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United Afghan Club holds charity banquet to support communities abroad

Fourth-year human biology and society student Masood Mokhlis waved the Afghan flag at the seventh annual United Afghan Club charity banquet. (Keila Mayberry/Daily Bruin)

By Mila Abushmaies and Melody Teng

Feb. 2, 2015 1:04 a.m.

Dressed in vibrant traditional attire, members of the UCLA United Afghan Club welcomed students, families and other guests to the seventh annual Afghanistan fundraising banquet Saturday.

The members of the club started the night with a reading from the Qur’an followed by waving the tricolored Afghan flag during the recitation of the national anthem.

The event aimed to educate students about the struggles of Afghanistan and to shed a positive light on Afghan culture and community, said Gina Karimi, a graduate student in biostatistics and president of the United Afghan Club. Karimi said she thinks some students may have misconceptions about Afghanistan, and she hoped the event would help combat stereotypes.

“Media plays a large role in the perception of our culture, and unfortunately because of this, many Americans are not able to see and experience the ancient, rich culture that we truly have,” Karimi said.

Any student can join the United Afghan Club regardless of his or her background, said Freshta Haqiq, a third-year political science student and club board member.

Jimmy Mroz, a first-year African and Middle Eastern studies student, said he thinks the event signified a union of people who are concerned about the experiences of Afghan individuals both abroad and in the U.S.

“People who are not Afghan can learn about the educational and economic growth that is occurring, but also understand that there is more that needs to be done to better Afghans’ overall welfare,” Mroz said.

The United Afghan Club features a different charity every year at its banquet. Karimi said the club looks to help smaller charities that are not as well known or supported.

This year, the club fundraised for Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Services for Afghanistan, a private nongovernmental organization that works directly with economically disadvantaged people living in Afghanistan.

In the past, the United Afghan Club has raised money for charities that have built wells and maternity wards in poverty-stricken areas of Afghanistan. Karimi said the group was particularly happy with its choice of charity this year because of its focus on local support.

Tim Reese, vice chairman of Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Services for Afghanistan, said he thinks the charity’s work is important because it promotes peace in the country.

He pointed to a design on a T-shirt that illustrates the ethnic tribes in Afghanistan surrounding a word that means peace.

“One country, one people, in peace,” Reese said.

The nonprofit aims to help the poorest groups in Afghanistan. One of the major ways the organization has done that is through scouting, bringing Afghan youth together and equipping them with tools and mechanisms to aid them in becoming future leaders who could bring peace and unity to the country, Reese said.

While the UCLA United Afghan Club community is small, Karimi said its impact spans oceans. The club also networks with other members of Afghan clubs across the state, collaborating with students in the University of California school system. This allows them to gain a local perspective on the Afghan condition both in the U.S. and abroad, Karimi said.

The night concluded with a performance of the Attan dance, considered the national dance of Afghanistan. While musicians played Afghan instruments, like the ancient rubab, members of the United Afghan Club took to the stage in a choreographed dance that followed the steady beat and rhythm of the music.

As the dancers twirled in their traditional regalia, some audience members and family joined in on the sidelines.

“During the earlier periods of Afghanistan’s history, the Attan was often performed before a battle to give warriors confidence that they could win the war,” Reese said.

Now, he said, the dance symbolizes unity and gives the Afghan community confidence in the future of Afghanistan.

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