Updated September 2, 2021
Initially this fundraiser was created by the Afghan American Artists & Writers Association to help Afghan civilians (particularly artists) at risk evacuate Afghanistan safely. The funds were to be disbursed directly to the artists to help them cover the costs of evacuation and relocation. However, due to the precarious security situation and the closure of banks, as well as laws and regulations preventing the safe transfer of funds, we have had to shift our original plans. We began researching other pathways for relocating Afghan artists at risk and for the safe distribution of funds to directly assist those artists in that process. We identified City Lore, Inc. as the perfect partner and beneficiary of funds. Those of you who have followed AAAWA’s work know that we have partnered in the past with City Lore to host our art exhibits and to amplify the work of Afghan and Afghan diasporic artists. City Lore will work closely with the Artistic Freedom Initiative (AFI) to process P-2 visa applications and merit visas for the campaign’s artists seeking to leave Afghanistan, as well as to support their resettlement efforts afterward. AAAWA co-founder Sahar Muradi will withdraw the funds to her personal bank account, from where they will be delivered directly to City Lore. Any leftover funds will be applied to Afghan refugee resettlement that directly supports arriving individuals and families.
We will continuously report back to our donors on the progress of work to help our at-risk artists get to safe refuge.
Afghan civilians are experiencing violence and rapid displacement as the Taliban take over city after city. U.S. visas are currently limited to those who worked with the U.S. government, US-funded NGOs, or US-based NGOs, leaving millions behind without an option for escape. Among many of the vulnerable groups are artists, who have no place in a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
Several artists that the Afghan American Artists and Writers Association (AAAWA) or individual AAAWA members have worked with in the past are desperately reaching out to us for immediate assistance:
One of the artists who participated in AAAWA’s previous exhibits: They say: "I think these are the last days of my life. In a few days Kabul will fall to the Taliban and it will be gruesome. They’ve cut off electricity and there’s no water. Our employer stopped paying us and I don’t have any income. I don’t have anybody to help me. I’m just an artist like you, I’m sure you understand me. That’s why I’m asking for your help.”
One artist associated with a Provincial Theatre Company: This individual with whom AAAWA member Sahar Muradi worked with in 2012, is based in Jalalabad and creates public awareness theater productions that travel to remote villages, as well as feature films--all of which address topics incompatible with Talib ideology, including democracy and love. Over their 30+ year existence, the Theatre has contended with death threats, going underground, and city-wide bombings and lockdowns. The artist is married, a parent to three children (including an infant). They say:
"I'm the witness of dark side of last region of Taliban. I was a child but I knew everything. Taliban don't like young men with clean dress, cut beard and hair; they don't like educated people; they don't like women. And most critically for me, they kill people who work as artists--whatever type of art, theatre, cinema, singing, or something else. I am worried about my children's future if they kill me. In the last few days I have not left my house. I don't know when I can because it is getting dangerous by the day."
One civil society worker living in Jalalabad, Afghanistan: "Since 2008, I have worked as a driver for an organization promoting human rights, and specifically, women's rights, in Nangarhar. I have risked my life to transport activists safely across the province in very difficult circumstances. Most recently, I served as a voter registrant for the elections, going door to door. Remember, the Taliban have always had a presence in our parts. I am without a job, the father of 8 children, and desperate to move my family out of danger."
Two additional theatre artists and filmmakers
Please help us raise money to help them leave the country and find safety. The money raised will go toward preparing documentation for leaving, cost of food, cost of travel, and basic subsistence. Because of the volatile nature of the situation, costs of these items are changing every day, and price-gouging is a reality. As of August 15, through on-the-ground sources, we have estimated:
$250/person for passport application
$400-600/person for visa applications
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