Despite heavy media coverage, many Americans are far from what is happening in Afghanistan. For Webster University student Fahima Band Ali, the images of a precipitous retirement from Kabul are not only disturbing, they are devastating.
The native of Afghanistan is determined to help her compatriots, here and at home, as the crisis in Afghanistan continues to unfold.
Saint-Louis could accommodate more than 1,000 Afghan refugees in the coming weeks. Band Ali, who is majoring in political science and international relations at Webster University, raised $ 3,000 to help refugees arriving in the gateway town.
âI know how difficult it can be for immigrants arriving in a new country,â she said. âI share my personal journey and my struggles in coming to the United States to help raise awareness of the challenges refugees might face. “
In her efforts to help Afghans who escaped the cruelty of a Taliban takeover, Band Ali has been aided by students, faculty and staff at Webster University. She also found the support of the International Institute of Saint-Louis.
Band Ali, who is vice president of student government at Webster University, recently spoke at an event on campus with Arrey Obenson, CEO and President of the St. Louis International Institute, and Carlos Saurez , president of the United Nations Association for Saint-Louis. Louis.
The International Institute urges the residents of Saint-Louis to show solidarity with the Afghans fleeing the fanatical Taliban.
âIt is now our duty as a nation to save the thousands of Afghans who have helped the US military,â Institute staff said. âWe have the capacity in St. Louis and many other places to settle these refugees, especially those who have worked with us. Let them come. We are ready.”
The story of Fahima
Band Ali’s brother moved to St. Louis in 2006, and was able to sponsor his parents to come here in 2014. The parents then sponsored Band Ali and his three siblings in 2017. They are now living. in Affton.
Band Ali said she felt lonely at a high school in St. Louis after arriving. She had no knowledge of English, American culture, or the school system.
âI was that ‘lonely kid’ that no one had chosen for the gym class teams or any other activity,â she said. âI was that ‘alien child’ who forced a student to change seats to stay away from me. I was that alien kid, all alone in the corner of the cafeteria.
“I’m afraid this is the experience that more refugees will have to go through at school,” Band Ali added. âI want to share my personal story with everyone to help everyone understand the refugee experience.
After a few difficult years, Band Ali now has the confidence to excel academically at the university level. She also has the skills to lobby for Afghan women who are in desperate need of global support.
âWomen are resisting and protesting the Taliban right now,â she said. âThese women face physical violence in the streets. I think it can make a difference if they have support.
“I want to urge the United Nations to stand up to the Taliban’s violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Band Ali added. âI hope to find an international focus where I can directly appeal to UN leaders not to let the Taliban abuse women and deny them an education.
Includes departure from the United States
Band Ali has said she agrees 100% with the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. She understands America’s desire to end her engagement, but regrets that it was executed poorly and with poor timing.
âIf it could have waited for winter, we wouldn’t have seen all the destruction,â she said. âThe Taliban are leaving in the winter. They are not as prepared to fight as they are in the summer.
However, the time to question and revisit past decisions is over. Band Ali said it was time to work for a better world and a better future.
At the moment, she has an aunt and an uncle and their three children stuck in Afghanistan. Her aunt is a doctor. Her daughter, who was previously in her final year of medical school, is now homebound, unable to continue her education due to restrictions imposed by the Taliban.
âThings are bad now, but I have high hopes for my country and I will work hard to use my voice to help as much as possible,â said Band Ali. âI hope to be a part of the reconstruction and the return in the future.
“I hope that my Afghan compatriots will stand up against the Taliban and take the country back, and I hope that Saint-Louis will welcome us,” she said. âEven a small gesture of kindness or a smile can make all the difference. “