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The ABA Pilot Program Empowering Afghan Legal Professionals - A Tribute to the Memory of Arthur Helton, Twenty Years On

Elisa C Massimino, Michael H Byowitz, Kathy J King, Karthik Nagarajan, and Wendy M Taube

Arthur Helton was an internationally respected human rights advocate, attorney, professor, author, and distinguished ABA volunteer who dedicated his professional life to championing the rights of refugees. Arthur shaped countless policy initiatives, and he boldly created an all-volunteer corps of immigration lawyers that represented thousands of refugees over the years. The program he created continues to be replicated throughout the world.

Twenty years ago, on August 19, 2003, Arthur tragically died in the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, along with 22 others. He was on a humanitarian mission in Iraq. At the time of the blast, he was meeting with the top UN official in Baghdad, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was also killed.

August 2023 marks two years since the US-supported, 20-year democracy in Afghanistan collapsed. Afghan judges, prosecutors, and lawyers—especially women—were forced to evacuate, leaving behind homes, extended families, life savings, and careers. In a world where those who uphold the rule of law are refugees themselves, what then? Who will help them reclaim their professional lives and rebuild their legal careers?

The ABA Afghan Legal Professionals Scholarship & Mentoring Pilot Program answers these questions by restoring with dignity the livelihoods of our courageous, resilient colleagues who are now displaced and embarking on the arduous path of starting over. The Pilot Program offers peer-to-peer mentoring from a team of all-volunteer ABA lawyers who guide them on their professional journey. The Pilot Program connects participants with full tuition LLM scholarships from law schools around the country and, in appropriate cases, offers greatly needed stipends to help cover housing and living expenses. We believe the Pilot Program is one that Arthur would have loved. Learn more about the Program and to pay tribute to Arthur Helton's extraordinary legacy of improving the lives of refugees.