PROVIDENCE — Negina Sadat knows what it’s like to flee the Taliban. They killed her father. She escaped them six years ago, and now calls Rhode Island home.
Sadat spoke to the Rhode Island Report podcast on the same day that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was testifying before Congress about the US withdrawal. Her aunt and others are still in Afghanistan, and desperate to get out. She knew exactly what she would tell Blinken if she had the chance.
“Please help them,” Sadat said. “If the Taliban find out they are there and they were with American people, they will kill them.”
Sadat, who lives in Providence, said she remains in regular contact with her aunt. “She’s doing good, but she is still scared for her son, for her daughter,” she said. “She’s also worked with American people. “
In recent weeks, in an attempt to reassure world powers, the Taliban have vowed to respect women’s rights and forgive those who fought them. Still, they violently crushed what began as a peaceful protest by women recently, assaulting the women with rifle butts, metal clubs, and tear gas.
Sadat had a clear message about the Taliban: “I want the world to know that they are not good, they are terrorists,” she said. “They may say, ‘Oh, I changed.’ No, bad people never get changed. They get worse.”
Sadat is part of a small group of other Afghan refugees who already live in Rhode Island. They are working with the Providence-based Refugee Dream Center to welcome those being evacuated from Afghanistan now that Governor Daniel J. McKee has written to President Joe Biden, saying, “Rhode Island stands ready to welcome Afghan allies and families eager to seek solace and safety in our state — a state that was settled by refugees.”
Omar Bah, founder and executive director of the Refugee Dream Center, took part in the Rhode Island Report podcast along with Sadat.
He said it remains unclear exactly how many Afghans will come to Rhode Island, but Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island and Catholic Social Services have told the federal government they are interested in resettling 200 to 250 Afghans in Rhode Island through their national counterparts. He said the first Afghan evacuee arrived last week and is living in Providence.
Bah – a former journalist, torture survivor, and refugee from The Gambia in West Africa – can relate to what the new arrivals will be going through.
“It is like trauma 2.0,” he said. “When they come in here, they are confronted with new economic stressors, social stressors, cultural problems, things that you are not used to yet. You have to learn everything from scratch. It’s a dual problem: The past one and the new one that you are encountering.”
Sadat said she is excited that more Afghan families will soon be arriving in Rhode Island. “We are ready to help them with anything that we can do,” he said. “When people come here, it’s hard.”
She recalled arriving at the airport in Rhode Island in December 2015 with just summer clothes. “It was cold here,” she said. “I almost lost my feet because I (didn’t) have good shoes to wear.”
But Sadat said the new arrivals will find a lot to like in their new home. “I love Rhode Island,” she said. “I want to stay here forever.”
Hear more by downloading the latest episode of Rhode Island Report, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts, and other podcasting platforms, or listen in the player below:
Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.