I’m Carmen Gentile, a journalist who covered the war in Afghanistan. I’m also a founder of Postindustrial Media, an independent, journalism-first multimedia outlet covering the Rust Belt & Appalachia.
Zubair Babakarkhail is an old friend, an excellent storyteller, a great dad, an overall funny guy, and an Afghan reporter — caught in Afghanistan.
As the U.S. began to withdraw from Afghanistan, Zubair was one of many caught without a way out of an increasingly deadly situation. Once we learned he wasn't able to leave, our group, based in several different time zones, worked in nonstop shifts trying to make arrangements for him to get out, communicating with people around the world via WhatsApp.
We dubbed our effort: “Team Zubair.”
It's an homage to “Team Zissou” from the 2004 “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” written by Wes Anderson, which we all adore.
During a frantic period over several days, we reached out to every State Department, Pentagon officials, CIA affiliate, and Capitol Hill contact we had. We also worked with other journalists — with a single goal: help get Zubair to safety.
It took a village.
But it’s Zubair and his family who deserve the superhero credit. They risked their lives as they got through an airport gate on Aug. 24, just before the deadly bombing at the airport in Kabul.
They were safe. We were all relieved.
To commemorate that accomplishment, we thought it would be a sign of solidarity to make T-shirts for our team.
So we took the TEAM ZISSOU logo replacing “Zissou” with “Zubair,” changed the color scheme to that of the Afghan flag, and decided to have a few T-shirts made, just for us.
i've known Dan from Commonwealth Press in Pittsburgh for years now and mentioned what we had all just been through — he thought we could stir up a little more recognition of what we had just pulled off — post the shirts for sale to others to help tell this story — and maybe raise money for Zubair and his family, who are now in a much safer situation, but who still had to leave everything behind.
Knowing this is a logo that we were appropriating, I reached out to Wes Anderson through a representative and immediately received the reply "Wes thanks you for letting us know, GOOD LUCK!"
So we’re doing it. Dan is setting up a store on the Commonwealth Press site and 100% of the proceeds of the sale will go to Zubair and his family.
Getting Zubair out was the mission, but he did it.
This is just a celebration.
If you'd like and can afford a shirt, please know that money is going directly to help build a new life — and if you can’t buy one, maybe share this story.
At least, please just know that this happened and that these efforts are happening all around you, by people just like you — doing the right thing by others, only because it's the right thing to do.
Kindness will prevail.
So will Zubair and his family.
Thanks to all of us working together.