Students Speak on Ukraine and Afghanistan

“The A Team,” so called because they are Advocates for Afghanistan, and even more to the point, are the best at what they do, are three Teachers College Columbia University graduate student volunteers serving as interns supporting Betty Reardon’s work with Advocates for Afghan Women Scholars and Professionals. In many cases this relationship is now manifest in a reversal of support roles.  These three women, Stella Hwang, Ye Huang, and Jessica Terbrueggen, have taken various initiatives in which Betty, and through her, the Global Campaign for Peace Education (GCPE), are the supporters. Three of their initiatives are posted here.

Most current, in terms of what is uppermost at this time in the thoughts of the GCPE network, is their statement on the crimes against Ukraine, and the similarities of the consequences to those suffered by Afghanistan after decades of war. It presages some of what will soon be brought to the Global Campaign in other postings on Ukraine.  This statement was issued while the team was intensely involved in efforts to lobby Congress on behalf of the Afghan Adjustment Act, and to call for funding in the upcoming 2022 spending bill to enable at-risk scholars to accept invitations to US universities, by funding support for their work at these universities. (The Afghan Academic Airlift campaign is to pay travel to the universities who will still need extra-budgetary funds to host them.)

Here posted, as well, are the email messages the team is sending to Congress members on the Homeland Security Committees overseeing the Afghan Adjustment Act and to the Appropriations Committees dealing with the spending bill.   These emails state the core of the messages delivered by phone to Congressional offices by the team and other volunteers committed to work to convince the relevant agencies of the US government to fulfill promises to Afghans who worked beside Americans through twenty years of the US presence. The team has made ongoing phone contacts with some offices, and they have received more than form letter replies to their emails.  Every day they live up to the name of “A team.”  (BAR, 3/1/2022)

Statement on Ukraine/Afghanistan

“We Are One Humanity”

We, the TCCU Afghan Advocacy Team, in solidarity with the people of the Ukraine, assert that a humanitarian crisis striking one people strikes all people. As we strive to contend with the disasters that decades of war have visited on the people of Afghanistan, we lament the human disasters now suffered in Ukraine and denounce the aggression that imposes them.

In the name of the common humanity we share with all people, we beseech national leaders to use every means open to them to end the hostilities and to negotiate a just and viable peace. We urge the United Nations to face down current obstacles to ending the violence in Ukraine, taking measures to assure that all relevant charter provisions for peaceful settlements are invoked. We call upon all in global civil society, in fulfillment of our responsibilities as world citizens to support these and other steps toward peace, joining in efforts to relieve the humanitarian crises of Ukraine and Afghanistan and all such crises now endured by millions of our human family.

RE: AFGHAN ADJUSTMENT ACT

Dear Representative  (Name)

We the undersigned are an international group of graduate students, concerned about the present situation of the Afghan people and Afghan refugees now in the US. We reach out to you in your capacity as a member of the US House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security.

We are enrolled at Teachers College Columbia University, pursuing advanced degrees, preparing us for professions of active direct involvement in fulfilling the responsibilities of global citizenship that we hold in common, be we from New York City, other parts of the United States or other countries. Those who are not US citizens are keenly aware that our lives are profoundly affected by US policy. We chose the United Stares for our graduate work, because of the quality of education we would receive in a political environment that fosters open inquiry and the learning necessary to build a world in which the respect for human rights we experience here will be the common lot of all the world’s peoples.

It is in this context that we urge you to give full consideration to the sponsorship, presentation and passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act that we see as an instrument toward fulfilling the human rights of Afghan Refugees now in US camps. Most hold HP visas, valid only for two years, severely limiting the futures they earned in the services and support they had provided during the 20 years of US operations in Afghanistan. We request your efforts to legislate AAA, making possible their pursuit of permanent residency and possibly the US citizenship to which many aspire.

Please work to toward the Homeland Security Committee’s facilitation of the process that will lead to the passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act, and the fulfillment of obligations to refugees who demonstrated values similar to those that motivate our request.

With appreciation of your service to this country and to world society through passage of this act and fulfillment of promises made.

Sincerely,

Multiple student signers

Re: Funding to USAID to bring at-risk Afghan scholars and students to American Universities

Dear Representative or Senator (Name)

We, the undersigned, are an international group of graduate students, concerned about the present situation of the Afghan people. As such we have a special concern with our Afghan peers, many at extreme risk since the US/NATO withdrawal from their country. Americans and international students alike, we believe that the United States bears a responsibility to facilitate bringing them out of their present life-threatening situation. This nation’s long history of educational assistance to Afghanistan, going back decades beyond the present crisis, much of it provided by our own university, leads us to reach out to you in your capacity as a member of the Appropriations Committee of the US House of Representatives/ Senate. We urge you to consider these present responsibilities and precedents set in past decades, as you frame the 2022 spending bill.

Specifically, we urge you to provide an allocation of funds to the US Agency for International Development to enable the agency to support these scholars and students in accepting invitations to US universities. Further, we urge that the suspension of funding to the long-standing, highly successful Fulbright program for Afghanistan be rescinded.

The signers of this letter are enrolled at Teachers College Columbia University, pursuing advanced degrees, preparing us for professions of active, direct involvement in fulfilling the responsibilities of global citizenship that we hold in common, be we from New York City, other parts of the United States or other countries. Those who are not US citizens are keenly aware that our lives are profoundly affected by US policy. We chose the United States for our graduate work, because of the quality of education we would receive in a political environment that fosters open inquiry and the learning necessary to build a world in which the respect for human rights we experience here will be the common lot of all the world’s peoples.

It is our hope that at-risk Afghan scholars and students will have the same opportunity. Accordingly, we call for the passage of a 2022 spending bill that makes it possible for them to accept the invitations they are receiving to conduct research, teach and finish degrees in US universities.

With appreciation of your service to this country, to Afghanistan and to world society in making possible the addition of these at-risk scholars to the pool of productive actors in the education efforts essential to rebuilding a just and sustainable Afghan society, as a contribution to a better future for our shared world.

Sincerely,

Multiple student signers

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