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UWC Thailand alumnus hoping for help in funding sisters’ exit from Afghanistan

UWC Thailand alumnus hoping for help in funding sisters’ exit from Afghanistan

PHUKET: A GoFundMe campaign has been launched on behalf of a UWC Thailand alumnus Nasratullah Elham, originally from Afghanistan, to help 11 members of his family flee death threats to a safe haven in Pakistan. 

Wednesday 20 April 2022, 05:52PM

The family is in danger because both of Elham’s older sisters (who we will call "Fahima" and "Aliah’’ to protect their safety) have husbands who worked with US forces and the Afghan government to fight for democracy. When the Taliban assumed power in August 2021, anyone who assisted the US or worked with the Afghan government became a target. After receiving death threats for not just the men, but also their families, they decided they must find a way to leave.   

“Their safety is our greatest concern, but it’s also more than just their lives that are in danger. My youngest sister is brilliant – she has smashed all the academic records in our family and she wants to be a doctor – but now she is 14 and is no longer allowed to study in Afghanistan,” Elham explains. 

“Farah” (not her real name) is one of very few Afghan girls whose father supported her pursuing an education, but that came to an abrupt end when the Taliban assumed power. Six of the minors are Elham’s young nieces and nephews. 

Elham’s family has had to make strategic decisions to separate from one another to protect their most vulnerable. With no specific threats of retaliation looming, his parents and his brother’s families will remain in Afghanistan and try to rebuild their lives there. Those in danger have been in hiding while they pursue a path as refugees to Canada, the US, or Europe; but the road is long, and each day they remain in Afghanistan they are in danger.

In the interim they have secured safe passage to Isalamabad, Pakistan, but will not have permits to work while they wait, which is what prompted Elham to begin fundraising for the family’s basic needs. The budget to provide for all 11 family members is roughly $1,500 a month. This budget includes “Farah’s” school fees and books to continue her education. 

Elham aims to raise enough to last them for 20 months – US$30,000 – while pursuing every possible refugee route. The decision to base the budget on 20 months takes into consideration that war in Ukraine means some of the most refugee-friendly countries are waiving many of the visa requirements for Ukrainian refugees, but not for Afghans. This is expected to increase their wait time.

The GoFundMe campaign was created by Elham’s host family who he met when he was on scholarship for his last two years of high school at Phuket’s UWC Thailand International School. He was awarded the scholarship based on his passion for peace and the environment. In fact, Elham has become a powerful voice in the fight for climate change in developing nations. 

He was selected from a global pool of thousands to attend the first-ever UN Youth Climate summit in New York, but as an Afghan, his visa was denied. Frustrated and angry, Elham and the school worked to find other ways he could share his message for change. That once disheartening denial resulted in Elham’s story being covered by Al Jazeera, Insider, local Thai media, South African radio, and even on a live broadcast for Democracy Now. Recently, his writing on climate change was published in The London Magazine

Of course these achievements, and his subsequent scholarship to Concordia, will pale in comparison to being able to successfully extract his sisters from Afghanistan. If you are able to help, you can find Elham’s fundraiser - click here.

- Samantha Gayfer

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