Rona Popal, Executive Director of the Afghan Coalition was introduced by Parvin Ahmadi.  Ms. Popal explained that the exodus of refugees from Afghanistan is only the latest tragedy. Russia invaded the country in 1980 and set off the first wave of refugees. A second wave occurred when a civil war began as the Russians left the country. The Taliban triggered a third wave.  The fourth wave consisted of the “children of the war.” Now after 20 years, the Americans have left the country and the Taliban is back.  Many of the Taliban are the same people who were in the government 20 years ago, and they do not have a good history. Some are on the UN terrorist list.
The performance of the armed services in Afghanistan was disappointing. The likely reasons are complicated. First, the people are tired of fighting after 40 years of war. Second, Afghanistan is part of a Big-Power game in which the Afghans are simply pawns. The county has a strategic location and many natural resources. Other countries (e.g., China) want those resources. The Afghan people, especially the women, have no voice in these matters.
The lucky Afghans are in the US, and now groups are trying to help the new refugees. For example, there will be a worldwide conference on September 30 to plan that help. The Afghan Coalition is working with the US State Department to identify people who want to leave and to figure out how to help them. The Coalition recently received a generous donation of $200,000 to pay for housing for the refugees who will be arriving in the Bay Area. About 350 refugeed are expected; however, the plane was delayed in Texas due of an outbreak of measles. The $200K was nice start, but clearly, the need is much greater to care for so many people. The Afghan Coalition is soliciting for more donations of money, clothes, and housing.
One positive aspect is that Fremont has a large community of Afghans already who are willing and able to help the new refugees. Mental health services are a particular need because many of the refugees have been traumatized by the collapse of the Afghan government and the hurried escape to the West.
Click here to watch Rona's presentation.