Over 70 people gathered on the South Oval Saturday night to draw awareness to current events in Afghanistan.
Protesters had multiple demands of the U.S. government including providing safety to those trying to flee Afghanistan, increasing the number of evacuation flights for citizens and increasing refugee admission, according to the protest flyer. Khalid Dada, a third-year in public policy analysis and one of the organizers, said he has been communicating with family members who still live in the country and wanted to shine light on current Afghans’ experiences.
“You really get to feel what living in a third world county is like, hearing from them,” Dada, co-president of the Muslim Student Association, said. “Them begging for me to find them ways out of the country, and me putting in hours and hours of work to just try to find out one simple thing, of trying to free someone from the horrible situation going on.”
Maihan Mahboob, a fourth-year in communication, said she is not one to normally show her activism in the form of protest, but her family history and background with Afghanistan made the current climate in the country an important topic for her. Like Dada, she said she wanted to spread awareness on the subject and encourage others to empathize with the Afghan people.
“It’s really hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes halfway across the world and understand that people’s lives are at risk here,” Mahboob said. “It’s really really serious, and it’s an extremely dire situation.”
The Taliban took over Afghanistan’s capital Sunday after 20 years of war between the group, U.S. and Afghan forces, according to the Associated Press.
President Joe Biden announced April 13 he would withdraw American troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, pulling its air support, intelligence and contractors who service Afghanistan’s planes and helicopters.
Over the past six days, thousands of Afghan citizens have attempted to flee the country, travelling to the capital’s airport tarmacs and trying to board a departing U.S. military plane as it taxied down the runway Monday, according to The New York Times.
Dada organized the rally over the past couple days with support from five of his cousins, he said.
“We do have a pretty large Afghan community here in Columbus, and there was a lot of people who really wanted something to take place and no one was stepping up,” Dada said. “That’s why I really stepped up, because I really wanted people to know what’s going on, what they can do right now to help those people who are suffering.”
Protesters chanted “free Afghanistan,” “Black, red and green, we hear your screams” and “From Kabul to Kandahar, freedom isn’t far.”
Hajira Dada, a second-year in international business, told the crowd the U.S. needs to send humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and help evacuate citizens more quickly.
“There are thousands of people waiting at the [airport] gate, people are unable to get out of the line — they’re sleeping on cold rock, with no access to food and water,” Hajira Dada said. “They’re sleeping on literal trash.”
Protesters urged attendees to support the cause and sign a petition calling on the U.S. Congress to help the Afghan people.
“I think more than anything, we just want people to recognize that this is an issue that needs to be taken seriously and that it deserves attention and foreign intervention in some small way,” Mahboob said.
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