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‘Hopeless And Helpless’ — Members Of Utah’s Afghan Community Worry About Loved Ones With Taliban Control Of Afghanistan

A photo of a sign that reads "Afghan Authentic Cuisine."
Emily Means
Wali Arshad, owner of Afghan Kitchen in South Salt Lake, said people he knows in the Afghan community here are “extremely sad and heartbroken” about the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. “Everybody is so surprised. Nobody was expecting this to happen like this.”

Wali Arshad, owner of Afghan Kitchen in South Salt Lake, came to Utah from Afghanistan in 2014. He worked with the United Nations and before heading to the U.S., attended the American University of Afghanistan. He also met his wife, a U.S. citizen, in Afghanistan.

Arshad said his connection to the Western world at a time when American soldiers were beginning to exit the country is the reason why he left.

“The security situation started deteriorating,” he said. “The Taliban said that anyone who helps the Westerners will be a target. I was one of them. So I decided to leave the country to stay alive.”

The Taliban recently regained power after the U.S. withdrew its troops following a two decade long war.

A photo of Wali Arshad with classmates.
Courtesy of Wali Arshad
Wali Arshad (middle) photographed with some classmates at American University of Afghanistan.

Watching the crisis unfold in his home country has Arshad worried for his loved ones and fellow Afghans who are still there.

“I'm hopeless, and helpless, too,” he said. “I don't have any faith in the Taliban. They're going to destroy our country again.”

Aden Batar, Catholic Community Services’ director of migration & refugee services, said he’s been hearing similar concerns from Afghan people who now live in Utah. But Batar said he doesn’t have a lot of answers for them.

“I've been getting calls from people who are worried about their families and their safety and what's going to happen to them,” Batar said. “They’re appealing to us to help. We don't know who is coming, how many and when. The situation on the ground, it's not stable right now.”

Gov. Spencer Cox recently sent a letter to President Joe Biden saying Utah is ready to help resettle immigrants and refugees.

Batar said the state has stepped up in the past to care for them.

“Our community welcomed and stood side-by-side with us and welcomed [these] vulnerable people,” he said. “And we expect the same [this time]. We are heavily relying on our community support in helping the Afghani refugees and immigrants.”

He said what they need most is financial support to rehome refugees because housing costs are so high.

Staff for Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, said if the crisis continues into January, the state Legislature could consider appropriating funding for the resettlement effort during the General Session.

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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