Former Sidmouth student campaigns to save Afghan friends from Taliban regime

Humanitarian coordinator Ruth James, a former Sidmouth College student

Humanitarian coordinator Ruth James, who spoke to the East Devon Amnesty Group about the plight of Afghans under the Taliban - Credit: Ruth James

A former Sidmouth College student is crowdfunding to rescue friends in Afghanistan, and other at-risk Afghans, from the threat of the Taliban. 

Ruth James works as a humanitarian coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa for a UK-based charity, and was guest speaker at the East Devon Amnesty Group on Tuesday, October 19.

She was based in Afghanistan from 2013 until 2015 and has kept in touch with some of her former colleagues. 

Following the takeover by the Taliban in August, three of these friends are living in fear for their lives. Two of them, both women, are now banned from working or going out without a male escort. One woman’s mother and brother have been killed by the Taliban. The third colleague lives with his family in the mountainous northern area which the Taliban occupied before they got to Kabul; the village was bombed and shelled, reducing his home to rubble. 

Ruth described the plight of her Afghan friends when she addressed the East Devon Amnesty Group. She told them all three are eligible for evacuation under the UK guidelines, but were unable to get out of the country. Flights are now infrequent and very expensive, and women cannot cross the land borders with Pakistan.  

Ruth told the group the UK has failed to rescue enough people and that in her own attempts to help her friends she has found the form-filling required by the UK government impossibly difficult. She said there needs to be a much simpler application process. 

She urged all members of the East Devon Amnesty Group to write to their MPs and the Home Secretary Priti Patel on this issue. In the meantime, she has started a crowdfunding campaign, raising money to send to a women’s organisation in Afghanistan that will help people who have been displaced by the chaos in the country to travel back to their villages, if they want to. Those who cannot return because it is not safe for them to do so will also be supported. 

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Ruth said: “It’s not just about the money. It’s also about letting people know that we care about what they are going through.” 

To donate to Ruth’s cause, visit her crowdfunding page. 

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