Photo courtesy of Roya Heydari

This is the homeland of these radiant and resilient girls, with everything being taken from them, the people of Afghanistan refuse to have their strength and bliss stolen from them.

        Drowning in a sea of poverty, violence, and moments of desperation, the people of Afghanistan are enduring a humanitarian crisis they certainly do not deserve to go through. In Herat, Afghanistan, Fatima Haidar offers her eminent and heartbreaking narrative to UNICEF, “I tried to send my grandchildren to the city to beg, so that we could feed ourselves and have something to burn to keep the water dripping tent warm at night.” Not only are these communities aching as one, but families are also being torn apart and having to witness one another in pain as Fatima offers the world her personal story, “To be honest, I have had several nervous breakdowns. At times I even wanted to end my life escape seeing my grandchildren in agony.”

        The impacts of the Afghanistan crisis are ongoing and reach a wide array of people, and the narratives of the people affected should be recognized and told. The Taliban has seized control of Afghanistan since this past summer and they deliberately target individuals in their homeland in violation of human rights and international law. The people of Afghanistan have been stripped of their basic rights and women especially are facing high levels of abuse and exploitation. 

        Nurpari Mijiti, 12, a human rights activist and student at Westfield voiced, “I feel heartbroken seeing these innocent people as their communities suffer in silence, they deserve the right to have their needs recognized.”

        The future generations of Afghanistan will have heartbreaking stories to tell, but there is still time to reverse the effects and let these children look forward to a life of telling stories about their adventures and days in school. In the UN Women’s Gender Alert analysis, women in Afghanistan have reported, “increased levels of restrictive gender norms and practices, impacting on the freedom of movement and expression” Another female activist was quoted in the report, “I feel stress and anxiety, I cannot walk safely with the presence of armed men in the streets.” No woman should ever feel trapped in this way and it is up to governments and country leaders to provide true aid and support directly to the targeted, innocent civilians.

         Many people do not realize that the United States and other major countries are actually harming the Afghan people instead of actually supporting them. Philip Smucker, local author, and independent journalist provided important information in an email interview regarding the United States and its efforts: “It is important to recognize that the USA is largely responsible for the problems in Afghanistan today with its efforts over twenty years to stand up a corrupt government and also try to help Afghan women. The US created so many expectations and now they have collapsed.” Smucker offers some great insight into how the United States may be indirectly contributing to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. A journalist for the Vox news site, Ellen Ioanes included in her article regarding the United States’ fueling the crisis, “Many of Afghanistan’s current problems are intimately connected to the US withdrawal from the country last year, and the Taliban’s ensuing takeover of the central government.” 

         The women in Afghanistan have displayed great strength and endurance through these trials and tribulations. As the Taliban restricts their freedoms, they disallow women to go in public without a male relative accompanying them. In an Amnesty International piece, South Asian Campaigner Samira Hamidi said, “It’s astonishing that, at a time the country is facing an economic and humanitarian crisis, these women and thousands more like them are being barred from public life.” The article also presents information regarding an improvement in women’s liberties since the Taliban takeover and military troop infiltration have impacted all aspects of life in Afghanistan, currently, there are more than 2.6 million Afghan refugees worldwide and over 5.5 million individuals away from their homes globally according to the Gender Alert Women’s Rights report. The Al Jazeera Journal has reported that there are an estimated one million Afghan children involved in child labor since the earnings of families have plunged recently, this was according to a study by Save The Children. 

          Just recently, groundbreaking news about the funds in Afghanistan has been reported regarding the involvement of  President Biden. Biden decided to redirect frozen assets meant for humanitarian aid for the Afghan people, to families of the victims of the September 11 attacks. This decision was extremely indefensible and inconsiderate of the current conditions of the Afghan people. Millions are in the depth of poverty, children are forced to go work in harsh conditions just to provide for their families, and their stomachs remain empty. The people of Afghan are essentially being penalized for a supposed wrong they did not commit and are being faced with consequences of actions of another. The people of Afghanistan were in no way or form involved with the despicable acts of 9/11 and these innocent people should not be blamed or punished for those criminals’ actions. 

        The truth is that Biden is furthering the strife of the Afghan people with his decision to redirect their aid. Afghans have always struggled to receive support and humanitarian benefits as a result of the Taliban control and the extensive financial regulations in place to combat terrorism. The most prominent aspect that global leaders should focus on is fully and directly supporting the innocent citizens of Afghanistan who are suffering as we speak through a catastrophe. The decision to take away one of their few opportunities of hope was a despicable act by the president and one that many fair-minded individuals will not let wither away and an action the people of Afghanistan will not forget anytime soon.

         Furthermore, the women of Afghanistan should be recognized for their innate strength, as previously mentioned, journalist Philip Smucker voiced his take on the Afghan women: “I am impressed with the resilience of the Afghan women. They are smart, determined, and looking for ways to improve their position in society…” In an article titled How The World Failed Afghan Women, Smucker discusses the position of women in Afghanistan currently, especially in the workplace. Smucker also speaks about the United States’ role in the marginalization of these women, “Despite hundreds of millions spent on programs to assist Afghan women in the last two decades, the equivalent of years of USAID spending elsewhere around the globe on “gender equality,” the United States has next to nothing to show for its investments.”

         Afghan advocates have recently expressed their urging concerns regarding their applications for humanitarian parole. This process allows an emigrant ineligible for admission to the United States to temporarily stay due to a crucial emergency. But, according to an Al Jazeera news piece, more than thousands of Afghans are still waiting for a response to their applications with a “feeling of betrayal” due to the inaction of the Biden administration, and even a rejection of some applications. 

         Co-founder of the organization, Afghan Sustainable Economic Foundation (ASEF), a children’s book author, and a Afghan with a deep love for her people, Gulma Kaisaleh offered her valuable insight. “The United States left Afghanistan in an ‘ugly way’ leaving many casualties, sanctioning Afghanistan, and starving the very people they said they were protecting.” Kaisaleh also mentioned that development aid has been frozen since May, leaving essential workers like teacher and nurses without pay. When asked what she treasured most about the Afghan people, Kaisaleh answered, “Our people are resilient, strong, and hardworking, that is what is amazing about our people.”

         At this moment, the people of Afghanistan need something to hold onto. World leaders and governments are taking away the dreams of the Afghan people and the aspirations of the children of this country. We often ignore the cruel actions of the capable governments who are able to help these people suffering, yet choose to ignore their cries, or even further the violence being inflicted on them. There are still so many unheard accounts of the Afghan people that are yet to be heard. The recent action taken by Biden is an accurate depiction of how this humanitarian crisis is being handled. There is so much to improve and build upon to aid these innocent people, yet corrupt administrations and unjust regulations have deterred the hopes of millions and silenced the voices of a resilient population.