Jamila Sadozai and her son Yamah Sadozai pose for a portrait inside their family restaurant, Ariana’s Kabob & Gyro Bistro, in St. Louis Park, Minnesota on Aug 24th, 2021. The restaurant is raising funds for Afghan refugees. Credit: Jaida Grey Eagle | Sahan Journal

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After the swift Taliban takeover in Afghanistan on August 15, Minnesota’s small Afghan community feared for the safety of their families back home. And then they mobilized.

In the last 10 days, the Afghan community and local refugee resettlement agencies have been thinking about ways to support new Afghan families in Minnesota—from events or fundraisers.

An estimated 500 Afghans currently live in Minnesota, but the population could grow. One refugee resettlement agency in the state has already facilitated the arrival of 13 Afghans in the last week. The Minnesota Department of Human Services has also pledged to accept 65 Afghans with Special Immigrant Visas, a program that grants translators, interpreters, and other workers who aided the U.S. military a chance to seek safety in the United States.

On Thursday, Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan sent a letter to President Joe Biden offering incoming Afghan refugees and Special Immigrant Visa holders a home in Minnesota. The state has a history of welcoming immigrants and refugees, who make up 8 percent of the population in Minnesota.

Here’s how you can support the growing Afghan community in Minnesota:

Attend an event

A group of Afghan organizers held a vigil and protest on August 28, in Loring Park. The event included speakers, as well as food from Football Pizza, a local Afghan-owned restaurant. At the candlelight vigil, attendees left candles, flowers, and art in support of the community.

Donate to a cause

The International Institute of Minnesota, a local refugee resettlement agency, is raising funds for newly arrived Afghans. Fifty percent of every donation covers the direct costs of resettlement including rent payments, deposit, and other needed supplies. The remaining 50 percent goes toward supporting new immigrants in Minnesota with the expenses of searching for housing, registering for school, lining up health insurance, looking for employment, and working on immigration papers. 

Ariana Kabob & Gyro Bistro, an Afghan restaurant in St. Louis Park, is raising funds for displaced Afghans through a crowdfunding campaign. The restaurant tells Sahan Journal it plans to send donations to three nonprofit organizations providing aid to Afghans in Kabul: Srow Zar Children, Ketab Relief Organization, and Watan Welfare. Any remaining funds will go toward a supply drive for incoming Afghan refugees in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Islamic Relief, an international aid agency, is accepting donations for displaced Afghan families.

Lift Up is a nonprofit based in Hopkins that is raising funds to support refugees from Afghanistan. The organization will use donations to help cover the resettlement costs for Afghan refugees, in partnership with other agencies in the Twin Cities.

The Northwest Islamic Community Center in Plymouth collected donations and supplies through Sonia Sahar, an Afghan business owner from Shakopee. Sahar tells Sahan Journal they are currently at maximum capacity for supplies. But they continue to accept monetary donations through PayPal and Venmo. Cash or select gift cards can be sent to the following address: 

Attn: Afghan Refugees

12635 Sandy Point Road

Eden Prairie, MN 55347

Credit: Sonia Sahar

Refer to legal resources

The International Refugee Assistance Project has compiled legal information for Afghans trying to relocate, including people who are pursuing a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV), or a P-2 refugee designation. The guide includes a list of free immigration service providers in the United States.

Support a local Afghan-owned business

Ariana Kabob & Gyro Bistro is an Afghan and Mediterranean restaurant in St. Louis Park that opened in 2013. The restaurant is also raising funds for displaced Afghan refugees.

Football Pizza has locations in northeast Minneapolis and Columbia Heights. They serve Afghan food and are famous for their football-shaped pizzas. 

Khyber Pass Cafe is an Afghan restaurant in Saint Paul that has been open since 1984. The restaurant is currently open for takeout and curbside pickup only.

With a team comprising three Afghan sisters and their mom, Maazah is an online business featuring chutney made from cilantro and peppers. 

Owned by community organizer Sonia Sahar, Under the Lote Tree is a self-publishing company that creates Arabic and Islamic workbooks for children ages 2–5 years old.

Sahan Journal will be updating this resource list. If you have initiatives or fundraisers to suggest, questions about community needs, or story ideas, please reach out to us at hansari@sahanjournal.com.

Hibah Ansari is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.