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Regional Interests

San Francisco Turns Out in Solidarity With Worldwide Protest for Afghan Lives

San Francisco joined more than 40 cities and 17 countries around the globe in a “World day of protest for Afghan lives.” Beginning at 2 p.m. at United Nations Plaza, more than 200 marchers took to Market Street chanting “from Kabul to Kandahar, our freedom is not too far.”

“We have come here today to protest against the killing of Afghans,” said Yasmine Ebrat, president of the Afghan Students Association at UC Berkeley and one of the rally’s co-organizers. Ebrat said the rally was intended to pressure the international community to protect the rights of all Afghans, to pressure the U.S. to end quota limits for fleeing refugees and open up its borders to Afghans more broadly.

The worldwide rallies are rising up in the wake of a deadly attack at a Kabul airport, Thursday, and the United States’ struggle to evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghan people seeking refuge. Evacuations are still ongoing, but the remaining contingent of U.S. forces at the airport now numbers fewer than 4,000, according to the Associated Press.

The military began its final withdrawal ahead of President Joe Biden’s deadline for ending the evacuation on Tuesday. Since mid-August, the U.S. has evacuated roughly 110,000 people, according to the Pentagon.

In San Francisco, Saturday, Ebrat said seeing the worldwide protest commence in European earlier in the day has “been a beam of hope.” Ebrat was born and raised in Fremont, and said the plight of Afghans “is something that’s really near and dear to my heart because my parents are refugees.”

A solidarity protest marches down Market Street in San Francisco Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. (Annelise Finney/KQED)

Others, like Shabnam Hasani, 22, traveled from San Jose to San Francisco to show up in support. “I’m Afghan myself, and I’m out here to support my people,” she said.

“It’s hard to continue to have hope,” she added. “I’m very proud of us for coming together as Afghans and for standing up for what we believe in.”

Saturday’s protest was hosted by the United Afghan Association, a joint project of human rights activists in over 30 countries, including Bay Area students.

Oakland-based Alia Rasoully has been involved with previous protests in the Bay Area to raise awareness. The organization she founded, Wise Afghanistan, has helped vulnerable women and girls in Afghanistan since 2013. For those that don’t have the privilege to evacuate or leave, Rasoully said it’s also important to focus on the population of Afghanistan and the almost 39 million people who still remain in the country.

“What about the remaining millions of women and girls that are left behind?” she asked. “We need to really focus on the women and girls that are left there and make sure that they continue to have the opportunities that they’ve been struggling for, for the last twenty years.”

“At the end of the day, the innocent Afghans are not even involved in this war are the ones that are the victims,” Rasoully said.

For those new to Afghanistan’s history, she advises looking at it from a humanitarian perspective. “Look at what Afghans are going through right now. You see a pool of blood. You see thousands of people that are trying to escape,” she said. “There are people that are handing their children over to military officers … That’s how scared they are.”

And that situation may become more violent. On Saturday, President Biden warned that another attack on the Kabul airport was “highly likely.

After getting briefed on a U.S. drone mission in eastern Afghanistan that the Pentagon said killed two members of the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate early Saturday, Biden pledged more attacks on ISIS-K, the group responsible for the Kabul bombing.

In the Bay Area, however, more than 200 marchers convened at U.N. Plaza focused on peace.

The event began with an Afghan national song performed by Khalil Reghab, followed by speakers including Mary Steiner, President of the United Nations Association San Francisco Chapter, Nahid Aria, Dari translator and District Attorney of Hayward, and Shahid Buttar, a lawyer and candidate for California’s 12th Congressional district.

A solidarity protest marches down Market Street in San Francisco Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. (Annelise Finney/KQED)

Aziza Popal, who attended the rally, said she fled Afghanistan many years before for religious reasons, because she was not able to practice Islam under the then-rule of the Soviet Union. On Saturday, she came to protest on behalf of voiceless people in her former home. “I’m here to raise my voice on behalf of all men and women. We are very upset with what is going on in Afghanistan right now,” she said.

Marena Habibi, a rally organizer said the thousands of refugees coming to the Bay Area now may not receive food stamps, cash aid or housing, and pushed for protesters to demand more support from their representatives in government.

“President Biden you have not ended the war, you’ve caused global chaos and we are now seeing the consequences,” she said. “These Afghans have been betrayed by the world, and now they need help.”

Protest organizers said war waged by the United States has disintegrated Afghan society. “Afghan citizens are left with no choice but to flee their homes or stay and risk death at the hands of these forces,” organizers wrote in a statement.

In remarks to the crowd, organizer Nagar Nawabi called on the U.S. to legitimize an administration that promotes social equity between genders and marginalized groups and to establish a committee to investigate the actions of the U.S., Pakistan, and others in Afghanistan over the last two decades.

“We are not asking for much, but we are asking for human rights. But clearly, that’s too much to ask when you’re an Afghan,” she said.

Resources

From State Senator Alex Padilla’s office: If you or your immediate family need assistance evacuating or immigrating from Afghanistan, please complete this form.

For any questions about how to complete the above form, please email: afg-evac@padilla.senate.gov

From Rep. Barbara Lee’s office: If you or a loved one needs help evacuating Afghanistan or needs assistance regarding a Special Immigrant Visa or Immigrant Visa, please see the resources below.

You can call the Department of State hotline for Afghanistan evacuation at: 1-888-407-4747 (domestic calls) 1-202-501-4444 (overseas calls)

The hotline is open from 5:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Pacific Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

If you need assistance with a casework issue related to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan: Lee.AfghanistanInquiries@mail.house.gov.

Please include in your email:

Name(s) of every individual that are you seeking assistance for A description of the issue Your contact information. The best time of the day to reach you.

This post includes additional reporting from the Associated Press and NPR.

Copyright 2021 KQED