GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A bestselling author from Holland is working to help get more than 150 people out of Afghanistan.
The families of the employees that work for her nonprofit are facing threats from the Taliban for their association with the American-run organization.
Deborah Rodriguez spent several years living in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban and started the Kabul Beauty School.
“Their fear is that the Taliban are going to link them to being in the school, link them as being hairdressers, which is forbidden,” Rodriguez said. “I have 18 families, 152 people, and my goal is to get them out of the country, to get them evacuated.”
She is now in a race to get the staff and their families to safety.
“Right now, the big thing is getting them in the airport. They’re already on manifests to get on a plane, but we can’t get them to the airport,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez says the staff qualifies to apply for special visas and she is now looking at hiring private security companies authorized by the U.S. government to get them through the chaos to their planes.
“They open these gates up and I believe it’s just a mad rush of people, and that’s where one of my families the grandmother fell,” Rodriguez said.
The family ended up getting separated and was not able to get on a flight. The staff originally planned to travel to the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan, but the situation on the ground deteriorated quickly, making a border that was normally easy to cross nearly impossible to reach.
Their fear of the Taliban is growing as each day passes by.
“All of them that have had businesses have had to shut down, lock their doors, hide their tools, burn their documents,” Rodriguez said. “They’re afraid that the Taliban is going to take their daughters and force them into marriage.”
Deborah remains hopeful they will be able to find a way to get the families out, even after the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.