Four Afghan women journal about life after U.S. departure as BYU launches new Global Refugee Archive
‘I am not ok. But I try to be good and strong,’ 14-year-old girl writes as a featured part of the new archive compiled by Their Story Is Our Story
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Six years ago, a Latter-day Saint attorney named Kristen Smith Dayley volunteered to help an Afghan woman who had fled to the United States and applied for political asylum. The woman’s husband was still in Turkey, where he fled after he was beaten and left for dead in Kabul.
The woman called Dayley every month with the same question: “When can we get him here?”
“It’s been nearly seven years now,” Dayley said recently. “The wife filed for asylum in 2015 and still no hearing has been scheduled. I’m still in contact with the family, but I don’t get those calls anymore.”
Stories like that are more powerful than facts and figures, said Dayley, executive director of Their Story Is Our Story.
The organization recently launched the Global Refugee Archive, a database of refugee stories now available to the public on the Scholars Archive website of Brigham Young University’s Harold B. Lee Library.
The organization currently is featuring a special project. Four Afghan women and girls are sharing their journal entries this fall as they experience the Taliban’s takeover of their country after the departure of the U.S. military.
“The day the Taliban came, I cried a lot,” a 14-year-old ninth grader wrote on Sept. 1. “It’s been almost three weeks since they arrived, and I haven’t been out once because I’m so scared of them. I do not think I can go to school, to courses, or become a doctor anymore. Freedom is like a dream for me.”
The girl’s 19-year-old sister managed to flee last month to Russia, where she is continuing her education and worrying for her mother and sisters back home.
“I am worried about my family because my father still does not know,” the older sister wrote. “Last week, he threatened to take my sister ... and hand over my mother to the Taliban (if I leave). I do not know where he got the news that I wanted to go.”
The Global Refugee Archive is crucial to helping people comprehend national and international crises on an individual level, said Robin Peterson, director of archives at Their Story Is Our Story.
“I take it very seriously, preserving someone’s story,” Peterson said. “We take it very, very seriously that these individuals have fled trauma or dangerous situations that still could cause them trauma or danger.”
Their Story Is Our Story protects refugees by getting their consent for what can and can’t be shared, often using aliases or blurring or obscuring faces in photos or videos.
The BYU library is offering unlimited database space, and Their Story Is Our Story is in talks to add other stories from new partners around the world, such as humanitarian organizations and other groups that work with refugees.
“We’re very happy that the BYU library has been able to collaborate with TSOS and provide a digital home for the archive in our institutional repository,” said Ellen Amatangelo, the library’s scholarly communications coordinator.
The archive builds on Their Story Is Our Story’s previous effort to share its collection of stories, a powerful 2018 book, “Let Me Tell You My Story.”
“I don’t have any way to guarantee a happy outcome for any of the people that I work with,” Dayley said, “but I figure I can stand with them, and I can make sure they’re alone.”
My recent stories
One TSOS founder helped me tell a powerful refugee story last year, about a teenage Syrian girl named Hind and her family’s harrowing on-foot flight from Syria after bombs fell on their neighborhood. The journey forced a family of nonswimmers into a frightfully choppy Aegean Sea in a rubber boat packed with 70 other people.
What I’m reading
President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, dedicated the church’s 170th temple.
The simple reason the church is going to close all temple cafeterias in 2022.
What will Christmas on Temple Square look like this year?
Ken Jennings returns to “Jeopardy!” — and Temple Square gets a shoutout.
For sale: What’s in this collection of rare and historic Latter-day Saint items valued at $3.2 million?
The First Presidency announced the dates for the open house and dedication of the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple (with interior, exterior images).
Why this Latter-day Saint ‘surfing family’ spent a week in a Jewish home on an NBC reality TV show.
Fun little tale showing how babies are being named for former BYU quarterback Taysom Hill.
Scientists have proved that two condors experienced virgin births: “It’s a reminder that lest you think you understand nature, she’s always got surprises.”
A female high school hockey goalie was subjected to vulgar chants by an opposing team’s students. Where were the adults?