FDU community helps one of its own
By Rebecca Maxon
March 1, 2021 — Life looked bleak for Afghan resident Hashmat, a student in FDU’s M.A. in Global Affairs program in the School of Public and Global Affairs joining classes remotely from Afghanistan via Zoom, as the Taliban regained control of the city of Kabul on August 15, 2021. The takeover followed the Taliban’s rapid advance, during which it captured all but two of Afghanistan’s provincial capitals and seized border crossings.
The U.S embassy closed and there is no more Afghan representative to the United Nations, a position Hashmat once aspired to fill.
On this final day of freedom from Taliban rule, Hashmat emerged from the studio in which he was interviewing with Ariana TV regarding the Afghan peace process, only to be greeted by a city in chaos. “Everyone was worried and confused,” he recalls. “Police were on the run and people were on their way to their houses. For the first time, I saw that the Taliban were standing and hugging each other over their victory.”
That night, Hashmat began his journey toward what he hopes will be asylum in the United States. He, his wife and their three children left home for a relative’s house. “The Taliban began searching home by home for many people, including me,” he says. Hashmat had been working for the United States Institute of Peace regional and main offices on several of their projects, as a human rights defender with several other organizations and as a lecturer at the Afghan National Defense University. He had also done many television and radio interviews, making him an even more prominent target of retaliation by the Taliban.
The day’s events prompted Peter Woolley, founding director of the School of Public and Global Affairs, to quickly message Hashmat via What’s App. He pledged support from the school and the FDU community.
“Professor Peter is the real hero of my life,” Hashmat says “He is the angel of salvation for me and my family.”
“Sometimes your alumni know people who know people,” says Woolley. “That was certainly the case here. We have somebody who is known to the University who is an alumnus and that I could call and he, in turn, put his network to work.” That was Michael Moss, BS’75 (Flor), who spent his career in what he calls “grey market arbitrage.”
The family spent the night on a 10-hour bus journey from Kabul to Kandahar before being smuggled across the Pakistani border by Moss’ network. “We did not sleep in fear of the Taliban at every checkpoint,” Hashmat says.
The family has since secured housing in a building with other refugees. The FDU community has stepped up to fund this arrangement while the family awaits approval to come to the U.S.
Woolley has created a GoFundMe page, which garnered incredible success, surpassing its initial $9,400 goal with more than $13,000 raised so far. Many alumni, faculty members, staff, students and sympathizers have given money to support the family — even former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine!
“The way we pay,” says Woolley, “is every two months we make a wire transfer to a bank in Dubai. That, in turn, goes to a person who facilitates a variety of activities, including putting up refugees. He bills us for ‘life support.’”
But the refugee process is very slow and another installment of cash will soon be needed.
“The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration is simply overwhelmed,” Woolley explains. “The fact is there are tens of thousands of people in Hashmat’s position, whether in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran or other countries.”
Christie Innes, his FDU adviser and assistant to Woolley notes, “Hashmat has about 40 humanitarian awards.” He holds bachelor’s degrees in communication and information studies as well as in chemistry and biology from Herat University. In July 2020, he received the Successful Young Figures of the Year Award from the Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan. In 2021 he received Afghanistan National Human Rights Awards through the Civil Society & Human Rights Network.
Hashmat has been a translator for the U.S. Marines, has worked for many U.N. nongovernmental organizations and has served as a liaison between the U.S. government and nonprofits teaching at the National Military Academy.
“His classmate, Jack Kuttas says of Hashmat, “I consider him to be a friend, much more than merely a classmate. We both had lived in Pakistan and Afghanistan and were involved in some of the same think tanks and NGOs.”
Woolley notes, “Hashmat worked for American nonprofits in Afghanistan that were funded by the U.S. government, but it was not directly for the U.S. government.” This may not be enough to qualify for refugee status.
“While it would be enough to qualify, you also have to document all of that, which is not easy,” he continues. “Nobody was living in Afghanistan in 2018 thinking, ‘Boy I better document everything I’m doing because I have to anticipate needing refugee status four of five years from now.’”
There are still some hoops to go through. Hashmat’s youngest child does not yet have a passport, and to get one requires a lot of paperwork and documentation. “Hashmat has to demonstrate in seven ways that this is his child,” says Woolley. That is no easy task when on the run from home, working through a U.S. embassy.
While he and his family wait, they will need additional support from donors until the family can finally travel to and take up residence in the United States. To donate, please click below: Help our Afghan student .