Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Afghan refugee family plans unexpected protest in Chicago

Image copyright ESET Image caption The group will camp out in Tinley Park, a suburb of Chicago, Illinois

An Afghan refugee group hopes to make a statement and raise awareness for their cause with an unorthodox protest in a tent city next week.

More than 20 Afghan families are expected to sleep in the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park on Monday night in a two-storey concrete tent city to protest the Trump administration’s ban on them and other refugees.

The group is led by Afghanistan’s only mayor from Kabul, Dilawar Khan. It is calling for the government to immediately allow all Afghan refugees into the US.

“If the US doesn’t allow us, then we will not be able to do anything here,” Mr Khan said.

The challenge Mr Khan and his family are planning to face is the scale of their project: the event on Monday is planned to consist of about 300 Afghans, but the festival that day – including music, poetry and community cooking events – will include more than 1,000 people.

All the local refugees and their families who wish to attend must agree to spend three nights in the tent city in Tinley Park.

Mr Khan and the other 50 or so people who live in the “Tinley Tent City” come from all across Afghanistan and are expected to share stories of their experiences in the US.

Both and Ms Khan will speak for the group as guests at an upcoming event hosted by the local Afghan Student Association (ASA).

Their aim is to present the Trump administration with an alternative to the realities and stereotypes that some seem to associate with Afghan refugees.

Instead of using words like “terrorist” and “terrorist infiltrator” to refer to people from Afghanistan, the group is calling for the US to grant permanent residency and citizenship to refugees and to its citizens.

“We believe everyone is equal and must be allowed to live in their home country,” added Sara Bakshi, who helped launch the Tinley tent city and teaches at Fauziye University in Kabul.

“We want them to be able to live life free from violence.”

Image copyright Sarah Bakshi Image caption Ms Bakshi teaches at Fauziye University in Kabul

She said she would join her friends and families in the US and would not have thought to come to the US if it had not been for her nine-year-old nephew Ali, who is a US citizen.

“I have no words to express my gratitude to my nephew who gave me permission to do this and give my nephew a chance to get out of Afghanistan without any problems,” Ms Bakshi said.

“There are too many Afghans here without knowing where to go, they don’t know what to do.”

Image copyright Sarah Bakshi Image caption Ali is a US citizen

Ms Bakshi is participating in the Tinley tent city after speaking out in opposition to the Trump administration’s restrictive measures of refugee resettlement.

“My job as an Afghan refugee was to hide. I didn’t know who to trust,” she said.

“Now it’s time for a fresh start for all of us – for the last few years we have been stuck in this prison.”

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