Afghan expatriates settle in central Indiana

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JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind. — Jamil Ahmad Bodl, a former advisor to the U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan, had green tea and a pastry set out for guests inside his modest apartment.

Four children squealed in the background as their dad sat for an interview to explain why he needed to leave his homeland last month and flee with his family for a new life in Indiana.

“Some of my friends, they lived here in Indianapolis here and they told me that, ‘You have to come over here to Indianapolis, it’s a good place and the people are good here and they have a good residence around here and it’s a good neighborhood.’

“We see that the Taliban took over the whole of Afghanistan and they are trying to kill those who are working with the Coalition forces with the U.S. Army and the Afghan government and probably they’re gonna kill everybody.”

Jamil said that could be his family and friends left behind.

“Most of them are hiding in their homes and in a relative’s house because the Taliban is trying to go there and knock their doors and kick them out and find the people that work with the Coalition forces.”

Jamil and his family fled Kabul the day before the Taliban rolled into the capital.

With the help of Catholic Charities, he’s resettled into a multi-cultural community on Indianapolis’ westside that is home to evacuees from several nations who fled their lands for better lives in America where his children are enrolled in school.

“I already told them it’s gonna be a new life here,” he said, “new challenges we have to face in a new country because it was a lot of strange and different from our country and this country.”

Jamil hopes to use his skills as a translator to help other Afghan evacuees who are still waiting at Camp Atterbury for processing.

Its estimated more than six thousand evacuees are being housed at the base and three times a week a truck from the Masjid Al-Huda Foundation in Fishers takes donated clothes and other items to the Afghans who fled their country and literally left everything behind.

“There are a few people who have been lucky to come with their baggage, but the majority of the guests are missing their baggage. They literally don’t know where their bags are,” said Imam Qeyam of the Foundation. “They need clothing, they need hygiene things, shoes, all kinds of stuff, sometimes religious materials or copies of the Koran or prayer rugs.”

On two Saturdays a month, the Foundation hosts a food pantry at its mosque at 12201 Lantern Road in Fishers.

“This incident has united Indiana residents,” said the imam. “In fact, we have items being donated here to the mosque by a lot of non-Muslim neighbors.”

While some evacuees arrive in Indiana from small villages in Afghanistan with no skills or higher education, the imam said they all are grateful for a chance to succeed in the United States.

“Afghans are hardworking people and through their hardworking and dedication I am sure they’re gonna add a lot of things to Indiana,” said the imam as he cited the high level of education or trade skills possessed by some of the evacuees. “Unlike Indiana residents, they have experienced decades of war and trauma and pain and poverty and they have been struggling and all of them might have challenges and I want our fellow Indiana residents, the kind people, and the neighbors, to be patient with them and help them.”

On a rainy day in Fishers, Imam Qeyam said some evacuees have already found something to love about Indiana.

“I’ve seen a lot of people who have said, ‘Indiana weather is like Kabul weather, so we like it here. When I go outside, I feel like I am very close to Kabul, so I am going to settle here.’”

People interested in donating to the Masjid Al-Huda Foundation can email them at Alhuda.Fishers@gmail.com.

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