Under Taliban Rule, Women’s Rights are Stripped

By Hossna Samadi

When I learned about the Taliban’s decision to ban women from attending university and read about a medical student who was not allowed to take her last exam, I sat at my desk crying.

Afghanistan is experiencing one of the toughest times of its history. The Taliban’s latest decision to ban women from universities comes after other such misogynistic moves, including banning girls from attending secondary school, preventing women from gyms and public parks, and forbidding women from employment.

I’m deeply concerned for Afghan women who are already facing cold winter temperatures, lack of food, and scarce employment opportunities.

Afghan women are trapped. The Taliban has banned them from traveling without male companions. Some Afghan women do not have male family members due to the ongoing war in Afghanistan, and have lost their husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons.

Women’s dreams to reach their potential and fully participate in public life have been shattered. They have no power over their lives.

The Taliban want to erase women from society. They do not want to recognize women as human beings, but rather as a tool or property for men. More than 50 Islamic countries and the most respected Islamic Institutions deem this as un-Islamic.

Under Taliban rule, the continual stripping away of women’s rights devastates all Afghans, those in the country, and the Afghan diaspora across the world.

I feel helpless, sad, and angry. I urge the international community to help.


Hossna Samadi is an Afghan refugee who came to the U.S. in 2016 and was welcomed by IRIS. She is an advocate for Afghan women, co-founder of the Collective for Refugee & Immigrant Women’s Wellbeing (CRIW),  program associate at Sanctuary Kitchen at CitySeed, and Member of  the 2022 Nonprofit Emerging Leaders of Color Cohort of the Community Foundation of Greater New Haven.  

Make a donation to IRIS to help rebuild lives of Afghan women, and immigrants from all over the world


A Ray of Hope for Undocumented Neighbors

© Rachel Peet

Sophia* arrived from Guatemala to the States in 2018 with her young son, hoping to start fresh. As an undocumented immigrant, she gets help from IRIS’ Services for Undocumented Neighbors (SUN) program.

SUN launched in 2019 when co-manager Camille Kritzman was hired to support migrants without a “refugee” or “asylee” status. Having several years of experience working with CT Students 4 a Dream, Camille evolved from Case Manager to manager of the SUN program at IRIS.

The onset of the COVD-19 pandemic in 2020 led to a drastic rise in SUN clients as jobs were lost, government stipends were not provided, and full rent payments were due. Mirka Dominguez-Salinas’ stepped in as SUN’s second manager, to tackle the growing client list. Once an undocumented immigrant herself, Mirka has also worked with other migrant-supporting organizations, CT Students 4 a Dream, and even more so with Make the Road CT.

Since 2020, Camille and Mirka have grown the SUN program with Doris Cordova, Intake Specialist and Daniela Carranza, Case Manager. According to both co-managers, it has been a gradual process, but also a rewarding one. “I’m so proud of the work we’re doing. We keep fighting for clients and advocating for them. There is no other program like this in the state.” Mirka stated.

Sophia too is proud. The young Guatemalan woman is proud to feel that New Haven is a safe haven through the SUN program and to have a reliable connection with the team. Recently, she gave birth to her second child, a premature baby girl. In order to cope with the pregnancy pains as well as visit her daughter in the ICU each day, Sophia lost her job. The loss of income ultimately caused her to fall behind on her rent. Sophia attempted to acquire financial aid with a variety of organizations, but was denied. The only ray of hope was IRIS’s SUN program.

Sophia was given a $800 gift card to cover her overdue rent bill during SUN’s monthly “Resource Day,” — a day for clients to receive info on education, health, housing, and legal resources. Empowering undocumented immigrants is especially crucial as they are excluded from many social services.

“There always needs to be so much proof, and for people who aren’t in the system in the same way – because the system has barriers and has excluded them – they turn around and ask for all of these papers.” Camille said.

SUN’s mission is focused on inclusion, trust, and teaching clients about basic human rights as newcomers to the States. The team strives to transform their teachings and services from a “ray of hope” their clients depend on, to an everyday right that their clients independently grow with. “A big part of our program is teaching clients how to be strong self-advocates because we aren’t going to be here forever. They aren’t going to be clients forever. We need them to know how to go after these things themselves,” shared Camille.

*Name has been altered for privacy


Bikes for Refugees & People of All Walks of Life

Q&A with John Martin, owner of Bradley Street Bicycle Co-op
Interview by Helen Hen

What does Bradley Street Bicycle Co-op do?

John Martin: “We get bikes back on the street. We have a big recycling program where folks donate their bikes to us, then volunteers and staff fix them up, and we donate half of them to folks who need them, IRIS being one of our big recipients. We sell the other half to subsidize the project.

We also have an open shop for folks to come in and pay what they can, and use the space and tools to fix bikes themselves. On top of that, we spend time with people from different walks of life. We come together over the act of fixing a bike which is fun and pretty powerful.”

How did the company start?

John Martin: “ Actually a big part of the program has its roots in IRIS. The Bradley Street Bicycle Co-op was started by me in 2015. Then I quickly met two people, Joel L. and Paul Hammer, who were running a small bicycle recycling program with IRIS. IRIS would help collect bikes and give them to Paul and Joel, they would fix them all up, sell half and then donate the rest back to IRIS. They encouraged me to take that program and run with it. We give 60 bikes to IRIS clients directly per year.”

What is the advantage of having a bike?

John Martin: “New Haven is really segregated by income. The affordability and the efficiency of owning a bike for someone who is struggling financially is really valuable. And then you have all these bonuses, it’s good for the environment, good for physical health, good for mental health, it reduces congestion in the city and traffic problems and it’s cheap.

For IRIS folks who are brand new to the country, they often come with just their bags and the clothes they have. When you’re transitioning to an entirely new home and new life, even if your bike is your second mode of transportation, it’s great! You can pop over to the corner store and use it for small trips.

IRIS is a beautiful partner we’ve been working with since the beginning in 2015. Paul passed away last year, but Joel is still a volunteer at the bike co-op and a dear friend and mentor, who helps out all the time. It’s fun to have this continuity and IRIS is like the birth of who we are and is at the core of our work, so we’re lucky and privileged to have a relationship, because you do amazing work.”

For more, visit Bradley Street Bicycle Co-op: www.bsbc.co.

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