Left Behind, And Still They Wait

Afghanistan is one of the deadliest places on earth for women and children. Direct Relief has partnered with the Afghan Institute for Learning (AIL) and the Abbott Fund to help reverse the country's high maternal mortality rate and increase the survival and overall health of infants and children.  Direct Relief and Abbott Fund began supporting AIL to train female midwives to provide skilled assistance during labor and delivery, as well as care for infants and children. (Photo by: Direct Relief via Flickr.  March 12, 2007. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.)

Introduction

Amed Kahn describes the tragedy of thousands of Afghans who had invested their efforts in the US agenda, trusting their futures and that of their country to what they believed to be a good-faith partnership. Yet, when the agenda was abandoned, the present administration following through on the Trump decision to withdraw US troops and personnel, thousands of Afghan partners were also abandoned to the vengeance of the Taliban.

At the most extreme risk of vengeance, from job removal to death threats, were women professionals and human rights defenders, active in advancing the wellbeing of their fellow citizens, many of them as university professors and researchers.  In an effort to assure their safety and fulfill US partnership obligations, American Universities have invited scholars to come to the United States to continue their research and teaching, only to face a daunting and mostly unsuccessful process of the at-risk scholars’ applications for the J1 visas under which most visiting scholars come to American universities. Growing concern for the continued, and in many cases worsening, jeopardy of these women – the case of the woman intimidated by the Taliban recounted by Khan, we advocates know to be a common one – lead advocates to action to overcome the delays and denials in the granting of these visas.

One such action, the open letter from American academics to the Secretary of State, urging action on this immediate problem, is posted here for a second time. The purpose of the posting is to encourage Congressional action such as that undertaken by Senator Markey and colleagues, but specifically focused on the plight of these at-risk Afghan women scholars. We ask that all concerned Americans send this letter to their Senators and Representatives, urging them to take action to change this situation.

The power and responsibility to take the required action lies with the Administration and Congress. That responsibility is shared by and originates with the US citizenry.  May they be moved to take it up.  (BAR, 7/11/22)

Thousands of ex-US aides left in Afghanistan in year after withdrawal

By 

(Reposted from: NY Post.  June 11, 2022)

n July 2021, five weeks before the Taliban captured Kabul, President Biden told the American public that “Afghan nationals who work side-by-side with U.S. forces” would not be abandoned by America. “There is a home for you in the United States if you so choose, and we will stand with you just as you stood with us,” Biden said.

I believed President Biden at that time and supported his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. But Biden’s commitment to Afghans who placed their lives in danger as translators, women’s rights advocates and civil society leaders has yet to be fulfilled. Nearly a year after the U.S. departure, more than 240,000 Afghans are still waiting for special immigrant visas and refugee and humanitarian parole applications with the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services. And this delay dishonors the personal risks they assumed on our nation’s behalf.

For most people, the Afghan problem has long passed. But as a long-time refugee-rights activist, this crisis is very personal. My involvement with evacuations in Afghanistan began last August when I worked to get Afghan allies into the U.S. Air Force planes evacuating from Kabul. As the U.S. completed its withdrawal, I realized we were abandoning thousands of additional Afghans who’d put their lives on the line while working alongside the U.S. for two decades.

In September, I organized the evacuation of six female lawmakers and their families from Afghanistan. As I scrambled to locate accommodating nations willing to accept these women, I immediately encountered bureaucratic hurdles by US authorities. Eventually, through favors, our group was able to reach Greece, via Iran. Over the next months, I chartered four additional planes filled with refugees from Kabul to the West.

My team only assisted evacuees who’d obtained official paperwork allowing them onto U.S. military evacuation flights — but who were unable to reach the airport due to the chaos in Kabul as it fell to the Taliban. Today, over 300 of these folks are stuck in transit countries like Greece. They were fortunate enough to escape near certain death at the hands of the Taliban, but now risk languishing for years unless the US government takes immediate action to find them permanent homes.

There are over 43,000 people in Afghanistan waiting for “humanitarian parole” (HP) applications to be processed. This would allow them to live, work and study inside the U.S. as applications for their final resettlement wind their way through the State Department.  With a mere 270 HP applications approved thus far, the US clearly has a long way to go.

The system designed to process Afghan HP applications is nothing if not Orwellian. To secure approval, these people – their lives now endangered due to their work alongside Americans – must make their way to a third country and attend an in-person interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy. They must then pay a $575 processing fee (the median per-capita income in Afghanistan is $378) and provide proof of targeted violence against them by the Taliban. This process is not just scarily slow, but also unbelievably opaque for everyone trying to help them. As we keep trying to help, we’re becoming increasingly frustrated at our own government’s lack of clarity and action.

Despite this labyrinth-like process, those who manage to make it to the West are clearly the lucky ones. The unlucky ones reach out to me at all hours, searching for an escape from the nightmare many are facing today.

The former director of one of the largest schools in Afghanistan, for instance, is now a refugee in Pakistan, running out of money and concerned for her physical safety. Before the Taliban takeover, she worked with various NGOs in Afghanistan and organized classes for girls in the most remote areas of the country. Her work, undertaken at the encouragement of the U.S. government, led to a death sentence once the Taliban took over. “The [Taliban] tell me that ‘you are an American and that in our villages you taught American culture to our girls, and we will not leave you alive.’” Another message, this one from a former USAID employee and civil society leader, pleads simply: “Please help us before we are taken and killed.”

Evacuating at-risk Afghans has won me awards and recognition from human rights groups. But my work is incomplete without the U.S. government living up to its commitments to provide a permanent pathway to the U.S. for every Afghan who risked their lives, and those of their families, to educate girls, build Afghan civil society, and assist U.S. NGO workers, diplomats and soldiers. The war in Afghanistan may have ended in August of 2021, but we still call on President Biden to honor his commitment to the thousands of brave Afghans left behind.

*Amed Khan is an American activist, philanthropist, and humanitarian who has a long history of working in conflict zones, including Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq. He is currently doing relief work in Ukraine.

Second Open Letter to the Secretary of State

The Honorable Anthony Blinken
United States Secretary of State

July 5, 2022

Re:  Request regarding visas for at-risk Afghan scholars and students

Dear Mr. Secretary,

This is a second letter, with more information on the problem and additional endorsements, requesting intervention to make the visa process for at-risk Afghan scholars and students more fair and efficient.

We, the undersigned American academics, commend and congratulate the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security for their endorsement of the Afghan Adjustment Act to facilitate asylum for Afghan supporters of the United States during our twenty years in Afghanistan. It is a significant step toward more just policies toward our Afghan allies.

This letter is intended to urge further steps in the direction of just policies towards Afghans, which also serve the greater interests of the United States. As academics and scholars, we are deeply concerned that J1 and F1 visas for at-risk Afghan academics are virtually impossible to access.

We are deeply concerned about the lives and wellbeing of these Afghan academics, especially women. They are all at risk and many are threatened with death.  Further, the failure to bring them to safety in situations where they can practice and further develop their professional capacities is a serious obstacle to their futures. The US enlisted the help of these Afghan academics and their fellow citizens and thus has responsibility for ensuring their dignity and wellbeing. The lives of these academics and many human rights defenders are inextricably linked to the future of their country. They represent the best hope of positive change in Afghanistan that seems unattainable as they face the present circumstances in the visa process.

The cost of J1 visas for academics and F1s for students is a nonrefundable fee of $160, a considerable challenge to most applicants, with further expense for those with family, each of whom pays the same fee. This outlay is increased by other added fees such as brief mandatory bus rides to the consulate entrance. Comparatively few of these J1 and F1 applications have been approved, due to the application of the presumptive immigrant standard. Financial issues are problematic, even when a fully funded stipend and scholarship is provided by the inviting university. Delays and denials of these visas are common.

A number of the American academics signing this letter are working to bring at-risk scholars to American universities, attempting to facilitate travel and the visa process. Others represent universities that have invited Afghan academics and students to their campuses to conduct research, to teach and to pursue graduate and undergraduate degrees. All of us have been dismayed and often incredulous at the delays and denials, which sometimes appear to be arbitrary. Among various examples are: a denied applicant being told a sponsor had “too much money” in a bank account on which information was  requested; siblings with identical documentation, invited to the same university, one granted a visa, the other denied. The applicants for whom some of the signers have arranged university placements are well qualified, and have no intentions of remaining in the United States, having made arrangements to continue their professional training in other countries.

The integrity of the United States, our claim of full commitment to human rights, and our responsibility to the Afghan people and the world community demand that we take immediate action to remedy this situation of dysfunctional and unjust delay and denial of J1 and F1 visas.

This letter is posted on the Global Campaign for Peace Education site. Copies are sent to President Biden, White House Office of Gender Affairs, Advocates for Afghan Women Scholars and Professionals, Selected members of Congress, CARE at the State Department, American Association of Colleges and Universities, National Education Association, American Association of University Presidents, Institute of International Education, Peace and Justice Studies Association, Evacuate Our Allies, other relevant CSOs.

Mr. Secretary, we request your personal intervention to rectify this urgent situation.

Sincerely,

Betty A. Reardon and David Reilly, (Original signers the June 21st letter whose names are listed below the names that follow here, signers of this July 5th letter.)

Ellen Chesler
Senior Fellow, Ralph Bunche Institute
City University of New York

David K. Lahkdhir
Chair of the Board of Trustees
American University of South Asia

Joseph J. Fahey
Chair, Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice
Professor of Religious Studies (Retired)
Manhattan College

Meg Gardinier
Georgetown University Center for Research and Fellowships
Instructor for International Training Graduate Institute

Dr. Elton Skendaj
Assistant Director, MA Program on Democracy and Governance
Georgetown University

Oren Pizmony-Levy
International and Comparative Education Program
Department of International and Transcultural Studies
Teachers College Columbia University

Kevin A. Hinkley
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Co-Director, Justice House
Niagara University

Monisha Bajaj
Professor of International and Multicultural Education
University of San Francisco

Leonisa Ardizzone
Assistant Visiting Professor of Education
Vassar College

Ronni Alexander
Professor Emerita, Graduate School of International Studies
Director of Gender Equality Office
Kobe University

Jacquelyn Porter
Marymount University (retired)

Gregory Perkins
Counselor, Professor of Student Development, Emeritus
Glendale Community College, CA

June Zaconne
Associate Professor of Economics, Emerita
Hofstra University

Barbara Barnes
Adjunct Associate Professor
Department of Education
Brooklyn College, CUNY

Janet Gerson
Education Director, International Institute on Peace Education
Co-Director, former Peace Education Center,
Teachers College Columbia University

Mary Mendenhall
Teachers College Columbia University

Kevin Kester
Associate Professor of Comparative International Education
Department of Education
Seoul National University

Peter T, Coleman
Founding Director
Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity
Earth Institute Columbia University

Michael Loadenthal
The Peace and Justice Studies Association
Georgetown University

Listed below are the names of those who signed the June 21, 2022 open letter:

Betty A. Reardon
Founding Director Emeritus, International Institute on Peace Education, retired founder of peace education at Teachers College Columbia University

David Reilly
President of Faculty Union
Founder and Director of Justice House
Niagara University

Marcella Johanna Deproto
Senior Director, International Scholar and Student Services
University of San Francisco

Tony Jenkins
Coordinator of the Global Campaign for Peace Education
Peace Studies, Georgetown University

Stephan Marks
Francois Xavier Bagnoud Professor of Health and Human Rights
Harvard University

Dale Snauwaert
Professor of Peace Studies and Education
University of Toledo

George Kent
Professor Emeritus (Political Science)
University of Hawaii

Effie P. Cochran
Professor Emerita, Department of English
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY

Jill Strauss
Assistant Professor
Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY

Kathleen Modrowski
Professor and Dean
Jindal School of Liberal Arts and Humanities
I.P. Jindal Global University

Maria Hanzanopolis
Professor of Education
Vassar College

Damon Lynch, Ph.D.
University of Minnesota

Russell Moses
Senior Lecturer, Philosophy
University of Texas

John J. Kanet
Professor Emeritus
University of Dayton

Catia Cecilia Confortini
Associate Professor, Peace and Justice Studies Program
Wellesley College

Dr. Ronald Pagnucco
College of St. Benedict/St. Johns University

Barbara Wien
Member of the Faculty
American University, Washington DC

Jeremy A. Rinken, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Peace and Conflict Studies
University of North Carolina Greensboro

Laura Finley, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology and Criminology
Barry University

Jonathan W. Reader
Baker Professor of Sociology
Drew University

Felisa Tibbets
Teachers College Columbia University,
University of Utrecht

John MacDougall
Professor of Sociology Emeritus,
Founding Co-Director, Peace and Conflict Studies Institute
University of Massachusetts Lowell

List of endorsers continues to be in process. Institutions noted for identification only.

close

Join the Campaign & help us #SpreadPeaceEd!

Please send me emails:

Be the first to comment

Join the discussion...