In 2021, the world watched as the United States withdrew from Afghanistan and the government in Afghanistan collapsed. Several countries suspended aid to Afghanistan, and the United States froze nearly 7 billion in assets from Afghanistan’s central bank.
Now President Biden has unfrozen the funds and is allowing them to be distributed inside Afghanistan, but not all of the funds – only 3.5 billion. The other 3.5 billion of the funds are going to be made available to families of victims of the 9/11 terror attacks.
There has been mixed reaction from Afghans and families of 9/11 victims themselves about the funds. And while there is a slew of people unrelated to either group giving their opinion on what the solution is, it really is not that simple.
This situation is not as clear-cut as people like to think it is; this is not something that can be solved by the push of a button or even money. If anything, these funds are just one part of a 20 year ordeal for Afghans and 9/11 victims.
I want to make the disclosure that I am offering one perspective on this issue. I am not here to tell you what the solution is to fix this problem. I can’t change what happened, and I can’t cure the grief or loss you feel. I’m hoping, amidst the chaos of Western media, to shed light on the other side of the story.
The Afghan people have been mislabeled and misdefined for too long. To my fellow Afghans and allies, continue to advocate and raise your voices. We have stories that must be heard.
The terrorist attack on 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan are a result of each other. They have a connection that was a result of grief, loss, and anger. 3,000 innocent lives were taken. We were looking for answers, we needed a solution.
Here we are 20 years later. Thousands of families still searching for answers. Families who have been searching for closure but turning up empty-handed. And after waiting for someone to fill the void that you’re feeling, you get tired of waiting. Instead of giving up your search, you bring a person to the table — but did you get the answer you were looking for?
Twenty years later, an entire nation and over 30 million people’s lives were destroyed over the course of three decades. They carried the burden of the actions of a few. And even now that the war is over, the people are still facing the ramifications.
Just because the war ends do not mean the suffering is over. But when you are connected to something you never asked to be a part of, do you still take a seat at the table?
Families lost their loved ones. Entire villages were wiped off the face of the earth. A lost generation was created. 2.2 million Afghan people were displaced, and more than 70,000 citizens died in this war.
On top of that, almost 14 million people face food insecurity, and one million children could die of starvation the longer aid is delayed. The United Nations estimated that 97% of the population could be in poverty by the end of 2022. The numbers are devastating. They don’t make the pain we feel any less, they just personify it.
Afghans are resilient. They always have been. They know what it means to rebuild. They are not afraid of starting over. Instead, they work at becoming better each time. They have pride in themselves and for each other. Family is the center of the universe.
Even with the hardship, they still find something to smile about. They still sing their favorite song of Ahmad Zahir’s, even though we know there isn’t just one favorite. You will never find them without a cup of tea and a story to tell. If you ask them how their day is, they will always respond with Insha’Allah.
In the midst of the rubble and chaos, they will focus on a flower that managed to survive. They find joy in living when the world is falling to pieces around you is in their blood. Afghans are human beings like everyone else; they deserve to be seen with compassion, empathy and treated with respect.
The 7 billion in funds are in the Afghan central bank, which is the money of the Afghan people. Allowing them access to their own money will help save millions of lives.
This money is the least we can do to help the Afghan people gain access to essential items like food, water, and clothing. This will enable them to continue rebuilding and accelerate the process of getting back to their “normal” lives.
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We owe this to the Afghan people. We caused the suffering and destruction that Afghans had to endure all those years. This war lasted through almost four presidential terms. With each term, we became more reckless, and the war progressively got worse.
In the end, we abandoned the Afghan people and then denied them access to their money. We are responsible for plunging Afghanistan into a humanitarian crisis.
To the families of the victims of 9/11. No word will ever be enough to describe the pain you have been through. That pain can only be felt. Time does not heal old wounds. It takes more time to heal the wounds that have reopened.
You deserve closure. You deserve healing. You should be heard. I can’t tell you how you can achieve that. I can’t tell you what to do to get there. To be honest, I don’t know what the solution is. Or if we will ever have one that truly brings you the peace you are looking for.
It is not my place to tell you what you are, or are not, entitled to. But I ask that you consider this even for a moment; a 10-year-old child has lost their father, the family is left feeling empty and lost. Soon they start wondering what to do next. Where their next meal will come from? How will they pay the rent? What would you be thinking? How would you feel? What would you do? How would you help?
I ask you to consider this because you, of all people, understand what it is like to be that 10-year-old child. You have an answer to every question I asked and the ones I didn’t ask. While loss looks different for each of us, grief is a universal feeling. The trauma we endure is a shared experience.
I think if you met the 10-year-old, you wouldn’t blame them for your grief. Instead, I hope you take their hand and sit with them.
Share your story. Listen to theirs. Cry together. Find solace in each other’s company. Together you are both a beautiful mess trying to find your way in this world again. And even when neither of you can find the right words to express how you feel, you don’t need to.
As difficult as this is, I don’t believe taking the money from the Afghan people is the solution to your grief. I don’t believe the funds are a solution for the Afghans’ grief, either. But it’s a step towards taking the time to heal the wounds that have reopened — a step that shows they are being heard. This is a step towards validating and recognizing that their grief exists, even if we can’t put it into words.