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Vera House Worries About Impact Of Taliban Rule On Afghan Women And Girls; Stands Ready To Help When Refugees Arrive In CNY

A class of young Afghan women attending language class at Shahed Sayed Padsha School, during a MEDCAP (medical operartions), Kandahar City, Afghanistan, 15 February 2006.

Vera House is following with great concern what the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan will mean for women, girls, and activists there.  The organization also stands ready to help when refugees arrive in Central New York.

Vera House co-executive director Angela Douglas says she’s heard an overwhelming sense of fear from those unable to flee Afghanistan.

"They're pretty much waiting for death to come to their doorstep."

She says there’s also a tremendous sense of grief for women who can no longer live and be free.

"For some folks, they've grown up only knowing freedom. I can get an education. I have the ability to live and be. Just being able to ride your bike down the street as a woman. To be seen on the street as a woman, and not have to be escorted by another person, usually a man."

For those who make it to the U.S. and Syracuse, Douglas says we can expect to see a lot of trauma. She knows it’ll take time for refugees to settle in before they have the ability to realize what services they need. But Douglas says Vera House and other organizations stand ready to respond.

"It can be culturally sensitive, humble, and competent to the ways in which Afghan women would need that response to be."

Douglas says their needs may be different than what we might expect. About 200 refugees are expected to eventually settle here, and she worries if they’ll be met with acceptance and caring, or be perceived as the enemy.

"People need to be consciously thinking about how am I responding to them? What are the beliefs and thoughts that I carry in my mind about people coming from Afghanistan? What are my thoughts about people who are Muslim?"

Douglas urges anyone who might come across an Afghan refugee to offer a smile, even if it’s through a mask, and to be aware that they may be just as terrified to be here as they were in Afghanistan.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at