CLEVELAND — Salima Sharifi, an Afghan woman who immigrated to Cleveland in 2016, is worried about her two sisters and mother, who are now trapped outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, after Taliban forces captured the capitol on Aug. 15.
Sharifi told News 5 she is receiving legal and emotional support from Building Hope in the City, a Cleveland agency that is part of the Refugee Services Collaborative that is helping some 100 Cleveland Afghan families.
Sharifi is concerned about her family's safety following the ISIS Aug. 26 attack outside the airport, that killed civilians and at least 13 U.S. troops.
“Now they are in Kabul, and I'm trying to bring them here," Sharifi said "They just called me and they said,
'Please help us, please help us.'"
She continued, “All of them, they are in a bad situation and they wonder what will happen next. Women, children, men, young, old, all of them just running away.”
Eileen Wilson, director of Refugee Ministries for Building Hope in the City, said her agency is helping Afghan families file for what is called "humanitarian parole," a legal document that is designed to help Afghan refugees who have escaped to another country make their way into the United States more quickly.
“The average time in a refugee camp for most refugees is 17 years," Wilson said. “The people we have filed for, the United Nations, the U.S., will know that these are people who have family members who will help with their food, will give them shelter, that they can come to the U.S."
Building Hope in the City provides English and citizenship classes, adult basic education, employment help and career readiness. Wilson said over the past two weeks, during the crisis in Afghanistan, her agency has been providing emotional support and communication with families who are trapped in Kabul.
“I got a text that said, 'A 5th bomb went off, should we stay here, should we move,'" Wilson said. “I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be at that airport and you’re Afghani, let alone you are these U.S. soldiers.”
“In these last few weeks, everyone we’re working with is traumatized. Trying to quickly help people in trauma is much more difficult and it’s more heart wrenching because you know they’re not sleeping, they’re not eating. It’s their mothers and their sisters and their nieces and their nephews.”
Anyone interested in volunteering or making a donation toward helping Afghan families through Building Hope in the City can contact the agency through its web page.
Meanwhile, Sharifi is hoping her family will finally be able to leave Afghanistan and find safety in the coming days, allowing her to be reunited with them in the near future.
“I love them like myself,” Sharifi said. “I didn’t eat very well, I didn’t sleep very well, and I’m just crying about it, wondering what will be happening next.”