Tag Archives: Afghanistan

WBAY Channel 2: [Afghani] Refugee speaks about conditions at Fort McCoy

Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 11:15 PM CDT

original article…

Refugee speaks about conditions at Fort McCoy 

 

“MADISON, Wis. (WKOW/WBAY) – One of the thousands of refugees who are currently housed at Wisconsin’s Fort McCoy.

Due to continued fear of Taliban retaliation, the refugee’s identity has been concealed.

He says he’s grateful to be safe, but adds that life at Fort McCoy has been a struggle.

Some refugees say they don’t have a change of clothes, and they are dealing with food shortages that force them to ration.

“It is not like that all the time. But if you’re a little bit late, you know, go to the chow hall, you know, most of their, like, four or five times happened, you know, they’re out of food. Or either they have just one other thing, you know, maybe boiled carrots, or little bit rice,” he told our Madison ABC affiliate, WKOW.

His wife, who doesn’t live at the base, also talked about the experience.

“He is not a complainer, he’s not one of those kind of people that is ungrateful at any shape or form. If anything, you know, he’s so grateful to be here,” she said.

The refugee says he asked officials about the food shortages, and was told they didn’t expect this many people to come to the base.

He also says some people need warmer clothes, adding it gets chilly at night.

For a complete list of donation items being accepted and more information, click here. To coordinate donations big or small, or interested in being a drop-off location, email resettlementsupport@teamrubiconusa.org.

WSJ Hamer/Robinson/AP: ‘I just want to leave’: Afghan refugees speak out about conditions at Fort McCoy

15 Sep 2021  | 

original article: ‘I just want to leave’: Afghan refugees speak out about conditions at Fort McCoy 


“I have depression, stress and anxiety, insomnia and it’s getting worse.”

18-year-old Afghan refugee

 

 

“Waiting in line for hours to get food, wearing the same clothes day after day, getting harassed by some of the Afghan men, not knowing the timeline for resettlement — all are problems a pair of Afghan women say they have faced staying at Fort McCoy military base in western Wisconsin, though officials said Tuesday the issues are being addressed.

“There are many people who don’t have anything to wear, anything to eat,” an 18-year-old Afghan woman told the Wisconsin State Journal on Saturday. “They make us wait here for six hours behind the cafeteria, and when you go in there’s nothing left.

“I just want to leave this place so I can start my own life.”

The two women spoke by phone with the Wisconsin State Journal Saturday about their experience at Fort McCoy on the condition of anonymity. They said they feared a negative reaction from some Afghan men housed at the base, many of them former members of the U.S.-trained Afghan National Army who have caused problems, such as harassing women and skipping people in the food lines.

Fort McCoy officials have not granted media requests to interview refugees nor access to the base. They have shared some photos and videos from inside. They have also discouraged volunteers from speaking with the press.

Thomas Gresback, a Fort McCoy spokesperson with the Department of Homeland Security, said Fort McCoy experienced supply chain issues in being able to provide enough food to feed the 12,500 Afghans now at the base. But Fort McCoy has been working to address the issue, Gresback said, and “over the last five days we improved that significantly.” He said the refugees are offered “three hot meals per day” with a protein, a carbohydrate option, fruits, vegetables and drinks.

Gresback said he visited the base’s cafeteria line Monday and saw that Afghans were “very happy” with the changes Fort McCoy made.

“We feel we’ve come a very long way in a very short period,” Gresback told the State Journal on Tuesday.

Fort McCoy is one of eight military bases housing refugees who fled from Afghanistan after the recent collapse of the country’s government to the Taliban. Though the number of refugees in Wisconsin has grown week by week, the U.S. halted incoming flights last week after discovering cases of measles among the refugees, including one case at Fort McCoy.

Gresback acknowledged other complaints raised by Afghan evacuees such as a lack of access to clothing donated to Fort McCoy. Gresback said personnel at the base are “working absolutely as fast as we can” to distribute clothes.

He noted that Fort McCoy is still accepting donations and is especially looking for warm clothes for winter. Donations of new or gently used clothing that has been freshly laundered can be made at the Salvation Army in Madison at 3030 Darbo Drive from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, as well as other Salvation Army locations across Wisconsin.

The second woman who spoke with the State Journal said she desperately wants to change her clothes. On Saturday afternoon, the 40-year-old said she was still wearing the same clothing she wore while escaping from Afghanistan out of the Kabul airport as her country fell to the Taliban. She arrived at Fort McCoy on Sept. 1, 10 days before the interview.

“I couldn’t bring anything from home,” she said, adding she developed an infection after not being able to change her only pair of underwear. “I have to wash that and wait until that is dried and I can wear them again.”

The State Journal was unable to reconnect with the women Tuesday to ask whether conditions had indeed improved over the last few days.

Chris Hennemeyer, who is leading the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ volunteer efforts at Fort McCoy, said the long lines for food are “a thing of the past.”

“(Those issues), they’re all being worked out, and some of them have been sorted out really well,” Hennemeyer said when asked about the long cafeteria lines and the clothing shortage. “The lines that existed a week or so ago, you don’t see them anywhere.”

But one major thing has not been sorted out: when the Afghans get to leave.

Both women said they have Special Immigrant Visas, and are frustrated they’re not being processed through the military base more quickly. After traumatic experiences at the Kabul airport, they’re ready to start their new lives living and working in the U.S.

“I’m not saying I’m not glad I got out of there. I’m saying I’m very happy. I’m very glad I got out of there,” the 18-year-old said of fleeing Afghanistan. “It’s just that I want to be processed out fast. I’m losing lots of my time. It’s a waste of time staying here (at Fort McCoy).”

New Yorker: The Other Afghan Women – Anand Gopal

September 6, 2021   | 

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/09/13/the-other-afghan-women 

 

“In the countryside, the endless killing of civilians turned women against the occupiers who claimed to be helping them.”

 

Late one afternoon this past August, Shakira heard banging on her front gate. In the Sangin Valley, which is in Helmand Province, in southern Afghanistan, women must not be seen by men who aren’t related to them, and so her nineteen-year-old son, Ahmed, went to the gate. Outside were two men in bandoliers and black turbans, carrying rifles. They were members of the Taliban, who were waging an offensive to wrest the countryside back from the Afghan National Army. One of the men warned, “If you don’t leave immediately, everyone is going to die.”

Shakira, who is in her early forties, corralled her family: her husband, an opium merchant, who was fast asleep, having succumbed to the temptations of his product, and her eight children, including her oldest, twenty-year-old Nilofar—as old as the war itself—whom Shakira called her “deputy,” because she helped care for the younger ones. The family crossed an old footbridge spanning a canal, then snaked their way through reeds and irregular plots of beans and onions, past dark and vacant houses. Their neighbors had been warned, too, and, except for wandering chickens and orphaned cattle, the village was empty.

Shakira’s family walked for hours under a blazing sun. She started to feel the rattle of distant thuds, and saw people streaming from riverside villages: men bending low beneath bundles stuffed with all that they could not bear to leave behind, women walking as quickly as their burqas allowed.

The pounding of artillery filled the air, announcing the start of a Taliban assault on an Afghan Army outpost. Shakira balanced her youngest child, a two-year-old daughter, on her hip as the sky flashed and thundered. By nightfall, they had come upon the valley’s central market. The corrugated-iron storefronts had largely been destroyed during the war. Shakira found a one-room shop with an intact roof, and her family settled in for the night. For the children, she produced a set of cloth dolls—one of a number of distractions that she’d cultivated during the years of fleeing battle. As she held the figures in the light of a match, the earth shook.

Around dawn, Shakira stepped outside, and saw that a few dozen families had taken shelter in the abandoned market. It had once been the most thriving bazaar in northern Helmand, with shopkeepers weighing saffron and cumin on scales, carts loaded with women’s gowns, and storefronts dedicated to selling opium. Now stray pillars jutted upward, and the air smelled of decaying animal remains and burning plastic.

In the distance, the earth suddenly exploded in fountains of dirt. Helicopters from the Afghan Army buzzed overhead, and the families hid behind the shops, considering their next move. There was fighting along the stone ramparts to the north and the riverbank to the west. To the east was red-sand desert as far as Shakira could see. The only option was to head south, toward the leafy city of Lashkar Gah, which remained under the control of the Afghan government.

The journey would entail cutting through a barren plain exposed to abandoned U.S. and British bases, where snipers nested, and crossing culverts potentially stuffed with explosives. A few families started off. Even if they reached Lashkar Gah, they could not be sure what they’d find there. Since the start of the Taliban’s blitz, Afghan Army soldiers had surrendered in droves, begging for safe passage home. It was clear that the Taliban would soon reach Kabul, and that the twenty years, and the trillions of dollars, devoted to defeating them had come to nothing. Shakira’s family stood in the desert, discussing the situation. The gunfire sounded closer. Shakira spotted Taliban vehicles racing toward the bazaar—and she decided to stay put. She was weary to the bone, her nerves frayed. She would face whatever came next, accept it like a judgment. “We’ve been running all our lives,” she told me. “I’m not going anywhere.”

The longest war in American history ended on August 15th, when the Taliban captured Kabul without firing a shot. Bearded, scraggly men with black turbans took control of the Presidential palace, and around the capital the austere white flags of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan went up. Panic ensued. Some women burned their school records and went into hiding, fearing a return to the nineteen-nineties, when the Taliban forbade them to venture out alone and banned girls’ education. For Americans, the very real possibility that the gains of the past two decades might be erased appeared to pose a dreadful choice: recommit to seemingly endless war, or abandon Afghan women.

This summer, I travelled to rural Afghanistan to meet women who were already living under the Taliban, to listen to what they thought about this looming dilemma. More than seventy per cent of Afghans do not live in cities, and in the past decade the insurgent group had swallowed large swaths of the countryside. Unlike in relatively liberal Kabul, visiting women in these hinterlands is not easy: even without Taliban rule, women traditionally do not speak to unrelated men. Public and private worlds are sharply divided, and when a woman leaves her home she maintains a cocoon of seclusion through the burqa, which predates the Taliban by centuries. Girls essentially disappear into their homes at puberty, emerging only as grandmothers, if ever. It was through grandmothers—finding each by referral, and speaking to many without seeing their faces—that I was able to meet dozens of women, of all ages. Many were living in desert tents or hollowed-out storefronts, like Shakira; when the Taliban came across her family hiding at the market, the fighters advised them and others not to return home until someone could sweep for mines. I first encountered her in a safe house in Helmand. “I’ve never met a foreigner before,” she said shyly. “Well, a foreigner without a gun.”

Shakira has a knack for finding humor in pathos, and in the sheer absurdity of the men in her life: in the nineties, the Taliban had offered to supply electricity to the village, and the local graybeards had initially refused, fearing black magic. “Of course, we women knew electricity was fine,” she said, chuckling. When she laughs, she pulls her shawl over her face, leaving only her eyes exposed. I told her that she shared a name with a world-renowned pop star, and her eyes widened. “Is it true?” she asked a friend who’d accompanied her to the safe house. “Could it be?”

Shakira, like the other women I met, grew up in the Sangin Valley, a gash of green between sharp mountain outcrops. The valley is watered by the Helmand River and by a canal that Americans built in the nineteen-fifties. You can walk the width of the dale in an hour, passing dozens of tiny hamlets, creaking footbridges, and mud-brick walls. As a girl, Shakira heard stories from her mother of the old days in her village, Pan Killay, which was home to about eighty families: the children swimming in the canal under the warm sun, the women pounding grain in stone mortars. In winter, smoke wafted from clay hearths; in spring, rolling fields were blanketed with poppies.

Ideas to Help Afghans/Refugees Here in Wisconsin and Beyond

Wisconsin Department of Children and Families

“Refugees arrive with little beyond the clothes they are wearing and often are very unfamiliar with American ways of life. You can make a  real difference by offering your time, skills and gifts to help welcome new Wisconsin residents from a refugee background. ”

How you can help refugees from Afghanistan 

Refugee Programs

 

 

Online Resource Center for Afghan Refugees and SIVs

 

No One Left Behind is the only nationwide nonprofit committed to ensuring that America keeps its promise to our allies and their families

 

“If you are interested in volunteering to assist with wellness activities for children and their families or know an attorney who is interested in providing pro bono legal assistance, please contact… Lisha Loo-Morgan at LLoo-Morgan@cctrenton.org, call (732) 642-9031

Afghan Refugees Humanitarian Crisis

 

for more information try About Face: Veterans Against the War or Veterans for Peace