Hundreds Gather at Welcoming Event for Afghan Refugees
By Will Bauer , Reporter/Producer Nebraska Public Media
Feb. 28, 2022, noon ·
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More than 200 people gathered in downtown Lincoln over the weekend to welcome some of the state’s newest refugees. Former refugees organized the welcome event for Afghans who've recently arrived in Nebraska.
Filled with city council members, representatives from Lincoln Public Schools, the city’s police chief – and Afghan refugees, the main ballroom at Embassy suites was packed on Saturday. The message from organizers was clear: We’re sorry you’re in this situation, but we’re here to help.
“When I came, I had the same feeling that they're having now. I did not have anybody helping me," said Rabia Rashidi, who organized the event with her husband. "So we ended up having to throw this kind of gathering to show them and to tell them our experience because we went through a lot of the same problems, like the language barrier and the cultural shock – everything.”
Rabia and her husband, Faheem, came to the U.S. in the early 2000s to escape the Taliban. Like this newest group of refugees, Rabia’s family had worked with the U.S. government. She and her husband now own Lincoln Pharmacy near 33rd and A streets.
As of February 23, these new refugees are among a total of 1,210 Afghans now living in the state, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Long before the U.S. pulled its military forces out of Afghanistan, Lincoln had been a popular relocation site for many refugee groups.
Speakers on Saturday shared essential information for refugees: What parents can expect for the children in school or what role police officers play in the community. Teresa Ewins, chief of Lincoln's Police Department, got a question asking if these refugees would be treated the same as U.S. citizens.
“They're going to be treated the same as everyone else," Ewins said. "And it is very important that they understand that, and there's gonna be mistakes. Nothing is ever 100% smooth.”
And when there are mistakes, Ewins said it will be LPD’s responsibility to answer questions and do what they can to correct the situation.
Afghan refugees in the state will be the focus of our next "Speaking of Nebraska" episode. The discussion show will air March 17 and 18 on Nebraska Public Media television and radio.
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