In the days since Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, people hoping to aid the country’s refugees have turned to crowdfunding to finance various rescue and humanitarian efforts. Among them is an ambitious campaign launched by an Instagram influencer that raised millions of dollars in a day. It also prompted critical questions about how the operation will work.
Quentin Quarantino (aka Tommy Marcus) launched Flyaway: Emergency Afghan Rescue Mission with the hope of ferrying more than 300 Afghans to safety, at the initial cost of $550,000. The campaign raised more than $5 million in 24 hours. GoFundMe is featuring it in a hub of several verified campaigns dedicated to Afghanistan relief efforts. The hub includes GoFundMe’s own $250,000 initiative to provide food assistance, aid to displaced people and schools, and support for on-the-ground journalists. (See a full list of verified campaigns below, and additional ways to support refugees here.)
Marcus launched his campaign on behalf of Raven Advisory, LLC, which performs sub-contract work for the U.S. military. Marcus partnered with Raven Advisory CEO Sheffield Ford, in addition to veteran advocates, to conduct an emergency flight rescue of Afghans who are “high-value targets” to the Taliban. These include human rights lawyers, journalists, artists, interpreters, and advocates for women’s and LGBTQ rights. Marcus described the evacuees as at “imminent risk of being executed by the Taliban.”
“What began as a grassroots fundraising effort has grown exponentially, and all funds will be used to ensure the safety of at-risk Afghans.”
The money raised by the campaign will pay for aircraft, crews, and security operation teams. Each seat on the flight costs $1,500, and the effort is evacuating families. Mashable has reached out to the Department of Defense for comment about this campaign. Leaders of the planned rescue efforts said in a statement that the U.S. military is aware of their work and has provided permission. Any remaining funds will be donated to the the International Women’s Media Organization to support refugees.
“What began as a grassroots fundraising effort has grown exponentially, and all funds will be used to ensure the safety of at-risk Afghans,” said Marcus, Ford, and veteran advocate Karen Kraft in their statement.
It’s unclear where the refugees will land or whether they have the necessary legal paperwork to stay there, a point of concern for those who question how the rescue mission will work. A spokesman for Marcus couldn’t comment on whether all of the refugees have obtained visas to reside in the U.S. or elsewhere. They did note, however, that visa aren’t required to get on these flights.
“There are several large problems that immediately occur to me, but the most obvious one is that all these rescued people will immediately bump up against the U.S. immigration system,” Karen Jacobsen, a professor of global migration at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, told The New York Times.
The team rescuing the refugees is made of up former Special Forces soldiers and intelligence officers with expertise in Afghanistan.
“The focus will remain on extracting as many people as possible as quickly and as safely as possible,” said Marcus, Ford, and Kraft.
If you want to donate to a GoFundMe effort, here is a complete list of verified Afghan relief fundraisers featured by the platform, at the time of this story’s publication:
Goal: GoFundMe’s own initiative will give grants to vetted nonprofit organizations that provide critical humanitarian aid in Afghanistan.
Goal: This campaign promises to help Afghan women in immediate need by sending money to Women for Women International, a nonprofit organization that supports the most marginalized women in countries affected by conflict and war. You can also donate directly to Women for Women International‘s site.
Goal: Rescue more than 300 Afghans at imminent risk of being persecuted or killed by the Taliban.
Goal: Moe Shalizi, an entertainment executive whose parents came to the U.S. as refugees, created this campaign to raise money to address the humanitarian crisis. Shalizi has yet to name which organizations and nonprofits will receive money from the fund.
Goal: Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation, which promotes girls’ education in Afghanistan, launched this fundraiser to pay for schools’ operating expenses, staff salaries, and supporting students and their families throughout the crisis. You can also donate directly to Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation.
Goal: Organized on behalf of Wellness Worldwide for Sustainable Communities, a nonprofit organization, this campaign will fund food aid packages to internally displaced families in Afghanistan. You can also donate directly to Wellness Worldwide for Sustainable Communities.
Goal: Future Brilliance, a nonprofit organization with extensive experience in Afghanistan, created this campaign to evacuate and provide emergency relief to its network of employees, trainers, associates, and beneficiaries.
Goal: This campaign benefits the Women’s Regional Network, an association of women civil leaders in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. Funds will go toward the evacuation of women journalists, activists, media workers, politicians, and other women at risk. You can also donate directly to the Women’s Regional Network.