BYU launches archive of Afghan magazines under Taliban rule

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Six years ago, a Latter-day Saint lawyer named Kristen Smith Dayley volunteered to help an Afghan woman who had fled to the United States seeking political asylum. The woman’s husband was still in Turkey, where he fled after being 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 almost seven years ago now,” Dayley said recently. “The wife applied for asylum in 2015 and a hearing is still not planned. I’m still in touch with the family, but I no longer get those calls. ”

Such stories are stronger than facts and figures, said Dayley, CEO 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 has a special project. Four Afghan women and girls are sharing their journal records this fall as they experience the Taliban’s takeover of their country following the departure of the US military.

“The day the Taliban came, I cried a lot,” a 14-year-old ninth-grader wrote on September 1st. “It’s almost three weeks since they arrived and I’ve not been out a single time 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 to Russia last month, where she is continuing her education and caring for her mother and sisters at home.

Liz Jevtic-Somlai shares stories about the vulnerability and resilience of female refugees like herself.

Liz Jevtic-Somlai holds on to her son as she talks about the vulnerability and resilience of female refugees like herself at the launch of the Global Refugee Archive at BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library on October 21, 2021.
Tad Walch, Deseret News

“I’m 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 essential to help people understand national and international crises at the individual level, said Robin Peterson, director of archives at Their Story Is Our Story.

“I take it very seriously to preserve someone’s history,” Peterson said. “We take it very, very seriously that these people have fled trauma or dangerous situations that can still cause trauma or danger to them.”

Their story is our story protects refugees by gaining their consent to what can and may not be shared, often using aliases or blurring or blurring of faces in photos or videos.

The Global Refugee Archive now includes more than 50 interviews, a gallery of photographs, a gallery of works of art by volunteer artists, and an archive of some social media posts.

Volunteering with their story is our story takes up the refugee journey of an Iraqi refugee who is now married to an American and lives in Utah with two children.

Volunteering with their story is our story recording the refugee journey of Rita, a native of Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq. Rita married an American and lives in Utah with two children.
Global Refugee Archive

The BYU library offers unlimited database space, and Their Story Is Our Story is in negotiations to add other stories from new partners around the world, such as humanitarian organizations and other groups working with refugees.

“We are very pleased that the BYU Library has been able to partner with TSOS and provide a digital home to the archive in our institutional repository,” said Ellen Amatangelo, the library’s scientific communications coordinator.

The archive builds on Their Story Is Our Story’s previous efforts to share its collection of stories, a powerful 2018 book, “Let Me Tell You My Story.”

“I have no way of guaranteeing a happy outcome for any of the people I work with,” Dayley said, “but I reckon I can stand with them and I can make sure they are alone.”

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