'Horrible times for us': Hundreds gather in East Bay to call for peaceful, free and just Afghanistan

This showing of solidarity comes one day before Afghan Independence Day.
HAYWARD, Calif. (KGO) -- The Bay Area's Afghan community and beyond met by the hundreds outside Hayward City Hall on Wednesday evening. The crowd amplified their calls for a peaceful, free and just Afghanistan.

Leading the charge was organizer Mojghan Latify who explained part of her push to plan the protest came from concern about her family back home.

"They want to get out," Latify said, sharing a quote that her family is living by. "Meaning, 'Leave it up to God's hands.' It's all in God's hands at this point."

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She continued, "We see everything that's going on. They're not alone. We're doing our best here to see how we can help them."

Born in Virginia and raised in California, Latify knows how fortunate she is, acknowledging the freedom she's been afforded.

The same could be said for Arzo Mehdavi. A co-organizer, Mehdavi is counting her blessings, considering her parents are Afghan refugees. The first generation Afghan American said her parents came to the Bay Area in 1981.

"Because of my parents' sacrifices, in coming here as refugees, going through all the hardships that they did, I've been given every freedom," she told ABC7 News.

Mehdavi added, "I'm allowed to work, I got an education, I'm allowed to travel freely."

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She said she wants the same freedoms for her Afghan sisters. Mehdavi and others now fearing for their people.

"This is one of the most catastrophic things that we've ever witnessed in our lives. I mean, at some points, you're watching the news and you see people falling off airplanes. And you think, 'this can't be real. This has to be a movie,'" she told ABC7 News.

"It's horrible times for us, honestly," Arizo Mukhtar said.

Mukhtar pointed to the images and video coming from overseas. The Manteca resident shared she is one among many in the crowd who hasn't heard from loved ones.

Mukhtar elaborated, "Their phones are not working and I don't know what's going on. But just like me, there are thousands of people like that- that they cannot get ahold of their families."

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On Wednesday, there was a mixture of horror and hope across the city of Hayward, where the country's first Afghan-American woman was elected to public office.

Mayor Pro Tempore Aisha Wahab telling the crowd, "There will be no warlord flag. There will be no Taliban flag. This is the only flag we will recognize."

Latify said she reached out to Wahab only three days prior, and was able to organize Wednesday's event.

When asked who they felt is responsible for what is happening in Afghanistan, Latify pointed to the United States.

"The way they withdrew lacks empathy," she said. "And also the Afghan government. They failed."

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Mehdavi told ABC7 News, "We all know that this withdrawal was inevitable- the U.S. could not sustain what they were doing in Afghanistan. They couldn't stay there forever."

"But this exit, there was no strategy to it," she continued. "They basically left like thieves in the night- didn't let anyone know. So, I think that as a country, we are very accountable. We should be accountable."

Mukhtar reflected, "Our country went through all that for 20 years- so we wanted everybody out. But yet, the way that it happened... horrific. Horrific."

This showing of solidarity Wednesday night comes one day before Afghan Independence Day.
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