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"LET AFGHANS IN, OPEN YOUR BORDERS" (2021), 12×15.5 inches, illustrated by Aishwarya Srivastava and printed by Kelli Anderson (images courtesy Rona Akbari)

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Since the catastrophic United States withdrawal from Afghanistan in August, diaspora groups and their allies have been urging US authorities to ease immigration for artists, writers, performers, and members of the LGBTQ community who are now facing immediate risk.

Among those voicing concern is Rona Akbari, a Florida-based freelance writer and digital media producer, who has teamed up with the artist Aishwarya Srivastava for a print sale fundraiser to directly support Afghans who are facing illness and starvation.

The fundraiser offers risograph prints illustrated by Srivastava and printed on recycled paper by the designer Kelli Anderson in Brooklyn, New York. The 12-by-15.5-inch prints are sold on a sliding scale of $15-$150.

All the proceeds from the risograph sale will go directly to vulnerable Afghan nationals

Srivastava’s illustration features a family of Afghan refugees under the block writing: “LET AFGHANS IN, OPEN YOUR BORDERS.” White doves and red roses surround the displaced family against the background of a mountain range.

All the proceeds from the sale will go directly to vulnerable Afghan nationals, including the elderly, those who are out of work, and individuals suffering from chronic illness. So far, the sale has raised $2,700. In an interview with Hyperallergic, Akbari said that she chose to distribute the money directly to individuals through a “trusted pathway” because organizers who are not affiliated with a nonprofit have been experiencing difficulty accessing the money they’ve raised through platforms like GoFundMe.

“I understand the legalities and vetting a company requires, but for organizers, this creates unnecessary delays in a crisis,” she explained. “Using PayPal and creating a little online shop seemed best. There is a banking crisis and folks are limited in the amount of money they can take out weekly.”

When asked how the crisis in her home country has affected her, Akbari shared that she’s been feeling “desperate, sometimes helpless, and often overwhelmed at the enormity of what needs to be done in terms of helping Afghans.”

“[I’m] disillusioned by global leadership and the failures of bureaucracy — especially when I see the news or hear from my family of recent events abroad and just how dire the situation is getting,” she continued. “Afghans at risk are burning their diplomas, hiding in their houses; people are starving, kids aren’t going to school.”

“There are days when it’s hard to get out of bed,” she added.

However, Akbari said that she’s been feeling encouraged by several initiatives by fellow organizers in the Afghan diaspora. These include the Afghan American Artists & Writers Association’s fundraiser to evacuate vulnerable Afghan artists; a fundraising campaign for LGBTQ Afghans; and a print sale by Germany-based Afghan photographer Nadine Aber to raise funds for an orphanage in Kabul.

For those who can’t afford to make a donation, or wish to distribute the poster in large quantities, a PDF version is available for free download. Akbari hopes that people would want to “put it in their window, hang it up in their classroom, take it to rallies.”

“The world conveniently forgot about Afghanistan for 20 years, if not longer,” the creative lamented. “They looked away as the US droned rural villages and the Taliban sent suicide bombers into major cities.”

“My hope is folks will commit themselves to advocate for Afghans for the long term in the months and years to come until my people are free,” she affirmed.

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Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...

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