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Utah joins effort to evacuate attorneys from Afghanistan

Posted at 4:40 PM, Jul 27, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake County Attorney’s Office is joining other offices from across the U.S. in an attempt to evacuate Afghanistan attorneys targeted by the Taliban.

Since the fall of Kabul almost two years ago, 26 prosecutors have been tortured and killed. Some of their family members have also been hurt.

The campaign is a national effort, but the reason the organization announced its launch in Utah is because of a major county prosecutors event happening this week.

"We must not merely listen, we must act now to bring them to safety," said former Afghan prosecutor Yama Rayeen.

The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office is joining "Prosecutors for Prosecutors," a campaign to raise $15 million to get the attorneys out of the country.

"These men and women and their families are in constant hiding, they’re in fear of their lives, they’re worried about employment, they cannot move around freely and they are targeted," said Salt Lake County DA Sim Gill.

The initiative hopes to rescue 1,500 attorneys and their families.

"Overall, in Utah, I would say we have almost close to 16-1,800 afghans that have arrived the last two, three years," said Aden Bater, Director of Migration and Refugee Services with Catholic Community Services of Utah.

At least 30-50 refugees from Afghanistan arrive each month.

"They have one thing in common, all of them," explained Bater. "They just want to rebuild their life and they want to move on and to go back to their normal life." 

That’s what ‘Prosecutors for Prosecutors’ hopes to do; promising to offer employment in their local jurisdictions.

"It’s not just their safety that we’re after but the opportunity for them to rebuild their life and build upon the skills that they’ve already learned," said Jackson County (Mo.) prosecutor Jean Peters Baker.

It typically takes up to two years to get the families out of Afghanistan, with the hope that with the right funding, non-government organizations can help facilitate the evacuation, and government leadership can expedite visas.