Rally participants stand in front of the Nebraska State Capitol holding up handmade signs facing the road.
Rally participants stand in front of the Nebraska State Capitol while chanting with their handmade signs to spread awareness about the Taliban taking over Afghanistan on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Lincoln. Saahil Niazi, treasurer of AFSA and a junior pre-health and film studies double major, led the chants at the back. Photo by Ashley Chong/NNS

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Afghan Student Association organized an informative rally Sunday, Aug. 29, in front of the Nebraska State Capitol to spread awareness about the Taliban taking over Afghanistan and how it is affecting local Afghans. 

AFSA planned the rally a week and a half ago as soon as President Biden started withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, said Saahil Niazi, treasurer of AFSA and a junior pre-health and film studies double major.

“We wanted to represent the Afghan community, speak up about what’s happening in Afghanistan, and help as many who are coming to Lincoln as refugees,” Niazi said.

Local Afghans shared their experiences of living in Afghanistan before coming to Lincoln with a crowd of roughly 45 participants. Some of the speakers had family and friends back in Afghanistan who were trying to leave the country at the time they spoke. Aimal Ahmadzai said he urged the Lincoln community to support and welcome Afghan refugees with open arms. 

“Let’s remember that these are not economic migrants. These are not people that are coming to steal your job or spread terror. No, they’re leaving violence,” Ahmadzai said.

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Rally participants stand facing the Nebraska State Capitol with their handmade signs and Afghanistan flags while listening to a speaker on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Lincoln.

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Furqan Mahdi (left), a UNL student, and Farida Ebrahim (right), a founding member of AFSA, wipe their tears after comforting each other with an embrace in front of the Nebraska State Capitol on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Lincoln.

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Susan Qudus, president of AFSA and a senior biosystems engineering major, speaks to rally participants on the top of the Nebraska State Capitol stairs on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Lincoln. “I dream maybe when I’m old, that there will be peace for Afghans,” Qudus said during her speech.

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Michelle Ebrahim (left), vice president of AFSA and a junior psychology major holds a sign reading, “Twenty years, trillions spent. Now Taliban are left to ferment,” while Saahil Niazi (right), treasurer of AFSA, and a junior pre-health and film studies double major, leads the chants in front of the Nebraska State Capitol on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Lincoln.

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Rally participants chant, “We want peace. Peace for Afghanistan,” facing K Street while holding handmade signs to spread awareness about the Taliban taking over Afghanistan, in front of the Nebraska State Capitol on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Lincoln.

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AFSA members (from left) Harris Ebrahim, Susan Qudus, Michelle Ebrahim and Saahil Niazi stand in front of the Nebraska State Capitol on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Lincoln. AFSA just reconvened last year after a long break from 2008, and the informative rally was the first big event that they hosted in 2021, Niazi said.

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Rally participants chant, “Let me hear loud and clear. Refugees are welcome here,” facing K Street while holding Afghanistan flags and handmade signs to spread awareness about the Taliban taking over Afghanistan, in front of the Nebraska State Capitol on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Lincoln.

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Malalay Rahmanzai, a former AFSA member and a master’s-level economic major, stands in front of the Nebraska State Capitol wearing a Pakol hat and an Afghanistan flag as a cape with a sign that reads, “Save Afghanistan” on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Lincoln.

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Rally participants chant facing K Street while holding Afghanistan flags and handmade signs to spread awareness about the Taliban taking over Afghanistan, in front of the Nebraska State Capitol on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Lincoln.
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Harris Ebrahim, member of AFSA and a sophomore biosystems engineering major, stands in front of the Nebraska State Capitol on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Lincoln. Ebrahim wears the Afghanistan map-shaped necklace every day. His father worked in Afghanistan for 10 years from when he was in first grade until sophomore year of high school, and he would come back to the U.S. for a week, twice every year. The necklace was one of the gifts that his father brought home every visit. “It also makes the situation in Afghanistan right now more real for me because my dad was a translator, and all of those translators are stuck in Afghanistan,” Ebrahim said.

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Rally participants stand in front of the Nebraska State Capitol while chanting with their handmade signs to spread awareness about the Taliban taking over Afghanistan on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Lincoln. Saahil Niazi, treasurer of AFSA and a junior pre-health and film studies double major, led the chants at the back.

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Farida Ebrahim, a founding member of AFSA, speaks about her experience growing up in Afghanistan on the Nebraska State Capitol steps on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Lincoln. “Can you imagine, within a week, everything changes for you?” Ebrahim asked the participants during her speech.

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Rally participants chant facing K Street while holding handmade signs to spread awareness about the Taliban taking over Afghanistan in front of the Nebraska State Capitol on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Lincoln. The sign on the left read, “Afghanistan is bleeding and the world is silent,” while the sign on the right read, “Every life should be a priority. Expand immigration eligibility. Everyone deserves to be safe. Support resettlement programs.”

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Saahil Niazi, treasurer of AFSA, and a junior pre-health and film studies double major, leads the chants in front of the Nebraska State Capitol on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Lincoln. One of the chants that Niazi led was, “Let me hear loud and clear. Refugees are welcome here.” Niazi had a cousin in Afghanistan who felt restless after receiving the news about the Taliban taking over Afghanistan, at the time he spoke. “They are in talks with us right now and we’re managing to get them to come over to Lincoln or some part of the U.S.,” Niazi said.

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Aimal Ahmadzai speaks about the Taliban’s detrimental impact on the Afghan community on the Nebraska State Capitol steps on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Lincoln. Ahmadzai’s cousin was still in Afghanistan at the time he spoke. He chose to stay there, working as a reporter for Al-Jazeera. The green shirt that Ahmadzai wore belonged to his mother. “When I was 1 year old, my mom wore this shirt in D.C. at protests,” he said.

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Handmade signs with phrases showing support to the Afghan community lie on the floor in front of the Nebraska State Capitol on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Lincoln.