The news from Afghanistan — though horrifying — can seem thousands of miles away.
For Westport attorney Sam Leaf, it’s right next door.
He and attorney Jennifer Williams of Stamford-based Building One Community have teamed up to help a Connecticut man rescue his family from the Taliban.
Their client — whose name is withheld due to security concerns — was granted asylum several years ago, after he was kidnapped and tortured by the Taliban because of his ties to US companies.
His family members who remain in Afghanistan are now being threatened. Taliban soldiers are looking for them, including a family member who also was previously kidnapped and tortured. Several remain in hiding.
“This is a hard-working, educated family whose only ‘offense’ is that some of the men worked for Western-based companies, including on projects that benefited US forces,” says Leaf.
“The Taliban consider this to be a capital offense. If they are found, they almost certainly will be killed.
“We are also gravely concerned that the Taliban will harm other family members. The teenage girls are particularly at risk.”
Leaf and Williams will file applications for “humanitarian parole” with the US Customs and Immigration Service on behalf of the entire family. That temporary status allows threatened individuals to come safely here.
A GoFundMe page has been posted to help defray the $575 filing fee for each application, and to seek assistance from the community. Over 20 families — many of them young children — need assistance.
Leaf’s wife Dorian Kail grew up in Westport. They’ve spent 20 years raising their family here.
“Westport has always been known for its generosity,” Leaf says. “We’re counting on them to help save this family from a fate that is almost impossible to imagine from the safety and comfort we enjoy here.”
Building One Community does not charge for its services. Leaf has taken this on pro bono too, so all funds raised will go toward the filing fees and — if the applications are granted — getting this family out of the Taliban’s reach.
To contribute, or for more information, click here.
Shortly after I finished writing the story above, I got an email from Sam Goodgame.
The 2007 Staples High School graduate — and West Point appointee — was an Airborne Ranger infantry officer. He served in the 101st Airborne Division in eastern Afghanistan.
Sam exited the military as a captain. He now leads the data science team at Morning Consult, a public opinion company in Washington, D.C. We build data products that leverage machine learning and mountains of survey and third party data to generate prescriptive insights.
My fiancée and I are helping evacuate vulnerable Afghans (former interpreters, at-risk women, etc.). She’s Afghan-American and speaks all of the languages.
I was in Afghanistan for 8 months; my interpreter worked for 7 years. His brother, who was not an interpreter, has received chilling death threats from the Taliban simply for his second-degree connection to US forces (i.e., me).
There’s one family in particular that I’m working for right now. One of my West Point friends is Ariana, an Afghan immigrant who was threatened by the Taliban as a 10-year-old, then enlisted in the US Army at 17. At West Point she became the first female Howitzer platoon leader in history. She’s now a mother, and an entrepreneur.
Eighty of her family members are stuck in Afghanistan, and they’re in danger because of their connection to her. He’s raising money to keep them safe, and help them escape.
“It’s difficult to support 80 people in the best of times,” Sam says.
“In Afghanistan right now, it requires a heroic amount of effort, and a non-trivial amount of cash.”
Donations support 2 main goals: keeping Ariana’s family safe while they are still in Afghanistan, and helping them escape safely. Some of the larger expenses include:
- Shelter (rent for a constantly rotating array of safe houses)
- Food and water
- Medical support: doctors, nurses, technicians
- Security guards and drivers
- Vehicles and transportation around Afghanistan
- Transportation for service providers
- Passage out of Afghanistan to neighboring country
- Passage from neighboring country to the US
- Visa paperwork and other necessary administrative tasks (for example: a DHS Humanitarian Parole visa application costs $575).
Click here to help.