Guest Post from Action for Afghanistan: "It’s not too late to help Afghan women and girls"

(30 Posts)
AnnaCMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 01-Sep-21 16:54:39

We invited Zehra Zaidi (left) and Akeela Ahmed (right) to explain how we can help. They are from Action for Afghanistan – a group including human rights lawyers, international development experts, women's activists – who came together as an emergency group in response to the 2021 Afghanistan crisis in an attempt to influence decision-makers and support practical change at speed.

By Zehra Zaidi and Akeela Ahmed

"Two weeks ago, our Action For Afghanistan coalition formed via Twitter DMs, text message and email introductions. Appalled by the abandonment of Afghan women and girls to the Taliban resurgence, a few of us - human rights lawyers, international development experts, women’s rights activists and campaigners against Islamophobia - came together as an emergency group to try to help protect and free thousands of vulnerable people left behind by the same US-led allied forces that promised them liberation and equality 20 years ago.

Looking at the scenes of jubilant Taliban fighters this week and listening to the workmanlike briefings of Western officials cutting loose their responsibilities, has been painful. The work we have done in recent days to try to get people onto priority lists, into planes and into safe accommodation in the UK has been extremely testing. But it’s not too late. Together we can still act and press for change. Here are some things you can do to help.

Safe passage now is vital, and we created a practical plan for it that you can read on our website. We pulled this together from top recommendations by ministers, MPs, NGOs, human rights activists and humanitarian experts. We called on the UK government to form international agreement now around three key actions: establishing secure pre-travel hubs around Kabul airport, setting up a network of local and international agencies to provide alternative safe passage out of Afghanistan for those who cannot leave via Kabul airport; and establishing aid and protections for those who cannot leave at all.

Since formulating these recommendations, events on the ground have moved swiftly, however there are still things that can be done.

Please write to your MP (there is a template letter on our website, too) and tell them you care and that you would like them to work on ways to help the government implement our plan. First of all, we are aware that many on the FCDO priority list have not yet received visa documentation. It is important that either they are emailed visa documentation as a matter of urgency or visa requirements are waived for passage to third countries. We cannot risk on the move refugees being classed as undocumented, or even illegal, as they begin these dangerous journeys to escape the Taliban.

Second, it is still possible to secure safe passage. Kabul airport is now closed but Afghans are heading to the border by land transport as advised by our Secretary of State for Defence, at great risk to themselves. It is vital the UK spells out what it means by safe passage. It could mean different things such as military or UN escort. In our view, the Government and the international community must exert pressure on the Taliban to allow vulnerable groups to leave. Already the Taliban are making some routes impossible via checkpoints.

Further, the Government and the international community need to negotiate with neighbouring countries to open their borders and take refugees, if only to act as a third country processing centre. Working with UN agencies and local parties, an international
working group on Afghanistan could create transport options for women and girls as a matter of urgency.

All of this you can urge your elected representatives to work on and show your support for by signing our petition – scoffed at by the cynics on social media but the petition is very effective at showing decision-makers the depth of public support for women’s rights and refugee accommodation in a political environment that too frequently suggests neither issue is a priority. Some 400,000 people have signed so far.

And now, particularly, you can help give Afghan refugees a warm welcome. Refugees need support to settle. You can donate to support the charities that are providing for refugees’ immediate needs while they are staying in temporary hotel accommodation, but you can also help support refugees directly by connecting them with local services such as healthcare and schooling. Check your local authority’s website for opportunities to volunteer, the Government website or signup to a community sponsorship programme such as the one run by Refugee Council or Reset UK.

Further, some organisations are providing specialist care for refugees. Organisations like the Refugee Employment Network (REN) are working with other NGOs and government to ensure refugees have access to employment and self-employment. It is important to remember that refugees have often experienced trauma and are in need of support for their mental health and wellbeing. Freedom from Torture is a medical foundation for the care of victims of torture, Helen Bamber Foundation works with survivors of trafficking and torture, Rainbow Migration supports LGBT+ migrants and Rethink supports those with mental illness. They are all examples of charities doing much-needed work to provide specialist services to refugees and in need of our support.

All of us can do our bit to support refugees beyond donating items like clothes by being welcoming and understanding their plight. Settlement takes time. And that settlement is happening in a nation that still has not made a reckoning with its involvement and responsibility in Afghanistan, against a political game of divide and conquer that too often pits left-behind communities against each other instead of co-opting them into a shared vision where everyone can thrive.

The most supportive thing you can do for Afghan women and girls now is to use whatever time, skills and resources you have to keep them at the front of decision-makers’ minds."

OP’s posts: |
Carboncheque Thu 02-Sep-21 12:41:33

Thanks for this. Some of those links don’t work.

JaninaDuszejko Thu 02-Sep-21 13:20:37

Petition link, this should work.

JaninaDuszejko Thu 02-Sep-21 13:21:54

Reset UK link.

Carboncheque Thu 02-Sep-21 13:23:08

Thanks JaninaDuszejko. Signed.

JaninaDuszejko Thu 02-Sep-21 13:25:25

The other links all worked for me. This is a really useful post with lots of practical things to do so thanks for that, the news from Afghanistan has been so dreadful and I feel so powerless so it's good to have a list of things to do. Will be writing to my MP tonight.

Carboncheque Thu 02-Sep-21 13:29:45

Agreed. Anything that might help women and girls in Afghanistan at the moment.


PaleGreenGhost Thu 02-Sep-21 19:59:20

Thanks for this

mytortoiseisill Thu 02-Sep-21 20:17:07


StoneofDestiny Thu 02-Sep-21 21:17:41

Petition signed. Thank you for the work you are doing.

MimiDaisy11 Fri 03-Sep-21 02:59:08

Thanks for this

WanderingFruitWonderer Fri 03-Sep-21 06:50:40

This is so helpful. Thank you. I was wondering what I could do in a practical way to help innocent Afghans, especially women and girls, from here, post-evacuation. I was feeling a degree of helplessness. So, this is just the information I needed. Thank you so much, and I wish you all so well with the great work you're doing ❤️

WanderingFruitWonderer Fri 03-Sep-21 07:04:25

Just signed and shared the petition. Thank you so so much for the link

ArcticLemming Fri 03-Sep-21 15:37:17

Many thanks for these very practical and helpful suggestions

DemBonesDemBones Fri 03-Sep-21 16:04:24

Thanks for sharing. I have signed and shared the petition.

UserNameNameNameUser Fri 03-Sep-21 20:44:27

Thank you! That is such a helpful post. I wanted to help but felt cynical about just donating money to some huge NGO.

minmooch Fri 03-Sep-21 22:45:43

Thank you.

moimichme Sat 04-Sep-21 07:43:49

Thank you very much for these practical suggestions of how we can help.

jozipozi31 Sat 04-Sep-21 08:00:34

At last - I've been thinking every day about the various ways we could help, and thanks to your post here, now I know others are leading the way and making this happen 🙏

I thought about some kind of chat service - I don't know if this would be practical/safe? Would it help if individual women/girls could have direct support with people out of Afghanistan? (Eg, us, women)

I know there's the issue of moderation and safe-guarding but I feel like the moral support and someone to talk to, the voice in the dark, might be of real benefit to some women stuck in this terrible danger and trauma.

Not sure how it would be organised/flagged up to them that there are women just here for them if they want to/can talk?

Charley50 Sat 04-Sep-21 08:40:24

Thank you for sharing ways we can help.

Binglebong Sun 05-Sep-21 12:45:09

Petition signed and emails returned. It doesn't seem like much.

NobbyButtons Sun 05-Sep-21 19:03:35

Thank you, I have written to my MP.

Viviennemary Sun 05-Sep-21 21:32:01

I dont think we should get involved. The time has past. Change needs to come from the people in the country. Not meddling and petitions from outsiders.

UserNameNameNameUser Sun 05-Sep-21 21:38:52


I dont think we should get involved. The time has past. Change needs to come from the people in the country. Not meddling and petitions from outsiders.

So … you just don’t think women in Afghanistan should have any rights?

Viviennemary Sun 05-Sep-21 21:51:22

Of course I think they should have rights. I dont know what the answer is. But I dont think putting pressure on our politicians go meddling is the right way to go about it. Twenty years they've been fighting the Taliban. They withdraw and the Taliban have taken over again. Whats the answer?

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