Helping Open-Source Contributors Escape Afghanistan

Helping Open-Source Contributors Escape Afghanistan

How the community came together to help families escape a war zone.

The Persian proverb یکی برای همه و همه برای یکی means "Every one should sacrifice for the community, and the community should come together for the one". This has been exemplified over the last month, as the open source community came together to support two open-source contributors and their families flee as the Taliban took over.

The Help Escaping Afghanistan Collective was launched with the voices of people on the ground explaining how dire the situation had become.

Contributing to open source was a go-to relief for me in the hard days of the war. To get involved in a community that was eager to help each other and as a result, create something beautiful for everyone, just helped me forget the terrors that my relatives were enduring under the Taliban regime, and the fact that each day they were closing in. It was hard to see my 4 years old sister cry to sleep while hearing the most horrific explosions and gun fire around her. Now that Taliban have taken over the city, escaping Afghanistan seems impossible for us because it's hard to escape a country when you are barely above the poverty line. Since open-source contribution is not a common thing, my family and I are one "Hey, this guy worked for non-believers of Islam" away from getting killed or tortured. They have killed people for less than that. You can never explain open-source to someone who hasn't read a single line of text in his entire life.

At first, not too many details about the people in danger were shared, out of concern for their safety if they were publicly identified. Acting on trust, over 170 contributors across the open source ecosystem stepped up, raising nearly €20,000. Through the hard work of the volunteers coordinating this effort, the money was successfully transferred to the afghani developers and their families and they were supported to successfully escape.

Once they were safely over the border, the contributors themselves were able to come forward.

After it became safe, the coordinators of the project were able to share more:

Khuda is a contributor to the AsyncAPI Initiative project (member of Technical Steering Committee), part of Linux Foundation. Special thanks to the AsyncAPI community, who trusted us and supported the initiative. Ahmad is a contributor to Milfos Initiative and its development efforts in Apache Fineract. Thanks to Edward Cable, we managed to promote the fundraiser secretly inside the Apache Foundation community. Last but not least, all of this would not have been possible without the fantastic support from Open Collective, which also supports so many other open-source projects. This was really an initiative of the open-source community. Thank you!!! Once all the expenses are covered, and we know how much money is left (probably a bit less than 3 000 EUR), we will donate it to Women for Afghan Women.

Our hearts go out to all the open source contributors, and all people, caught up in the violence and chaos in Afghanistan right now. We were deeply moved and inspired to see the community come together in this way.