Feminist refugee fund aims to help Afghan women escape Taliban rule

Local News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As New England awaits the arrival of hundreds of Afghan Refugees, several local organizations are doing their part to prepare for their arrival, including one group who’s specifically looking to help the women fleeing the country.

Afghan women have been subject to restrictive rules by the Taliban in the past. Over the weekend, women were told to stay home from work and school.

The Afghan Feminist Refugee Fund is a group coordinating legal, mental health, and housing services for women who are trying to escape the Taliban.

By early November, Rhode Island and Massachusetts will receive approximately 1,000 refugees, and Melanie Shapiro, an immigration attorney, said preparation for their arrival has already begun.

“I’m going through Senator [Edward] Markey’s office, I’ve got a good contact over there who’s been coordinating some of our requests,” she said.

She and other feminists are working as part of the Afghan Refugee Fund and together, they’ve already helped several women escape the Taliban.

“We have some women who are in Qatar, some who are still in Afghanistan, some in Iran, and some dispersed around Europe,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro recounted some of the stories she heard from the women she helped.

“There’s a young woman who’s an engineering student, she was forced to marry someone and then she got divorced,” she explained. “Her ex-husband joined the Taliban and he’s hired a lawyer to try and hunt her down.”

People like Shapiro and members of the Afghan Refugee Fund do their best to work closely with the Afghan women using encrypted apps.

Shapiro said the Taliban instituted a cybercrime law, making communication on certain apps like WhatsApp difficult to navigate, as they are monitored by members of the terrorist group.

Right now, Shapiro is currently working to push petitions filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services so evacuees can get into the United States as soon as possible.

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