Afghan disability activist’s message to world: “Don’t forget people with disability in Afghanistan”

An outlined globe features intersecting compass-like lines crossing at the centre. A red heart is overlayed on their midpoint. Underneath the globe are the words "DISABILITY Crosses Borders". "Disability" is capitalised and coloured in a rainbow array.
Cover art/Juliana Carvalho

Samiulhaq Sami is a disability rights advocate living in Kabul, working nationally and internationally.

He fears for his life and the well-being of his family.

He also wants governments and donors to pay attention to the compounding challenges people with disabilities are experiencing in Afghanistan, especially under Taliban rule.

Listen here.

Here is a transcript, lightly edited for clarity.

If you are able to assist or have information to pass on to Sami, please email Disability Crosses Borders. Your message will then be passed on safely.

NB for journalists – please seek permission before using audio or quoting.

“You’re like a spy” – call for assistance

My name is Samiulhaq Sami, I’m working as a disability rights and inclusion advisor with an international organisation. And also, I am a key member of an advocacy committee for persons with disabilities that’s lobbying and advocating for rights, for persons with disability’s national voice.

I have physical impairments.

I’m well-known in the country, and I also have relationship with international disability movements.

Honestly, I am not feeling safe in this country. Because before the Taliban, I was also receiving messages from Taliban, saying, we will come to Kabul then we will see you.

Because you’re working with the international community, you’re like a spy. And also, you’re working with the government very closely, with the previous government.

And also most of my relatives also asked me, “please don’t go outside to other provinces to any districts, because you will be in trouble. Just stay in Kabul.”

Even some of my friends and others say, “please go from this country, leave this country because it’s more dangerous for you.”

My family are worried about me. And I’m also worried about my family.

Even when I’m sitting, I’m trying to show my smile to my family to not become more stressed or not feel that I’m more in stress, or in danger. And still, they were thinking about me.

Now I’m just thinking how can I evacuate, before 31st or after that to save my life and my family’s life.

It’s very important for me because I’m the head of family and have the responsibility to support my children. They need to be educated and to support global humanity.

It’s more depending on my international friends and community, how they see my life. Will they support me as a human or no, as a person, as a human activist?

I’m stuck, I’m like in a jail now. at home.

I’m also thinking maybe the Taliban will start searching, home by home, for some people like me.

If any country, anyone,, could support me to evacuate from this, I would be more happy, I would appreciate it. It would be a very kind support to me and my family.

Challenges for people with disabilities in Afghanistan

The current situation, from 15 August, up to now: there is nothing especially for persons with disabilities at this crucial time.

As you know, people with disability, they are the most vulnerable, everywhere but especially in Afghanistan.

They have economic challenges. There’s physical barriers. There is attitudinal barriers. The institutional barriers are also more.

These are the challenges. People with disability have no jobs, they have no access to education, they are stuck at home.

Especially now a few weeks ago, many people are displaced from one province, from one village, from one district to others.

Currently where are they living? Most of the camps, they don’t have facilities, like not being accessible, not receiving enough food or other types of services.

They are more at risk.

Taliban are also religious people, they don’t like democracy, they don’t believe in democracy. They are not caring about other people who have a different education background.

Now we are in crisis, we are in emergency situations.

All these things make us very stressed or unhappy, and also worried about the future.

To the international and donor community

My recommendation to the international community especially to donors. If they are not supporting other areas, they especially need to support the most vulnerable people, and who are the most? They are people with disability in this country.

I kindly request all donors to support this community in this country. Without that, the life of persons with disability will be in trouble.

No help for evacuation of persons with disabilities

Believe me, I am receiving every day many messages or phones from different people with disabilities who are a little active in the disability movement.

There is no specific programme from any embassies or any government. There is no special quota for people with disability, to support them to evacuate.

And some of them also didn’t work with the international community or with any donors who could get any certificate or any documentation. But they were part of the military. They were part of previous government departments.

And I’m also receiving some information from some of the promises that the current Taliban is also searching some houses for some people.

Quota for evacuation of persons with disabilities

Now my recommendation to the international community or to different countries, they need to allocate a special quota to support people with disability to evacuate from the current situation.

They could contact those organisations who are working in the, in the field of disability. Through that maybe they could find those people, especially people with disability who are more activist, who are lobbying for the rights of persons with disabilities, who are well-known in the country.

someone needs to contact them to identify their challenges and to facilitate this process for how they could evacuate, to build a bridge between the person with disability and also with the country or the embassy who are supporting the evacuation programme.

Because these people, who are working for the disability movement, they are helpful for other communities, other countries as well because they have experience in the disability movement. They are willing to support people with disability everywhere.

Like myself, my personal commitment is, how can I support persons with disability, to raise their voice, to identify the challenges and also to share the solutions with others.

Because you know, persons with disabilities better knows than others the situation of person with disabilities.

We are human

We are human. We need to support the global voice of people with disability wherever they are in trouble or in an emergency situation.

Especially I’m asking for persons with disability who are more active globally, they should consider all people with disability’s global voice.

I have a special request from all those European and United State, Australia and UK and other governments. Don’t forget people with disability in Afghanistan.

Because we appreciate having been well-supported. And the life of people changed a lot two weeks ago.

They need to continue; they should not lose the achievements that they have in this country.

And the last thing

Me and you together, ability forever.

If we put our capacity, our resources, our education to persons with disability in this country and globally, I hope that things will change positively. And that we can integrate people with disability everywhere.

Without integration, without inclusion, without mainstreaming for people with disability’s global voice, the life of people won’t be changed.

Thank you.

Organisations of persons with disabilities

As recommended by Sami, here are five organisations providing vital advocacy and services for persons with disabilities in Afghanistan.

By Áine Kelly-Costello

Blind freelance writer/journalist and campaigner from aotearoa NZ.

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