Afghans in America fight to survive one year later.
Raihana Rahimi is a pilot, but one year after the takeover of her country by the Taliban, she’s scraping together rent money each month on a waitress’ wages. Back in Afghanistan, in fear of Taliban retaliation, her family was forced to burn her diploma, uniforms, and pilot IDs. “All my dreams were on fire,” she says, “and I was just watching.”
About this time last year, we were watching images from Afghanistan of mothers handing their babies over barbed-wire fences and desperate evacuees overstuffed into cargo planes. Although free and grateful for their lives in the U.S., recent arrivals from Afghanistan across the U.S. still struggle with traumatic memories and pain over the country and family they were forced to leave. (Read about those left behind in Afghanistan.)
Those fortunate enough to make it to the U.S. are free from stifling oppression, but beginning a new life in the U.S. is like beginning another fight. One woman says, “We are all warriors. Not because we are at war, but because we are fighting to survive. Even now, after leaving Afghanistan under such difficult conditions, we are still fighting to live our lives.” One young man living in El Cajon plays the roles of brother, mother, and father while caring for his baby brother after they were separated from the rest of their family in Kabul. (Read their heart-wrenching story.)
One example of the difficulty most face is an uncertain legal future in the U.S. Without a change in status, people from Afghanistan who arrived in the U.S. under the status of “humanitarian parole” as a result of last year’s evacuation could lose their legal status in the U.S. after two years here. The Afghan Adjustment Act currently in Congress would grant them the same rights as those settled as official refugees, and a secure future in their new home.
Across the U.S., the unprecedented welcome by Christians has made this fight a little easier. A representative of the Evangelical Immigration Table writes, “Having been in this refugee-ministry space for 19 years now, I can’t remember another time when the Church showed such concern for people fleeing persecution. That concern has waned somewhat, one year on, but I’ve also seen amazing fruit—yes, I’ll use the word transformation—among Christians who have embraced our Afghan neighbors and stuck with them.” (Read her full reflection on one year of welcoming Afghans.)
Here in San Diego, Hope for San Diego’s partner churches welcomed friends (read the story of one local Afghan) and eased their transition to the U.S. Together, we contributed more than $60,000 of in-kind support to help set up apartments, buy groceries, and provide clothing and hygiene items. Hope for San Diego’s partnership with World Relief facilitated 10 Good Neighbor Teams—groups of volunteers that befriended families and helped with basic needs. More than 200 volunteers from Hope for San Diego meant that our new neighbors were not alone in their fight for life in America.
It’s because of this kind of generosity and support that women like Raihana Rahimi can say, “I lost my life, but I won’t lose my hope.”
For Afghans in San Diego, the fight for a new life is only beginning, so please consider how you can help