By Dr Hakim ourjourneytosmile.com October 13, 2015
We live in a
World at War, and as fellow human beings, what can we do for refugees like 45-year-old Abdul Fatah, who has been crying lately, who doesn’t have a home in his own home?
is the title of a report UNHCR released in June 2015, in which António Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, describes the refugee crises in Europe and worldwide as “an unchecked slide into an era in which the scale of global forced displacement as well as the response required is now clearly dwarfing anything seen before.” World at War
But for those of us who are distant from
War and not ‘in the same boat’, being part of the ‘response required’ seems just as ‘out-of-reach’.
So, please follow this story for a while.
Ali, one of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, is 17 years old. On October 6
th, 2015, he would have liked to plan for school, as usual, the next day. He wanted to feel affirmed by his teachers and peers. He wanted to know that his mother in Bamiyan was fine for another day.
But, in Kabul, the news from Kunduz was worrying him, and the all-night blasts and whistles of bombs and gunfire a few nights before had made him think, “Perhaps, I should pack up and return to Bamiyan.”
Yet, on the 7
th of October 2015, the anniversary of the beginning of the U.S. Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan 14 years ago, Ali and the Afghan Peace Volunteers decided instead to meet with members of five Afghan families who had fled the war in Kunduz. Together, they listened to and extended small gifts to these families.
Abdul Fatah told his refugee story. “My tears fall every day & I can’t bring myself to eat. I eat this little bread & the bread seems to eat me up. My heart is there and in Kunduz and here…”
The gifts were meant to help the Kunduz families endure their first weeks as Internally Displaced Persons in Kabul.
And the act of giving to others in need gave Ali, me, and the Afghan Peace Volunteers a chance to experience empathy, an emotion often repressed when people just need to survive.
We learnt to do something small and different from 14 years of the ‘same, old’ method of war, and exploitation.
The photos and reflections below describe our time with the Kunduz families….
Abdul Fatah, a refugee from Kunduz, in Kabul
Ata Mohammad with his son, Wahid, looking into our humanity
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Rahila with Rana
Since when did the meaning of this word change to ‘opportunists’, ‘illegal immigrants’?
“I am from Kunduz,”
said Fatah, his eyes a reservoir,
his family desperate.
It never crossed his mind what some may mistakenly think of him,
“He, that Asiatic-looking man with the beard,
is probably a lazy bum
who wants to snatch away jobs & homes from people in Kabul.”
He echoed, to our disgust,
“Our children are being killed”,
the same ‘disgust’ that Doctors Without Borders had for the U.S. gunship
that bombed 12 of their staff and 10 of their patients
to their fiery deaths.
How would we feel if we saw our hospitalized mother burning in her bed,
and heard from General so-and-so that
it was ‘collateral damage’ ( ‘just too bad’ ),
or ‘a request from the Afghan authorities’ ( ‘it’s not our fault’ ),
or a ‘mistake’ ( ‘okay, we did it, but we’ll compensate you, okay?’ )?
“My tears come,” Fatah states,
“and I can’t bear to eat any bread,
because my son is in danger,
some relatives are still in Kunduz,
and you know,
his head shivers, his fingers cupped in the direction of his heart,
“No one cares a damn.”
A man, strong, with bullet wound scars in his thigh and head
from 6 wars, he says,
lifting his neck scarf to wipe his eyes,
the reservoir that’s drying up.
Abdul Fatah cries
That’s what we shouldn’t forget about the origin of refugees,
that if we were attacked by the Taliban from the ground
and by the U.S. from the air,
wouldn’t we flee?
Yes, these modern days, we may be misconstrued
as good-for-nothing asylum seekers
trying to take cheap advantage
just so we can go ‘traveling’, by whatever means,
to strange places with no hospitality.
But if our wits were about us,
and not lost in heroic video games,
we would flee any war,
and any of the
60,000 U.S. air strikes.
We would be one of the 600,000 internally displaced Afghans
more than 60 million refugees worldwide.
We would take refuge somewhere, anywhere,
like the Kunduz man, Abdul Fatah.
I asked Ali to take my camera for just a while,
so I could place my hand on Fatah’s arm,
as if I could take off
some of the inhumanity that was attempting to crush him.
The crushing weight of inhumanity
Rahila, with Abdul Fatah behind her, dreamt of being a doctor
Okay, men can’t be trusted to
tell the true story?
What about Rahila,
9 years old,
who wanted to be doctor?
She looked down,
and said, “I can’t go to school anymore.”
Should we demonize or welcome her?
Rahila is far away from us,
and would hardly reach our shores,
unless she survives,
unlike Aylan Kurdi.
She and Aylan wouldn’t have expected
that we adults have not yet gotten our words,
nor our actions together.
If Rahila knew how
we’re all very busy,
and how much we need our gadgets
and our un-encroached spaces,
she would flee from us, far away from us.
She would look for her mother,
but maybe not in the Intensive Care Unit,
mom could be engulfed in the flames of a US$58,000 Hellfire missile.
Ata Mohammad shares his story with his attentive son, and the Afghan Peace Volunteers
“Life has become very dark,
what’s there to live for?”
asked Ata Mohammad.
“We could bear even with hunger,
just leave us in peace.”
Everyone was seated humbly, but looking tall,
refugee and non-refugee,
their resilience and dignity holding our thoughts together.
Fatah was staring at life’s ugliest depths,
recounting, “It’s so terrible
to see coffins again and again,
or decomposed bodies puffing up,
doors left open from frantic abandon,
to be worried about everyone at the same instant.”
“As fellow human beings,”
Ali explained, on behalf of other Afghan Peace Volunteers,
“from here, and elsewhere,
we wish for you to understand
that we share your pain.”
Rana with Ali
We offered our little gifts
to help them tide over their first weeks
in tents and elsewhere.
There wasn’t pity,
Across the room,
one of the volunteers
torn between love for his mother
and his need to get away from this all
through the smuggling route of an asylum seeker to Europe.
This wasn’t the life anybody wanted.
Rana, a toddler, reached out for some cake,
and giggled at Rahila,
and cuddled in Ali’s arms,
one year old, and already homeless.
I was so taken by
how the Peace Volunteers
reached out while coping with their personal uncertainties.
Where did their strength come from?
I was so taken by
how the men and women from Kunduz
kept their bearings
in the face of voiceless-ness.
Where did their spirit come from?
If we met any of them, volunteer or refugee,
breathless on the run,
frightened by our guns,
drowning under our bombs,
or like Fatah,
crying on the road,
we should pause,
and ask ourselves what our lives are about,
or where our lives are heading.
on Danish shores,
my heart was brightened
by some more
#people reaching out,
like my heart was warmed by Afghans
helping one another in the worst of circumstances.
The Afghan Peace Volunteers saying goodbye, which in Dari is ‘Khuda Hafez’
( literally ‘God protect you!’) to Ata Mohammad and his family
Abdul Fatah thanks the Afghan Peace Volunteers
Sign ‘The People’s Agreement to Abolish War’
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