Starting from scratch: Afghan migrants settling in Europe after fleeing their country

Afghans gather near a gate of Kabul airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 22, 2021. (Xinhua/Rahmatullah Alizadah)


Afghans who fled their home country after the Taliban seized power (under UN sanctions for terrorism) are now grappling with a new reality and starting their lives and careers from scratch, all caring for their families and friends who have been left behind.

Last year, on August 15, the Taliban entered Kabul, prompting then-president Ashraf Ghani to resign and rush out of the country. The United States then quickly withdrew from Afghanistan, as the country plunged into greater economic disarray with food shortages pushing it to the brink of a humanitarian crisis.


Prior to the collapse of the Afghan government, Sabur Shah Dawod Zai served as an adviser to a deputy interior minister in Afghanistan. He was also a supervisor at the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan. Dawod Zai from Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan said the country is developing very well.

“Starting a new life for me is also very difficult, when I left Afghanistan in August 2021 I only had $200 in my pocket with some cookies and a bottle of water,” he said. to Sputnik, adding that he had been evacuated by the Polish armed forces.

He noted that it is really difficult to start your life and career in a new place.

“It’s really hard when you’ve spent your whole life building yourself, making contacts, being one step away from my job and my dream position, and suddenly you leave everything and start from scratch where your experience has no value, where your political careers have no value, where your degree has no value… So life is tough but we are surviving and will come back soon and work for our country and its people,” he said. -he declares.

Moving to Europe was not difficult for Dawod Zai in terms of culture as he used to travel there for many international peace and youth conferences.

“But we have Afghans who haven’t even come out of Afghanistan; for them it was really difficult,” he admitted.

Dawod Zai, who now lives in Poland, said he tried to manage his emotions when he thought of his family moving to a new place.

“I’ve never seen my family in this situation – living in a third country with no government support, no personal income; leave a large villa; and living in a small rented apartment; leave a life of luxury and live as a low-income family. My father was a businessman and had a good income, but now he lives without an income and left everything in Afghanistan,” he explained.

When asked if he was following the situation in his home country, he replied that the situation was really bad.

“Every day or every week I hear about my friends who are in Afghanistan being beaten or killed,” he said.

He also communicates with other Afghans who have fled the country. Most of them have housing, jobs and rehoused families. Some of them now live in France, Germany and other European countries.


Nilofar Ayoubi, a women’s rights activist, was one of thousands of women who managed to build a prosperous life in the country before the Taliban returned to power. A women’s rights advocate and journalist, she was also a co-founder of AGAT (Afghan Women’s Animation Team), leader of the Afghan Women’s Political Participation Network and owner of a fashion showroom in Kabul where three of her own brands were present. highlighted.

August 15, when the Taliban returned to Kabul, was one of the darkest days in Ayoubi’s life. Eventually she managed to escape to Poland, where she has now been living for a year. The Afghans who fled the country established an Afghan secretariat, for which she is now responsible. She also runs the Shelter Foundation (Foundacia Humanosh) which helps Afghan refugees in Warsaw.

“The only major problem or obstacle for me is the language I am trying to learn. We were legalized only 3 and a half months after our arrival and we could travel and do everything legally with my 3-year residency,” a- she told Sputnik.

Ayoubi said she adapted easily to her new life, but many Afghans still find it difficult to adapt.

“Especially women and girls who wear the hijab and come from conservative families. It’s completely the opposite of what they knew before,” she said.

A year later, Ayoubi feels the world is turning a blind eye to what is happening in Afghanistan.

“The situation in my country is getting worse with every passing day, but it seems like the world is totally on board with that now and has already moved on,” she said.

In August last year, Ayoubi managed to lead the girls who worked for her to safety. After August 15, she organized several protests in Kabul with the Afghan Women’s Political Participation Network, while actively trying to get as many female activists out of the country as possible. She managed to help a group of 35 people to safety.

“I have contact with my mother and sometimes with relatives and friends. And the girls who worked for me. The situation is as bad as we can imagine, but I am proud to say that my daughters are not sitting quietly and fighting for their rights. I see them among the protesters, which makes me proud,” she said.

Born in 1993, Ayoubi remembers the era of Taliban rule in the 1990s. His father was a teacher at Shir Khan High School in Kunduz province and preferred to stay away from politics. Ayoubi remembers the incessant fighting and people fleeing the wrath of the Taliban. She stopped wearing boys’ clothes – a trick that helped her date freely – when she turned 13. At the time, in 2006, the United States was already in Afghanistan and the country was not ruled by the Taliban.

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Mary I. Bruner