Escaping the Taliban, One Year Later: Afghan Voices of Hope
Afghan Voices of Hope is a project that seeks to strengthen Afghan diasporic civil society by building solidarity and connecting people through shared experience. As refugees of the 2021 exodus navigate life outside of Afghanistan, Afghan Voices of Hope helps to build shared identity in the hopes that, perhaps, many or all of them will someday be able to return to their country or, if not, that they will continue to engage with each other in building Afghanistan’s democratic future. Since late August 2021, the project has collected, transcribed, and cataloged more than 200 stories from displaced Afghans living in exile across the globe. Interview sites include Poland, France, the UK, Canada, and several states across the US. It is time for us to look back and reflect on these stories to amplify messages of perseverance and commit to never forget the reality of life in exile.
Gaisu Yari, Project Director, Afghan Voices
Gaisu Yari is a former Commissioner in the Civil Service of Afghanistan and a human rights defender who holds a master’s degree in human rights from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in Middle Eastern and gender studies from the University of Virginia. Gaisu is the Director of the Afghan Voices of Hope project and travels around the world to collect the emotional narratives of fellow Afghan exiles. She is also an advocate and public speaker on gender justice. As an activist, she speaks at conferences, to individual organizations, and in the media on the rights of women in Afghanistan.
Lyla Kohistany, CEO, Honor the Promise
Lyla is an Afghan refugee, US Navy veteran, and cultural intelligence strategist. She has deployed to Afghanistan three times alongside US and NATO Special Operations Forces—once as a naval intelligence officer and twice as a civilian cultural advisor. She is also the co-founder and director of two national nonprofits. PROMOTE focuses on innovation through inclusion in national security. Honor the Promise focuses on the long-term resiliency of Afghan Special Operations Forces who were evacuated to the US in the Fall of 2021. Lyla also serves on several nonprofit boards in both Director and Advisory roles. Lyla is currently a nonresident Senior Fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Forward Defense program focused on the future of war, and is pursuing a Doctor of Education (EdD) through Arizona State University’s Leadership and Innovation program.
Mujib Mehrdad, Poet and Writer
Mujib Mehrdad is a former Editor-in-Chief of Hash-e Subj Daily and the author of the poetry collections Gladiators Are Still Dying (2007, winner of the Afghan Civil Society’s literature contest), The Fishes Have Fled Our Veins (2008), Audience (2009), and Soldiers(2014), and of the collection of essays The Rain Passed. His recent book Dolphins’ Alley has won the Ahmad Shamlo award for the best collection of the year in Iran. He has translated Ginsberg, Plath, Langston Hughes, Mayakovsky, Tagore, and others into Dari. He is a board member of the literary organization Kashane Nawesendagan (House of Authors) and teaches Persian literature at Albironi University in Kapisa. He is also a board member of Afghanistan Pen association and in 2010 he was representing Afghanistan Pen at the 76th congress of the International Pen association.
Anya McMurray, President and COO, Welcome.US
Anya McMurray is President and COO of Welcome.US, a national initiative to mobilize all aspects of American society to help resettle refugees at a moment of great challenge: the evacuation of Afghanistan followed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Before joining Welcome.US, Anya was the Senior Director of Strategy & Policy for Immigration at the Emerson Collective, where she led innovative strategic initiatives to advance a more inclusive American identity through policy development, coalition-building, communications campaigns, and grant-making. Previously, Anya was Deputy General Counsel to Senator Patrick Leahy while he was Chairman and later Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee; a public defender in Minneapolis; and a Prettyman Fellow at Georgetown Law Center, where she taught and represented indigent clients. Before law school, Anya served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay and as a program officer at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs in Washington. She is an alumna of Wesleyan University and Yale Law School.
John Agoglia, Deputy Director for Partnerships, Global Friends of Afghanistan (GFA)
John Agoglia is the director of Trinity Planning & Investments LLC. He served as director of the Counterinsurgency Training Center-Afghanistan in Kabul from 2008–2010 and also the director of the US Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute. John is the Deputy Director of Global Friends and is responsible for its partnerships and outreach programs.
Moderator, Benjamin D. Hopkins
Benjamin D. Hopkins is Professor of History and International Affairs, as well as Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, at the Elliott School of International Affairs. He is a historian of modern South Asia, specializing in the history of Afghanistan and British imperialism on the Indian subcontinent. He has authored, co-authored, and co-edited numerous books on the region, including The Making of Modern Afghanistan, Fragments of the Afghan Frontier, and Beyond Swat: History, Society and Economy along the Afghanistan-Pakistan Frontier. His latest book, Ruling the Savage Periphery: Frontier Governance and the Making of the Modern State, which won the Association of Asian Studies Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Prize (2022), presents a global history of how the limits of today’s state-based political order were organized in the late 19th century, with lasting effects to the present day. He is currently working on a manuscript about the American war in Afghanistan provisionally entitled, The War that Destroyed America, as well as A Concise History of Afghanistan, for Cambridge University Press.