Quite a few, actually.
Celebrities have long been involved in the political sphere, and have been loud advocates for climate change, gender equality, eradicating world poverty, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The role of a celebrity has evolved from simply being an entertainer because of the power their followers have given them. Over the years, more so with the rise of social media, celebrities have gained attention, support, and genuine respect from followers around the world. And many of them use this outreach to benefit the global community.
Any global issue nowadays has an almost immediate reaction from the celeb community. The ending of the war in Afghanistan was certainly no exception. Many in the celeb community have been quick to slam governments over their stance on Afghan refugees, or women who have now been trapped in the country.
Hollywood seems to believe that the current situation in Afghanistan must become a hot international issue as South Africa had been years before, which is why the US government faced backlash from the community by withdrawing its troops from the country. Actress and Special Envoy to the UNHCR Angelina Jolie made headlines after joining Instagram to simply publish a letter from a young Afghan girl, hoping to raise further awareness about the situation.
In a recent op-ed for TIME magazine, the filmmaker described the US’ stance on the matter as a ‘betrayal and failure impossible to fully understand” that the US Administration appeared to ‘cut and run’ and ‘give up on the idea of a peace agreement between the Afghan Government and the Taliban. This, she wrote, allowed the US to lose leverage to influence what happens in Afghanistan from now on. She further insisted she felt “ashamed” as an American citizen, and how the American Government’s stance has now led to a new refugee crisis.
Hollywood seems to believe that the current situation in Afghanistan must become a hot international issue as South Africa had been years before
Reports also emerged that around 45 people had gathered in media mogul Jay Leno’s home in Beverly Hills, simply to alert us all of the situations of women in Afghanistan. The movement has so far raised $500,000, and with the blessing of celebrity power (and money), will launch in Los Angeles and New York come October. All to raise awareness and put pressure on governments to stop supporting the Taliban until it is no longer restricting women.
Pompous as all this may seem, it has made some noise. Mavis Leno, the wife of Jay Leno, let her plea of solidary echo through a shareholder’s meeting of a major US oil company which at the time aimed at a $4.5 billion pipeline to carry oil from the Caspian Sea to the Indian subcontinent. After Mrs Leno’s speech, Unocal delayed the project upon the realisation that the Taliban in Afghanistan would be able to make up to a hundred million US Dollars a year in transit fees had the project gone through.
Joining Jolie and the Lenos in this fight is former First Lady Laura Bush, now honorary co-chair of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, who stated she is standing by the Afghan people and pleading with us all to “never look away”.
Celebrities who have so far spoken on the matter, and took some kind of action, can impact our individual choices on the matter if we listen well enough. Keeping oneself informed on what is happening to citizens in Afghanistan should make it difficult to turn the other cheek, and will soon teach you that you don’t need to be a celebrity to make some noise.
The International Refugee Assistance Project is currently collecting funds thanks to its Action for Afghanistan initiative, where users can donate or simply ask to keep receiving the correct information on the current situation. Similarly, the UNHCR is currently on the ground in Afghanistan, protecting citizens who did not manage to escape by the 31st of August. The Agency is also currently collecting donations from all over the world to be able to provide for citizens.
From tweets to entire opinion pieces, while celebrity activism might have yet to impact major political decisions on the matter, it has certainly pushed major corporations to take action, is encouraging us to, according to our means, do our part too.
Let’s recognise our role in celebrity activism. After all, they would be nothing without us.