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‘Nobody is safe in Afghanistan’: Members of Spokane’s Afghan community, supporters gather at Riverfront Park as Taliban seizes power

Sept. 8, 2021 Updated Mon., Sept. 13, 2021 at 12:48 p.m.

Over 100 people, mostly members of Spokane’s Afghan community, gathered and marched around Riverfront Park to oppose the Taliban Wednesday afternoon.

Protesters met in the semi-circle of the park’s visitor center at 2 p.m. during the windy afternoon. The protest started with a speech from an unnamed Afghan man after the group moved to a grassy area of the park.

“We gathered here today to raise our voices against the atrocities going on in Afghanistan,” He said. “Right now, a terrorist group is taking our country (with) suicide bombings and the killing of innocent people.”

Afghans still in Kabul remain in danger, with the Taliban solidifying their political and social power.

Photos of the Taliban raising their guns at women in the busy city life have gone viral as fears for women and girls under Taliban rule have come true. The Taliban also announced a newly appointed government, with many of the top officials being listed on the United Nation’s violation of human rights lists.

During their march, protesters held signs that read “minority rights matter,” “women’s rights are human rights,” and “Afghanistan is bleeding.” Protesters waved Afghanistan and other flags to show their support. Chants to “save Afghanistan” and “Stand with Panjshir” rang out throughout the protest.

Protesters also voiced their resistance to Pakistan. Panjshir Valley is a mountainous province northeast of Kabul. Nearly all of Panjshir Valley is in Taliban control. They will be the last Afghan province to fall to the Taliban. The Pakistan armed forces conducted drone strikes in the Panjshir valley. Though targeting the Taliban, they killed many Panjshir citizens.

In front of a large Afghan flag banner, about 100 people from the Spokane Afghan community voice their opposition to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan during a protest and march in Riverfront Park, Wednesday, September 8, 2021.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
In front of a large Afghan flag banner, about 100 people from the Spokane Afghan community voice their opposition to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan during a protest and march in Riverfront Park, Wednesday, September 8, 2021. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

In English and Farsi, a language commonly spoken in Afghanistan, chants rang out for the U.S. Congress and the U.N. to not recognize the Taliban as a government entity in Afghanistan.

Mohammad Walizada was one of the protesters with family still stuck in Panjshir Valley. His brother-in-law escaped and walked almost 62 miles to get cellphone and Wi-Fi services. He then notified Walizada that almost 60 of his family members had been murdered by the Taliban as they took over his home village.

Walizada was an active member of the Afghan and American forces as an interpreter and linguist from the first time American soldiers landed in Afghanistan. A few years later, he became an American citizen and enlisted in the Army once he was deemed trustworthy.

“This is all so disrespectful to the families and the Afghan people,” Walizada said. “We appreciate the sacrifices American people have made, but we want to honor (Afghan people). We have to keep them alive. Don’t just leave them.”

Protesters marched in a circle from Riverfront Park to the Thomas S. Foley U.S. Courthouse, stopping traffic between Main Street and Monroe Street.

Razvan Mohammadi was one of the women leading the crowd. After bouncing around the Middle East to avoid extremist issues regarding women’s rights, she left from Turkey to become an American citizen in 2019. Now, at 24 years old, Mohammadi sees her worst nightmares becoming a reality for women still in Afghanistan. She led and attended the march to “give a voice to the voiceless.”

“All the women in Afghanistan are asking for their freedoms and we’re here (at this protest) to help them,” Mohammadi said. “Nobody is doing anything for them, but we’re here to be their voices for them. They’re not asking for much from the Taliban but to continue their lives, but we know the (Taliban) won’t accept it.

Non-Afghans also attended the protest. Mikel and Kay Stevenson have been volunteering with World Relief for a year and a half. The couple helps refugees by teaching English and assists in study session for citizenship tests. They connected with World Relief through their church, Colbert Presbyterian Church.

“What they’ve expressed to us is that showing up for them is significant,” Mikel said. “They feel powerless right now, but we can be with them and stand beside them.”

They hugged one of the children there, Benjamin, to offer support in his time of need. They are also scheduled to help with the incoming refugees who left Afghanistan in August.

“These kinds of events help put a face and name to the issues going on,” Michael said. “You don’t know what you don’t know, but getting involved has helped tremendously.”

The world watches as the Taliban plans to announce action under their new cabinet. Taiba Karimi, a protester and mother from Afghanistan, highlighted that the Taliban’s reign shows the Taliban is just a “terrorist force that must be stopped.”

“We want peace and freedoms, the same as men,” Karimi said. “But nobody is safe in Afghanistan.”

Editor’s Note: In the original article, Mikel Stevenson’s name was spelled Michael. Changes have been made to reflect the correct spelling, Mikel. 

Amber D. Dodd's work as the Carl Maxey Racial and Social Inequity reporter for Eastern Washington and North Idaho primarily appears in both The Spokesman-Review and The Black Lens newspapers, and is funded in part by the Michael Conley Charitable Fund, the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, the Innovia Foundation and other local donors from across our community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper's managing editor.

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