“I think at the height of it, we were getting… Between the two orgs that I’m in personally, probably like 200 to 300 messages a day. These messages were from people of all walks of life. We would get a message and be like, “Hey, can you please help me get on a flight and leave the country? I’m a former Afghan military person. I need to get out. The Taliban are looking for me.” It would be a professor at one of the universities and be like, “Hey, I’m an outspoken critic of the Taliban. I’m a professor at this university. I need to leave. I have children. Can you please help me?” This was the gist of all of these messages that we’re receiving. It got to a point where we had to essentially write up some language that said, we unfortunately don’t have the capacity to assist you at this moment in time… I felt already so helpless there, where it’s like, I’m trying my best there, and it’s not getting anywhere. For these random folks that are trying to ask for help, I know that I definitely can’t do anything there. It became very depressing, and after a while, even though I felt so guilty, I just stopped opening the messages.”

My name is Halema Wali. I’m an information technology professional from New York. Back in April, I banded together with other Afghan-American activists to sound the alarm. That’s when we said “Okay, we know this withdrawal is happening… So how do we prepare for that?” Our calls and letters to lawmakers went unanswered or were brushed aside until the Taliban swept through the country, and the government in Kabul collapsed. Overnight, the trickle of requests became a torrent. My emails, my social media accounts, everything, were filled with desperate people asking for help. Every other text and call and communication was from Afghans begging and pleading for us to find a way to help them. Included in this growing pool are members of my own family, like my uncle, a Special Immigrant Visa applicant currently in hiding with his wife, children, and my cousin. Through a pair of organizations I helped found – Afghans For a Better Tomorrow and Afghan Diaspora for Equality and Progress – my fight continues to this day. I rally the diaspora community, assist refugee settlement, and maintain pressure on lawmakers to evacuate the thousands of vulnerable Afghans still left behind.