2020 Tillman Scholar

Safiullah Rauf

Georgetown University

“The energy and passion for pursuing challenging goals derive from the prospect of making a positive change in the lives of people who are forgotten and need the most help.”

Safiullah Rauf was born in 1994 in an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan. After immigrating to the United States as a teenager and graduating high school in Omaha, Nebraska, he deployed to Afghanistan for four years as a linguist and cultural advisor embedded with Special Operations, supporting both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. In Afghanistan, Safi performed translation and interpretation on a wide range of media, advised U.S. military personnel and coordinated with Afghan security forces, coalition partners and U.S. federal government departments—including U.S. Embassy Kabul—to mitigate high-profile threats. 

Safi is a humanitarian, a 2021 Washingtonian of the Year, a TED fellow, and the founder of Human First Coalition–an organization dedicated to providing critically needed aid to Afghanistan. For the past year, Safi has led a team of hundreds to provide food, medical care, and resettlement services to over 15,000 Afghans in need and evacuated over 7,000, including 1,400 US Nationals. In December 2021, Safi was unlawfully detained and held by the Taliban for 105 days and was subsequently released in early April 2022. An Afghan refugee, Safi immigrated to the US as a teenager and graduated high school in Omaha, Nebraska. Thereafter, he deployed to Afghanistan as a linguist and cultural advisor embedded with Special Operations and later graduated as a Tillman Scholar from Georgetown University. Simultaneously, Safi enlisted in the US Navy Reserves as a corpsman and was activated in April 2020 to serve as a frontline worker during the pandemic. Following his detention in Afghanistan, Safi has renewed his commitment to aid work in Afghanistan and worldwide and is, in particular, working towards the passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act.