offices.
Here are two possible work-arounds:
Send money only to individual families, via Western Union. $300/week is ample.
If you know anyone of confidence in Pakistan or the Gulf, transfer money to them, and have them send it to Afghanistan via the traditional money-transfer system called hawala.
A second problem is a bit more philosophical. The following will sound counterintuitive, perhaps cruel. I am ambivalent about a generous bounty of “humanitarian assistance” pouring into Afghanistan just now.
As I suggested in an earlier post, the Taliban and their Pakistani backers want nothing more than to see the money-spigots locked back in the “on” position. Much of those resources would go to enrich Taliban leaders themselves, just as earlier humanitarian and development funding wound up in the pockets of Karzai and Ghani government officials and their cronies, as well as Western contractors and even Taliban commanders. Why would now be different?
Alternatively, any support that does reach suffering Afghans will redound to the Taliban’s credit. It will help them look respectable, no matter how they treat women or other Afghan citizens. In this context, I would be cautious and selective as to which individuals and organizations operating inside Afghanistan to help, and what conditions they are forced to respect in order to keep up their work.
Still, conditions are horrific, and if support could be provided without the resources falling into Taliban hands, that could help lay the groundwork for a future Afghanistan. So, with all this in mind….here are some thoughts.
Jennie Green, who was director of international operations at Arghand, my cooperative that manufactured skin-care products for export, and I are setting up a GoFundMe site for specific former Arghand members. They include (names obscured, like the faces in the picture on the GoFundMe page, for security reasons):
Abd al-xxxx, from the west side of town, his house destroyed in the recent Taliban advance. He had a knack for electricity -- learned how to keep our solar generator running -- but hated it when I told him to restring the wires straight.
Fayzxxxx, a pomegranate-grower from Arghandab, who loved operating the seed oil press.
Nazxx, who was right out of high school when she became our accountant. Now she's a thirty-something mother of three, whose husband has cancer, and obviously can't go back to her job in hospital administration.
Nurxxxx, a former police officer, who joined Arghand when beloved Police Chief Zabit Akrem Khakrezwal was assassinated in 2005 (see The Punishment of Virtue). Most recently, he served as a local delegate to the Kandahar municipal government.
Sarxxx, whom I trained as a radio reporter back in 2002. He launched a prize-winning program called "Complaints," in which he solicited Kandahar residents' issues with public services and other government activities, then investigated, then confronted the responsible official. People started calling him Mr. Prosecutor. In 2011, he took over operations at Arghand, and kept it running until COVID closed it down. On September 16, I called him, and his voice sounded odd. He had just awoken from bypass surgery...he'd had a heart attack at a fit 47. Afghans are dying of broken hearts.
Here is our GoFundMe page. (In the picture, we're trying to work out the raw materials costs for each individual product -- a bar of Kandahar Rose soap, a bottle of Desert Fields massage oil -- a brain-breaking exercise we went through every year. I'm the gal on the left, hand to cheek.) The Atlantic article detailing the Cooperative's early days (and some of the difficulties with U.S. development assistance) did not make it in. Here it is.
Note all the organizations listed below are subject to the currency withdrawal limitation. So take any suggestions with that caveat.
From the friend I mentioned earlier in this connection comes this appreciation of the main refugee camp outside of Mazar-i Sharif: “It’s like a microcosm of Afghanistan. Everyone came there from all ethnic groups and all parts of the country.”
The Refugee Organization for Afghan Women and Children has been working there for years, and according to its director, is providing weekly food packages, in the camp and to other famiilies. though funds are scarce. It is also commencing operations in Kandahar.
Money for ROAWC can be donated (with a note to ensure it is earmarked for that purpose) to Goodweave. Or can be provided to ROAWC directly via Western Union. I don't yet have details on how to do that. Please check back. We will be organizing a solid way to support them soon.
Rubia, Inc., as per above. They are working with Afghan colleagues of mine to work out money transfer options.
Preemptive Love. From the person who recommended Refuge Coffee Co. “They are new-ish in Afghanistan, but from what I've heard about them, they do what they say in helping people quickly.”
The following is by no means exhaustive, but here are a few particularly good articles:
The Economist on Afghan government corruption. Thanks to one of you for providing!
The New York Times on Pakistan
Carlotta Gall, including focus on capturing intelligence files:
The Washington Post on money made by generals who commanded the international troops in Afghanistan after retirement.
Equally instructive might be a parallel article on their civilian counterparts, such as Ashton Carter, Richard Cheney, Hillary Clinton, Tom Donilon, Michael Flynn, Robert Gates, Stephen Hadley, James Jones, John Kerry, James Mattis, Leon Panetta, Colin Powell, Condolizza Rice, Susan Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Rex Tillerson…
U.S. Non-Profits maintaining databases on American corruption — with a specific focus on the exchange of personnel (revolving door) between key executive branch departments or agencies and their private sector counterparts, and contracts awarded to companies that have repeatedly violated U.S. and state laws and regulations.
Open Secrets (examines dark money expenditures in U.S. politics)
Project On Government Oversight (POGO)’s Pentagon Revolving Door Database
The Revolving Door Project (examines the employment history of appointees across the executive branch):
The Violation Tracker (records indictments and settlements for violation of U.S. and state environmental, labor, contract, etc. laws and regulations. Note: the link provided here is just the Koch Industries page. You can search almost any major company.)
Please feel free to return to this post in the days and weeks to come. I will be adding to it.
And thank you.