Documentary filmmaker in Utah working to help Afghans
SALT LAKE CITY — The United States military evacuated more than 100,000 Afghans during the withdrawal.
Afghanistan’s borders are now closed, which means many vulnerable Afghans can’t get out, but a network of Utahns are trying to help.
“There are a lot of people at risk, what the administration calls ‘vulnerable Afghans’ — those who worked side-by-side with us,” said filmmaker and humanitarian Dodge Billingsley. “A lot of the Afghan army, special forces, intelligence community.”
Utahn Dodge Billingsley has connections in Afghanistan after years of working as a journalist and defense analyst.
He’s spent the last month trying to come up with plans to get Afghans out of the country.
So far, he and his network have helped a handful of people escape to boarding countries, but there are dozens more asking for his help.
“There are thousands of people, civilians, retired military, retired State Department, and some still active in those roles, helping to get people out,” said Billingsley. “Afghanistan is a really tricky country to get out of. A lot of people are trying different things, but the primary way is to charter these aircraft.”
About 1,300 Afghan refugees are expected to come to Utah in the next few weeks.
Billingsley expects it will be a difficult transition for refugees as they try to assimilate to new roles.
“We think of Afghanistan as a hell hole. That was their home. People had good lives in Afghanistan. To just dismiss that and say, ‘You are so lucky to be here,’ that’s not what they need to hear and it won’t resonate with them at all,” he said.
He said the fall out from Afghanistan will have more meaning to Utahns as refugees move in, but he said it will take years to get a historical and psychological grasp on the exodus from Afghanistan.
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