Today marks one year since the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan. We have taken this time to reflect on the past year, the challenges it has brought as well as the opportunities, and wanted to answer some of your questions regarding:
- What the Taliban takeover means for Rumi
- How we continue to operate both in and out of Afghanistan
- What else we are doing to support the Afghan people
- Our plans for the future of Rumi
How did the Taliban control of Afghanistan change your business operations?
It really hasn’t. We have changed some of our transportation routes slightly and have tried to consolidate some of our order processing to simplify things (i.e. require less intra-country travel, outbound shipments, etc.), but we are continuing on with our daily operations. We ask our on-the-ground partners to be vigilant and let us know of any issues or concerns, should they arise.
How do you continue to operate under the Taliban rule?
We know we are navigating uncharted territory and that there are inherent risks operating in Afghanistan. But for us, that just means the rewards are far greater. One area we are the proudest of is creating opportunities for women in Afghanistan that continue to face the most difficult fate under Taliban rule.
Do you support the Taliban?
Rumi Spice does not support the Taliban. We do support the hard-working farmers, processors, and laborers that call Afghanistan home. According to one of our founders, Keith Alaniz, “I don’t care who’s running the government, as long as in the little world that I can affect through my activities there, those people are being treated right.”
"We understand that the success of our company could be seen as a public relations win for the Taliban, but to us, the benefit of helping individual Afghans is well worth it."
Why Afghanistan? Have you considered moving your business away from this region?
No, we have not considered moving our business out of Afghanistan. The challenges facing Afghanistan are the reason our business exists and why we want to continue to grow it, providing even more of a positive economic impact.
Maybe a day will come when we can consider other areas that could use a pathway to a new economic market, but for now, our focus on Afghanistan is steadfast.
Are Afghan women still able to work for Rumi under the Taliban rule?
Women are still a crucial part of our farming, harvesting, and processing activities. This has not changed since the Taliban takeover. Around 95% of individuals involved in Rumi Spice saffron harvesting are women.
What are Rumi's plans for the future?
We began with a mission to cultivate peace in Afghanistan, and this mission is far from complete. We plan to keep growing and evolving as we strive to foster a more peaceful, stable Afghanistan.
What else are you doing to support the people of Afghanistan that have been affected by the Taliban takeover?
At Rumi, our work does not stop with the selling of Afghan products. We're continually seeking out other ways to provide aid to Afghan refugees and those still living in-country. All of the Rumi Spice founders are supporting Afghan families that have been affected by the Taliban rule.
Our founder, Emily, has been supporting the extended family of one of Rumi's earliest employees, Taghi Mohammadali, who worked at our fulfillment center in Chicago. In the early days, Taghi helped clean and package our saffron.
“His sister-in-law, Zahra, and her 4 kids were abandoned by her husband when the US military's withdrawal happened. Zahra was pregnant at the time and had 3 girls dangerously close to the Taliban marrying age. As an ethnic and religious minority, they were in pretty serious danger. We were able to get them to Pakistan where they are still residing in a safe house. We've been fundraising and supporting their housing and hospital costs."
Kim, another one of Rumi’s founders, has been fundraising for, and financially supporting, 5 Afghan families. She has also been working with No One Left Behind, the leading national organization dedicated to ensuring that America keeps its promise to U.S interpreters and employees in Iraq and Afghanistan. Learn more about No One Left Behind (NOLB) here, and please consider donating to their efforts.
With the international community imposing sanctions on the Taliban Interim Administration, the economic situation of the nation and its people remains challenging. However, we are very grateful to be able to continue our work and build a model for support for a small portion of impacted individuals.
A year ago we announced in Forbes that we are “committed to [our] mission and business, despite the political changes in the region," and we are proud to announce that our commitment remains just as strong today. We are fortunate that with our strong on-the-ground network of devoted farmers and harvesters we have not only been able to continue our operations, but also grow our business and introduce new Afghan products to a global market.
Thank you again for the continued support and commitment to Rumi spice and our mission of Spice as a Force for Good. We couldn’t do it without you and can’t wait to see what the next year has in store.