The Afghan Student Association at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln led a “Peace for Afghans” protest at the Nebraska State Capitol building on Sunday.
Protesters raised concerns for the population left to fend for itself as the Taliban continues to take over Afghanistan. On Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, at 3:29 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time — 11:59 p.m. in Afghanistan — the United States military completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, marking an end to the longest armed conflict in the United States’ history.
“Hundreds, millions, trillions spent. The U.S. did not make a dent,” protesters chanted. “Troops withdrawn on 31st, all who's left are left in dirt.”
The history of struggles in Afghanistan started in the 1980s when the Soviet Union invaded, Susan Qudus, a senior biological systems engineering major and former president of AFSA, said. Qudus and the rest of the AFSA executive team explained in an email that Afghanistan used to be more similar politically to the United States politically before the 1980s.
“There was little to no conflict,” the executives said in the email, “and it was a safe and peaceful country for the population. Literacy rates were at their peak for both men and women. Women right's activists were making steady and effective progress. Afghanistan was on track to being a fully developed nation.”
Jun Yi Goh, a senior history and global studies double major, attended the protest and said he sees the situation in Afghanistan from the view of his major.
He said like the events happening remind him of videos from other wars, which enrages and disappoints him because of how the situation is being handled.
“The American government knew they were going to pull out; they could have done something about it,” Goh said. “Prepare papers, have some sort of contingency plan. But no, that’s what really angers me about the whole thing is you go in there for 20 years, you give people hope, and now this happens.”
Sunday’s protest aimed to inform Lincoln residents about the situation facing Afghan refugees as some may immigrate to Lincoln, the AFSA executive council said. Five speakers — Qudus, Farida Ebrahim, Elham Fazli, Aimal Ahmadzai and Harris Ebrahim — who shared stories relating to their Afghan roots.
“It enables our local community to be more informed of the conflict, explain ways they can help, and offer new perspectives on the situation,” the AFSA executive said of the speakers.
Qudus shared how the AFSA was started at UNL by her family members, who immigrated to the United States in the early 2000s. Lincoln now has a sizable community of Afghan refugees, Qudus said.
Farida Ebrahim, an original member of AFSA, how two cousins, one male and the other female, were in medical school before the Taliban. When the Taliban did take over, only the male was allowed to graduate.
When she came to America, Farida Ebrahim explained, it was difficult to communicate with family members who were still in Afghanistan. With the withdrawal, Farida Ebrahim worries again.
“I think I have aged a century — thinking, worrying — because you cannot help and you know what's going to happen,” Farida Ebrahim said. “What happened in 1996 and 2001 is fresh in our minds.”
Farida Ebrahim said she hears lots of Americans talk about their concerns for US troops, but people don’t always think about the citizens of the country. The citizens do not have any way to defend themselves against the Taliban, according to Farida Ebrahim, so people should worry for the citizens and wonder where they can go.
“We need to put pressure on our representatives,” Fazli said. “We are Americans, we have a voice. Let’s raise our voice. Let's go after the root cause, whether it’s sanctioning Pakistan, whether it’s holding our government accountable to the promises we made to Afghan women, to Afghan ethnicities who are discriminated against.”
AFSA said it wants to ensure these refugees and anyone who has family in Afghanistan who may find their way to Lincoln find that the community can be a place where they feel safe and welcome.
“Let me hear you loud and clear,” protesters chanted. “Refugees are welcome here!”
The association will also be raising money for the Afghan-American Women's Association on Sept. 13 at Chipotle Mexican Grill from 5-9 p.m.
“The most important thing that we can do as a community here in Lincoln, Nebraska, is to welcome these Afghan refugees who are fleeing war, and let's remember that these are not migrants, these are not people who are coming to steal your jobs or coming to spread terror,” Fazli said. “No, they are leaving violence. The Taliban are a repressive, ancient, medieval type of system.”