Omaha family continues refugee efforts in Afghanistan

An extended Afghan American family from Omaha is continuing to go to great lengths to help free those left behind from the grip of the Taliban.
Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 11:24 AM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - It’s been a year since the U.S. pulled out of Afghanistan and its government collapsed.

An extended Afghan-American family from Omaha continues to go to great lengths to help free those left behind from the grip of the Taliban.

Safi Rauf and his older brother Anis Kahlil were imprisoned by the Taliban for nearly 100 days, and even then, did not lose sight of what needed to be done.

“Safi told me, Anis, if you are sitting at home, you can not make history,” Kahlil said of a conversation the two had while in Taliban custody. “Those people who sit at home, they never make history.”

Brother Zabih was in Afghanistan, too, working behind the scenes in Kabul, helping orchestrate their eventual release.

Almost without pause, the work resumed. But first, home.

“Omaha airport has never seen that many people at once,” Human First Coalition founder and president Safi Rauf said. “My entire family was at the airport. They all had flowers for us and when I saw them, that was the first time I felt like I actually was not in Taliban captivity.”

It would have been understood if the family stepped away, but instead they stepped it up.

Last week, on the anniversary of the fall of Kabul, the non-profit Human First Coalition, including dozens from Nebraska, hosted ‘experience Afghanistan’ in New York City. It was an opportunity to show the many supporters and volunteers, including US veterans, the Afghan culture. It also provided a little taste of home for some of those new to America.

“We’re here because it gives us the chance to renew our commitment to our Afghan brothers and sisters who were left behind and have been fighting day in and day out to survive,” Safi said to those in attendance.

“The culture representing (Afghanistan), they did a great job, brilliant job,” Zhabi Rauf said. “We feel that we were in Kabul or somewhere. The theme was to give the same feeling to those Afghans who newly arrived.”

Family members went to great lengths to provide an authentic Afghan experience, including the shipping in of personal items for use and display, including hundreds of feet of carpets borrowed from homes across the metro.

“All the houses in Omaha were empty for that whole week because everybody brought their home carpets and mattresses,” Safi laughed.

In addition to the thousands evacuated before Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, the Human First Coalition has helped more than 7,000 flee Taliban rule. More than 80,000 refugees are believed to have made their way to the United States, with at least 1,210 relocated to Nebraska.

The coalition is now fighting for congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act which would give refugees here a temporary two-year status time to find a permanent path to a safe future.

“All the Afghans who have come here came with the clothes on their backs, they have nothing,” Safi said. “So what the Afghan Adjustment Act does is create a pathway for all those people to legally resettle in the United States, have a life, work like the rest of us and make a living here.”

“They deserve a dignified life, they deserve to live with dignity here in the United States,” he continued. “And all these people, now that they have come to the United States, they have a target on their backs, if any of them would be deported back to Afghanistan, it’s a certain death for them.”

Safi Rauf, who lives with family in Millard when in the metro, spoke to 6 News by Zoom from his apartment in New York City. Anis and Zahbi joined the zoom call from Khalil’s home in Sarpy County.