Statement on Afghanistan

This statement, endorsed by NASW-NYS, is written by two Muslim social workers. “While it is imperative to voice our concerns and need to support the Afghan community, we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge we are not Afghans and cannot directly speak to the experience and decades long suffering of our Afghan brothers, sisters, and non-binary siblings. Nonetheless, with our positionality, this statement is a vehicle to educate, publicize members to resources to support Afghans, continue the conversation of the United States’s complicity in Afghan people’s suffering, and how as social workers we must act and speak up to this injustice as with all others, because there is no justification to not speak up.”

History has repeatedly shown how American imperial hubris and its colonizing policy has exploited and harmed countless countries abroad – and in this case, the harm of the War on Afghanistan was at the cost of millions of Afghans lives for over 20 years. 

As a social work organization bound by our Code of Ethics, we are obligated to stand up for the dignity of all humanity. Right now, it is essential to center Afghan voices and foster  spaces in all settings to ensure their voices, concerns, and asks are being heard, supported, and acted uponWhile this should not be a contested debate, as social workers, we have a priority to help our Afghan community both in the U.S. and overseas as they and their families are at risk to face persecution, fear, and a radically changing country. Additionally, this cannot be the time we politicize the humanitarian crisis with arguments against or for U.S. intervention. As a nation, it is our responsibility to accept and take in as many Afghan refugees as possible because the destabilization of this nation is a direct result of American foreign policy. Our lack of accountability makes us complicit to the suffering. Moreover, to ensure we are making steps forward in our wrongs the  quota for refugees must be increased in order to guarantee that families can seek refuge together. Border restrictions must be lifted. 

We would also like to take this time to mention there are also growing concerns over the rise of Islamophobia. The take-over of the Taliban and the suffering on innocent Afghan lives lost has already increased Islamophobic sentiments in our community. The world news has been wrongly politicized by many to either justify why the US should have stayed in Afghanistan or why Afghans are at fault for their own suffering, framing this under a European-white centric individualistic framework. Because the connection of the US’s involvement in Afghanistan is deeply connected and compounded to the U.S.’s September 11 events, we need to address the rise of Islamophobia that will increase due to the politicized nature of the events that have already unfolded. In an already polarized country, we are starting to see how different agendas are being pushed through the media. Some of us have already seen islamaphobic rhetoric being spread virtually (eg: the widespread image of Afghan women wearing skirts in the 1970’s) with captions implying that it was a time of freedom for women. The implication that skirts and blouses are a symbol of freedom immediately paints modest clothing practiced in Islam as oppressive and backwards.

Looking back at history, post 9/11, the Sikh community faced tremendous violence and racism due to their appearance, and as western media continues to put out images of the Taliban taking over more cities, we urge you to not absorb what is being unconsciously and consciously conveyed to you without any critical analysis, additional research, and questions. For example: be aware of your consciousness and attitude if and when you come across an individual wearing a turban. We shouldn’t have to say this, but here’s a quick 101: Do not associate them as an extremist! Critically read and assess the content you are consuming, who the authors are, are they being funded and by whom, and the framework they are utilizing. 

Below are crucial quotes from Afghan Americans, who willing to share on the current climate as well that we know  is important to highlight. As we’ve said we must center all our Afghan community members, and we invite those that would like a space to share their voice to reach out to NASW-NYS. 

“We must also be wary of selective empathy. We understand that the Afghan women and children are the most vulnerable, but Afghan men are also deserving of safety and protection. Every Afghan life should be valued. Now is the time to concentrate our efforts in contacting our elected officials and urging them to fast track evacuations in order to save lives.” –Rasha  Sahibzada, MAT (Masters in Teaching)

Afghanistan is a beautiful country that has seen such unrest for decades! It’s long history of war has ruined so much in the country but the hearts of our people have never changed! We love our nation and will do all it takes to protect it. The current situation in Afghanistan is one that I am still in disbelief! How can history repeat itself? I keep asking myself? How can we have let our people down? We must be the voice of the voiceless and help them be saved!  There are several organizations that have been working tirelessly to aid with refugees, to help bring them to safety. As well as some that are still there trying to help assist the locals to continue their lives as normal as they can.  Please reach out to Women for Afghan Women and Afghans of North America for further details” –Afghan Americans of New York


Amelia Lochner Malavé
Author: Amelia Lochner Malavé