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|Afghan orphan hoax?|
|03/29/02 at 15:41:32|
I received this as a forward recently...
Publication date: 03/28/2002
Afghan orphan hoax?
By Alex Brown
Of The Examiner Staff
A mysterious mass e-mail asking Muslim families across The City -- and the nation -- to adopt orphaned Afghan children could be a hoax, and has infuriated thousands in the Bay Area.
The e-mail states that 529 Afghan women and girls were transported by U.S. armed forces to a military base in Guam for quarantine, and will be flown to America for adoption, but does not say which agency will be involved, nor does it reveal the whereabouts of the children.
One thing is certain: They were not at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, the only base on the island taking flights from Afghanistan.
"I haven't heard of that one yet," said Capt. Mike Escudie, spokesman for the air base, in reference to the orphans. "The last time we heard anything like this was regarding the detainees who ended up going to Guantanamo Bay."
Even Neil Fahrer, husband of Los Angeles resident Julie Fahrer, who wrote the e-mail, didn't know which government agency she claimed to be representing, or whether the children are still in Guam or exist at all. When pressed, he said the information was confidential.
The lack of disclosure by the Fahrers has Muslim community leaders doubting the legitimacy of the e-mail, and questioning the couple's true intent.
Dr. Patricia Maloof, of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service , recently contacted the State Department, who said it had no knowledge of the 529 orphans and had no visa applications arranged to accommodate such a mass influx of people.
Neither the State Department nor Maloof would confirm the report.
"Either way it's alarming -- if this is all a hoax, or there really are 500-plus children that are unaccounted for," she said. "This is a very sensitive issue, and it's vital we get to the bottom of it."
Another of those angered by the lack of straight answers from Julie Fahrer is M. Daoud Abedi, chairman of the Afghan arm of Niswa -- a Muslim Family Outreach Organization in the Bay Area.
Abedi said he has been receiving 400 calls, 150 e-mails and 60 faxes a day from people concerned about the childrens' welfare, since Fahrer first rallied community interest several weeks ago.
"I'm a businessman with four children, and I have had to shut down my work for 14 days to deal with this," he said. "I cry every day for these children, because we do not know what has happened to them."
Another reason the e-mail could be a fraud is that many of the Bay Area Muslim and Foster Care communities who are listed as contact sources never were informed of the orphan adoption plan.
"We are in the dark like every other county," said spokeswoman Kim Liem, of the Santa Clara County Social Services Agency, which was listed unwittingly. "We're getting a lot of calls. It might be a prank."
The e-mail triggered hundreds of responses because of its vivid descriptions on the plights of the children.
Nabla, for instance, is described as a 12-year-old orphan who had her mother and sister killed by her father, her father killed in war, a sister killed and another kidnapped from an orphanage.
She also showed signs of rape, is undernourished and borderline catatonic, the e-mail continued.
"Since it is quite possible that some of these orphans will find their way to the San Francisco Bay Area, we encourage you to consider becoming a foster or adoptive family to provide these destitute children," the e-mail states.
Questions about the legitimacy of the orphan placement operation were raised March 16, Abedi said, when Fahrer promised to bring six of the orphans to a community meeting in Los Angeles.
Fahrer, who claimed to be working with the U.S. military and the United Nations' Refugee Resettlement Program -- a claim her husband, Neil Fahrer, later said may be erroneous -- did not bring the children, but displayed photographs.
Since then, her story has changed, Abedi noted in a letter to Gov. Gray Davis.
Julie Fahrer supposedly told the hopeful foster parents that the military had changed its mind on the adoptions, resulting in 12 orphans being placed with families in St. Paul, Minn., and 10 of them to an undisclosed location in Illinois.
The children were supposed to have been relocated last Monday, but Neil Fahrer conceded he had no way of checking if that had happened.
"The story keeps going up and down, and still we have not seen the children," Abedi said. "She won't answer our questions because she says it is classified information. All the authorities we have contacted don't know anything about this."
Although her husband denies the e-mail is a hoax, no one has been able to substantiate her story, or see the orphans firsthand. As for Julie Fahrer, she was not available for comment Tuesday.
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