Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban has prompted thousands of people to flee the country and urgent evacuations to the U.S. and elsewhere.
Many are worried the nation could descend into chaos, or they fear that the Taliban will reimpose the harsh interpretation of Islamic law that it once relied on when the militant group ran the country in the late 1990s.
The insurgents stormed across the country and captured all major cities in a matter of days — including the capital of Kabul on Aug. 15 — as Afghan security forces trained and equipped by the U.S. and its allies melted away.
Prior to the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, the United Nations had already warned last week that the fast-moving crisis has the hallmarks of a "humanitarian catastrophe." The U.N. Refugee Agency previously said 250,000 Afghans have been forced to flee from their homes since the end of May due to conflict in the country, and 80% of these refugees are women and children.
The agency also issued a "non-return advisory" for Afghanistan on Tuesday, saying governments around the world have a "legal and moral responsibility" to allow those fleeing Afghanistan to seek safety and not forcibly return refugees.
Concern has particularly centered on Afghan women with many fearing a severe rollback of rights. Women in the country have made major gains since the Taliban’s overthrow and fear they will once again be largely confined to their homes.
This time around, the Taliban has sought to portray itself as more moderate and said the group would honor women’s rights within the norms of Islamic law, without elaborating. But Afghans remain skeptical amid a violent response Wednesday to a rare protest in Jalalabad and reports of fighters from the group killing a woman in the Takhar province after she went out in public without a burqa.
The status of women varies across the Muslim world and often within a single country. Afghanistan has always been very conservative, especially outside major cities.
Hundreds of Afghan refugees have been arriving in the Washington, D.C., area, Texas and Washington state. Reports suggest some 30,000 Afghans may be resettled in the U.S. in the coming weeks, according to the Refugee Services of Texas.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox penned a letter to President Joe Biden offering assistance and offering the state as a place to settle refugees, saying he was "deeply saddened by the human tragedy."
Resettlement agencies say people can help in many ways, from greeting Afghans at airports and helping families navigate their new life. Megan Carlton, who works at Refugee Services of Texas, also volunteers her time to set up homes for refugees in the Dallas area.
"None of us can control what’s going on over there, but we can control this," Carlton said. "We can create this home."
Here are some of the various ways people can help Afghan refugees and those impacted by the unfolding crisis:
Volunteer to help refugees arriving in the U.S.
The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is asking for volunteers to support incoming Afghan refugees and Special Immigrant Visa holders who are being evacuated to the U.S. and arriving in Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, Houston and Fort Worth, Texas, as well as the greater D.C., Maryland and Virginia area.
Such services could include airport pick-ups, apartment set-ups or bringing a meal, the organization said.
Donate money to organizations working in Afghanistan
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service also said those unable to volunteer their time can donate to its Neighbors in Need: Afghan Allies fund to help provide food, housing assistance, clothing and other basic needs as refugees await official services available to them.
The Women for Women International has an emergency fund in support of Afghan women, calling it "a moment of grim uncertainty." The organization offers support and education for women in eight countries affected by conflict and war, including Afghanistan.
Women for Afghan Women (WAW), billed as the largest women’s organization in Afghanistan with headquarters in New York, has more than 850 local staff in the country offering support services to women, children and families. The WAW has seen an uptick in donations over the last couple of days but the group needs every dollar it can get, Sunita Viswanath, the co-founder and board chair, told FOX 5 New York.
The International Rescue Committee, a global humanitarian aid organization that began its work in Afghanistan in 1988, is asking for donations to help support its work.
"We are appealing for funds to ensure our teams can continue to deliver lifesaving aid in areas of conflict, as well as to provide emergency cash assistance and protection services for internally displaced people in Kabul," the organization said.
Ascend Leadership Through Athletics, a nonprofit that aims to develop Afghan girls into leaders through community service and mountain climbing, launched an emergency fund to protect its staff "and all those involved in Kabul."
Wellness Worldwide is an Afghan women-led organization that provides food and medical aid throughout the country. Its latest fundraiser aims to give food aid packages to displaced Afghan families.
Email the White House about the situation
The International Rescue Committee has an email form set up on its website to email the White House asking the Biden administration and U.S. State Department to "take immediate steps to ensure vulnerable Afghans have pathways to safety," such as accelerating visa processing.
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This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.