CW: This article references violence in Afghanistan. Please refer to the end of the article for on- and off-campus resources.
Georgetown University students launched community fundraisers to support activists in Afghanistan and Afghan refugees amid the Taliban takeover of the country.
Afghan activist and poet Zahra Wakilzada (SFS ’23) created a fundraising campaign to raise money for her own family members still in Afghanistan, many of whom are activists for women’s rights, so that they can evacuate the country (Full disclosure: Wakilzada formerly served as a member of The Hoya editorial board.) A group of organizations also formed a donation drive Sept. 3 to support local Afghan refugees, assisted by Georgetown’s chapter of No Lost Generation (NLG), an organization that fundraises and provides resources for refugees.
Tens of thousands of Afghans attempted to flee the country after Taliban forces took control of the government Aug. 15, following the withdrawal of U.S. troops. More than 20,000 Afghan refugees have arrived in the United States, with an estimated 2,500 refugees entering through Fort Lee in Virginia.
Tara Nouri (SFS ’22), one of the Afghan American students that helped organize the drive alongside NLG, says she feels a personal responsibility to help those endangered by the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.
“For Afghan Americans, we are so invested because we, at one point in our lives, would like to return there one day,” Nouri said in an interview with The Hoya. “We don’t want to speak from a place of privilege and say, ‘I’m out of the country, I don’t have to live under the Taliban so I won’t think about it until I choose to go back.’ If you ever want to have a future in a country you have to stay actively invested in it.”
NLG board member Carrie McDonald (COL ’24) reported that, while donations were initially slow, the rate picked up throughout September; however, McDonald reported items had been stolen from one donation box (Full disclosure: McDonald is a Sports staff writer for The Hoya).
“We had an instance where two blankets went missing, which is very concerning to me, but they were returned,” McDonald said in an interview with The Hoya.
No Lost Generation is a part of a broader initiative by Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSSNCA), a large refugee resettlement agency operating in Washington, D.C. NLG Georgetown plans to send all collected items to LSSNCA’s own donation drive, which is currently taking place.
Activists in Afghanistan are particularly vulnerable to violence amid the Taliban conflict; Wakilzada expressed concerns about her relatives’ safety in light of the crisis.
Wakilzada aims to raise $15,000 to help her family navigate U.S. visa applications and lawyer fees; as of Sept. 22, the fundraiser has reached $3,151. Wakilzada hopes that the Georgetown community will support her and her family as they confront danger from the Taliban.
“I do not want to tell my children about how my loved ones were massacred by the Taliban & how I was not able to help,” Wakilzada wrote on her fundraising page. “I want the cycle to end with me. I’m burnout & so exhausted from knocking on every door & being turned away. So, I’m turning to you. As a first-generation low-income student, I cannot sponsor my family nor can I pay for their visas/app.”
Wakilzada was herself a refugee to the United States as a teenager in 2015, and she said her experience as a refugee has given her a deep understanding of the situations of thousands of Afghans trying to flee the country.
“Seeing what’s happening in Afghanistan has personally impacted me, not only because I have family in Afghanistan but also because I see myself in every person in Afghanistan, and I can see how I could be one of those individuals if I didn’t become a refugee,” Wakilzada said in an interview with The Hoya.
The U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, a nonpartisan partnership based out of Georgetown University, has partnered with several fundraisers for women and children in Afghanistan. Many Georgetown students also attended the March for Afghan Women on Aug. 29, a protest held by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security along with other advocacy groups, to demand the evacuation of vulnerable women in Afghanistan.
As media attention dies down, Georgetown cannot look away from the continuing needs of Afghans and Afghan refugees, according to Wakilzada.
“When it comes to activism and advocacy and creating safe spaces there will never be a point where we can say we have done enough and our work is done,” Wakilzada said.