ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — One year after Englewood resident Haroon Zarify was stuck in Kabul after Afghan forces fell to the Taliban within days of U.S. troops' withdrawal from the region, he is still trying to help many of the family members he left behind.
“I'm the only one who's supporting them right now, and it's a lot of pressure on my shoulder,” Zarify said.
Zarify started a trucking business and said most of what he earns goes to his family.
“They cannot get out and they are now hiding, they cannot go to work. And no one has, still, no food, no water,” Zarify said.
Zarify’s family members provided security to U.S. troops, and he paid to get his father, mother, and brothers to Pakistan. But his in-laws are still in Afghanistan, trying to obtain special immigrant visas and passport through a system now controlled by the Taliban.
“I have sisters-in-law, and they're all, like, different ages, so none of them can go to school anymore. They are, everyday, calling us and asking if their case is going to get approved because, "We want to go to school." Already missing a year of school. So like… there’s no rights for the girls anymore. There's no rights for anyone in Afghanistan,” Zarify said. "Right now in Afghanistan, what is going on with the Taliban is genocide."
Lindy Eichenbaum Lent, president and CEO of the nonprofit Rose Community Foundation, which houses the Colorado Afghan Evacuee Support Fund, said over the past year, Colorado has welcomed almost 2,000 Afghan evacuees.
“We are so grateful to the 490 donors who've contributed nearly $1.2 million to the fund,” Eichenbaum Lent said. “When people flee the conditions and the trauma that that these individuals are fleeing, you know, you've uprooted your life.”
Eichenbaum Lent said Rose Community Foundation has provided grants to 17 partner organizations that helped evacuees with short-term needs, such as housing, clothing, and toiletries, and long-term needs.
“Over the long term, mental health issues are real from the trauma experienced. So mental health services are ongoing, legal services are,” Eichenbaum Lent said.
Zarify said each day, hundreds of Afghans reach out to him asking for legal help with few options to get necessary legal paperwork processed.
“Getting a passport is really, really tough. Pretty much it's impossible now,” Zarify said. “Now, through you guys, again, I'm calling on people, who ever think somehow they can help and support those Afghans, to help.”
Zarify said his family and friends feel forgotten, but it’s not too late to help the Afghans who sacrificed so much for the U.S.A..