The adventures of an Instagram influencer to evacuate Afghans from Kabul

The adventures of an Instagram influencer to evacuate Afghans from Kabul

I started with a good intention. On August 17, after seeing the chaotic scenes of the first evacuations at Kabul airport, Tommy Marcus, the American influencer on Instagram known as ” Quentin Carantino He asks his 690,000 subscribers at the time (there are 825,000 currently) to help him and participate in ‘Flyaway’.

This operation aims to evacuate about 300 Afghans, “Human rights lawyers, women’s rights advocates and the LGBTQ+ community, journalists, government liaisons, artists and performers”, was presented as “Objectives” Taliban.

Tommy Marcus Plan on a budget of $550,000 (about €475,000), or $1,500 (1,300 euros) per passenger, which is enough to rent two flights to Kabul. but the page GoFundMe The one he made blows up the counters and quickly nets $7.2 million (€6.2 million). The August 25, writes :

“I am happy (and relieved) to be able to tell you: Operation Flyaway has resulted in the evacuation of 350 Afghans in the past few hours.”

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Practical interface made by others

She is almost too beautiful. To the extent that Washington Post – who also struggled with The New York Times and the The Wall Street Journal To evacuate collaborators and their families from Kabul – they end up paying attention, at the end of September, to the exploits of Tommy Marcus and “Flyaway”. First discovery: Tommy Marcus is only the emerging part of the case. Ex-Soldiers Sheffield Ford and Karen Kraft imagined the process. The first runs Raven Advisory, a security firm, and the second is the president of Media and Entertainment Veterans (VME), a network of veterans working in media and entertainment.

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Faced with the advance of the Taliban and the collapse of Afghanistan, the two former soldiers want to participate in the airlift. They are called Tommy Marcus, the famous who has come forward to save the threatened Afghans. In the face of record donations raised by Flyaway, GoFundMe advises Flyaway to contact an NGO, in this case the Washington-based International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF).

Difficulties at the end of the road

Hundreds of Afghans near the runways at Kabul Airport on August 16, 2021.

But quickly, the process will run into a series of troubles. Flyaway rents two planes stranded in Europe because they are not insured to travel in Afghanistan. Operations are further hampered when the IWMF is not allowed access to funds collected on GoFundMe, this time to pay for two flights from Kabul. Finally, it’s Brandi Parker, an ex-Facebook CEO, putting up about $545,000. But when on August 24 the organizers finally managed to take off a plane, which was carrying only 51 people and left with 300 empty seats, some passengers could not pass the security check.

according to Washington Post, Flyaway spent $3.3 million (€2.8 million) … for permanently canceled flights from which the organization has not recovered. According to former Army Sheffield Ford, the Flyaway has a credit for future flights. Most of the money – $2.8 million (2.4 million euros) – went to Kiwijet, an aircraft leasing company run by a New Zealand businessman, which US authorities suspect of fraud.

In the end, Flyaway spent more than $5.2 million (€4.5 million) to evacuate just 435 Afghans. The organizers are aware that most of those assisted have left on trips paid for by US taxpayers or other organisations. The giant air bridge erected by the United States and its allies allowed the evacuation of more than 120,000 foreigners and Afghans eager to escape the new regime.

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“Charity Wild West”

However, approximately $770,000 (€666,668) raised for the Flyaway operation must be used for further evictions and the organization has paid $1.2 million (€1.04 million) into the IWMF.

For her part, Laurie Styron, executive director of the American Institute for Philanthropy, compared crowdfunding campaigns like Flyway to those of the American Institute for Philanthropy. “Charity Wild West”He adds that influencers should instead encourage them Followers To support NGOs that are working.

Whatever the case, since the last US soldier left on the night of August 30, Flyway claims to have allowed 84 Afghans to leave Afghanistan during two trips in September. In an interview with Washington PostTommy Marcus explains that the organization continues to help Afghans leave: “People are alive thanks to Flyaway….Despite the chaos that surrounded [l’opération], there is no remorse. “ He closed the GoFundMe page on August 29th.

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