The events of the last few weeks have made me realize that Afghanistan is closer to my heart than I had previously thought.
In 2008, I had the honor of meeting Connie Duckworth who started ARZU Rugs employing Afghan women to make rugs for the US market. I purchased several rugs for my home and again this last year.
I formed a relationship with Terri Neese who started the Institute for Economic Empowerment matching Afghan business women with American mentors. I was fortunate to host a Policy Circle experience with George W. Bush Institute Women’s Initiative and DC based Policy Circles welcoming women from the middle east including Afghanistan. I was especially touched by a young woman I met who is (was) a representative in Kabul.
“The Taliban attacked Bamyan Province in Central Afghanistan, home of ARZU, about two-three weeks ago. You might remember that our weavers there are minority Shiite, while the Taliban are fundamentalist Sunni. Since then, many have either crossed the mountains into refugee camps in Pakistan (although the border is officially closed due to COVID and the long-running Pakistani support of the Taliban) or fled to Kabul where they thought they’d be safe. Everyone is basically hiding in hopes that the Taliban doesn’t come knocking at their door. Our programs are all paused this week, as it is thankfully (and ironically) a national religious holiday anyway. But, our intent is that the combined Turquoise Mountain/ARZU will resume operating as we have for almost 20 years, once we understand conditions on the ground. Given how widespread the needs are in general, if the Taliban says we can’t do one thing, then we’ll do another—every little bit will help. Turquoise Mountain has set up an emergency fund at www.turquoisemountain.org/donate, if you care to make a donation.”
For the last 18 months and until two weeks ago, 2,500 troops have been able to keep the Taliban at bay (with no casualties until the tragic loss of 13 US Troops on August 26, 2021.) For 20 years, young Afghan women and girls have been able to go to school, to represent their citizens in local government, to work, to just walk outside in the streets of Kabul without the fear of being beaten.
From a foreign policy and national security perspective, Afghanistan will once again become a haven for terrorists whose only goal is the destruction of our country.
The US caused a global humanitarian crisis by abruptly removing 2,500 troops out of Afghanistan. It shattered the hopes and lives of hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed 20 years of work and social progress. Under Taliban rule, al Qaeda will regroup and pose a threat to our nation.
This week, if you have a chance, I recommend watching with your family the movie “The Breadwinner” available on Amazon Prime. The movie depicts the brutality of the Taliban.
The Policy Circle has an excellent brief on Foreign Policy: The Middle East and also one on Terror Groups and Rogue States that you can use to host an informed conversation on the issue, and discuss how you can help the refugees that we have uprooted and now are responsible to welcome in our communities.
Here are some resources to help refugees and Afghan women. Unnecessary suffering is so heartbreaking.