'Free Afghanistan:' community members cry at Hayward rally

Hundreds of Afghan immigrants and Afghan Americans held a rally at Hayward City Hall Wednesday, shouting "Free Afghanistan," and calling for action to save relatives and friends hoping to leave the country that has swiftly fallen under Taliban control as the U.S. ends its 20-year occupation.

People called for action saying they want to be a voice to help those in Afghanistan who are too afraid to speak out.

"Let's raise our voices together here today, so that they can hear us, and that they know that we are with them," said Arzo Mehdavi, one of the young Afghan American women who coordinated the rally.

"To the people of Afghanistan...we hear you. We see you. We are with you," said Megan Latify, another rally organizer.

Many brought Afghan flags to the rally, waving them defiantly. The Taliban Wednesday had attacked protestors in Jalalabad who were accused of taking down a Taliban banner and replacing it with the Afghan flag.

Many say the stories they are hearing every day are breaking their hearts.

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Nazaneen Qimie of Hayward was there with her family. She says a fellow graduate from Mt. Eden High School had been visiting Afghanistan for Eid and now is trapped there with his family. She says he told her the Taliban shot his mother

"His mom was not wearing a full burqa so the Taliban, he told me 6 to 7 Taliban, they got his mom and threw her in the middle of the street," said Nazaneen.

"Now making calls is a little more dangerous because they're so scared someone will hear them," said her sister Shabnam Qimie.

Their mother Fariba Qimie is among the immigrants who worked for the U.S. military during the occupation, now feeling despair and anger at Afghan leaders who fled and gave up the country's control without a fight.

"I was a translator myself. I went back with the U.S. Army," said Fariba Qimie, "I feel bad. We did all of that work for what?"

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During the rally, there was a moment of silence and prayer.

Hayward's Mayor Pro-Tem Aisha Wahab, the first Afghan American woman elected to office in the U.S., urged people to take action.

Some are calling for Congress to help.

Others asked people to take out their mobile phones and post photos and videos of the rally on social media with the hashtags #StandwithAfghanistan and #HopeforAfghanistan.

Wahab called for the Afghan community to do in America what has been so elusive in Afghanistan, to work together across the tribal, ethnic, and religious divisions  and unite as Afghans under one flag, as one community.

"I don't care if you are Hazara or Pashtun. I don't care if you are Tajik, Uzbek, Jewish, Sikh, anything," said Wahab, "The one beauty of Afghanistan is that we are so mixed. We are so different."

The rally included Nuristani, Pashtun, and other speakers of different Afghanistan ethnicities.

"It's so sad. It's really overwhelming because you want to do the most good for the most amount of people," said Mehdavi, tearing up as she reflected on the work ahead trying to help people who hope to flee to the U.S.

The organizers say they are planning a Day of Action on Monday to do phone-banking and try to secure visas for those still hoping to leave Afghanistan.

Officials with the city of Hayward say they are preparing housing, funding, and a website to help with any refugees coming to the city.

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at jana.katsuyama@fox.com and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or ktvu.com.