Featured Storyteller

AFGHANISTAN: I Am an Afghan Refugee. We Still Need Your Support.

Kamila Geethi
Posted December 20, 2021 from Afghanistan
Image shows Afghan refugees holding placards to ask for justice and process resettlement during a rally outside the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR's office. (Photo © REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana)

As an Afghan refugee in Europe, Kamila Geethi knows first hand what must be done to support refugee communities. And she's calling for immediate action

“How does it feel to lose everything — to come to Europe with just the old dusty clothes on your back? To arrive at the airport to find dozens of people waiting to greet you with the click of their cameras?

Editor's Note: This story is part four in a series. Read part onepart two, and part three.

I spent my early life as a refugee in Pakistan, and now — after spending 9 years back in Afghanistan — I am again a refugee, having fled Kabul for Europe in August. I have been in the Netherlands, uprooted, for more than a month now, awaiting my fate.

Throughout my life, I have experienced many of the challenges refugees face when they try to make their home in a new land. Now, from my living quarters in this strange foreign land I reflect on what must be done to support those of us who have been forced to flee.

When I returned to Afghanistan at the age of 16 in 2013, after 15 years in Pakistan, it took me years to stand on my feet and start my life anew. Every day was a battle to be recognized in my own country as an Afghan national. I had fled my country, my home back then to save my life and remain safe. Upon returning, I realized that once you are a refugee, you are a refugee for life. You have no home, no identity, fewer protections, fewer freedoms, more problems. 

I made it through those struggles, only to find myself a refugee once again. After the peace deal between the Taliban and the United States, I again had to flee Afghanistan to save my life and the lives of my loved ones. On 23 August 2021, after the Taliban took control of Kabul, I was on a plane to Europe. First to Spain, now I am in Holland.

Every Afghan dreams of visiting and studying in Europe. They seek out visas 100 different ways — and few get them. But this dream destination is a nightmare when you are here as a refugee. How does it feel to lose everything — to come to Europe with just the old dusty clothes on your back? To arrive at the airport to find dozens of people waiting to greet you with the click of their cameras?

When I was working as a humanitarian aid worker and human rights activist in Afghanistan, I appreciated Europeans promoting human rights and shouting out for most vulnerable people, especially women and girls. Every day I spend in Europe I get to know that there are still people who actually have no sympathy for Afghan refugees; they don’t feel the pain we suffer. They think we have chosen to come to Europe as a refugee, and they protest against us. They have no answers to our questions when we are eager to know about our futures. Some women lost their babies in the womb to reach here; some delivered stillborn infants; some have no access to health care in the camps simply because they are refugees and they have no status. We did not choose this.

As refugees, we do not experience the privileges citizens do: We do not have the ability to pursue educational opportunities; we do not have access to health care services; and yet, we must work doubly hard to achieve our basic rights. For us, these basic rights might as well just be lines in law articles and books: they are elusive. 

We are suffering from anxiety and depression. I am in pain, and I am angry. Life feels unfair, the terms ‘social justice’ and ‘human rights’ are just empty words that cannot be achieved. As refugees, we need security — not only physically but emotionally, too. 

Governments and social services agencies must pay special attention to the safety and security of women refugees especially. In my experience, we are treated in the camps as we were in Afghanistan: Sharing a room with unknown men, with little privacy. We are not sleeping out of fear. We stand in a row of hundreds of people to receive one meal, we do not have access to sanitary products. Our days are difficult. We have no consistent place to live, for we are being transferred from one place to another place, and each transfer is a shock. We have little privacy and find ourselves crowded in rooms with strangers even as a fourth wave of Covid-19 peaks in Europe.

Now, it is the end of the year, and the weather is harshly cold. We wait for governments to decide our fate, with no control over our own destinies.

To those who are responsible and those who can make a difference: My people are traumatized, and we need immediate psychosocial support. We need to eat three times a day, and we need privacy and safety. We are looking ahead to an uncertain future for our children. Our family members who remain in Afghanistan are dependent on us. We worry they will die because of hunger and sickness — what will happen to them? 

My people fight everyday to live our lives normally despite the problems we are facing in our new realities. Refugees are courageous, but we need your help: 

I call upon everyone who can make a difference to do so. Share our stories; raise awareness of our lives and our struggles. Refugees need your support, now more than ever.


STORY AWARDS

This story was published as part of World Pulse's Story Awards program. We believe every woman has a story to share, and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could receive added visibility, or even be our next Featured Storyteller! Learn more.

Comments 7

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jomarieb.earth
Dec 21, 2021
Dec 21, 2021

Dear Kamila,
Your story speaks in a loud volume to the world. And it's amazing, that under the circumstances, I am reading this. So thank you. I encourage you just like your story finds it way to a very bright place, so will you. No, I am not dreaming. Every gifted, talented, courageous being always finds the crack in which to crawl through. And on the other side of that crack is favor. God will provide that crack in the cement for you. And you will blossom like the flower that grows through the concrete. But please know that you will have to find this spot, this crack alone. You have to find your way before you can find the way for others. This is valuable.
I come to you as a sister of the world and in peace. Afghanistan for Americans was an enigma. Our government has a plan that is continuous, and now leading elsewhere to do more massive whatevers. Afghanistan was another horrible exercise preparing a well oiled machine for a bigger mission to come. The people are always collateral damage.
Please don't believe that you will always be a refugee. If you believe it, you will be it. I believe you are that amazing flower that will bloom while bursting through the cracks of the concrete sidewalk. I see those flowers in the damnedest places. And they are always strong, thriving, drawing attention, very bright, but never with other flowers. Take heed and get my drift.
Massive hugs...JoMarie

MUKABA ZAWADI
Dec 22, 2021
Dec 22, 2021

Désolé pour le défis que vous avez parcourue, courage et va de l'avant je crois que sa ira bien avec le temps. Merci pour le partage

Jill Langhus
Dec 22, 2021
Dec 22, 2021

Hi Kamila,

Thanks for sharing the harsh reality that you're going through and also for spreading awareness on what it's really like to be an Afghan refugee. Most of us in our comfortable homes have no idea what it's really like, I'm sure. Well, speaking for myself, unless I read it. I know it's not great, but apart from that, not a lot of idea. And, I don't want to read filtered news, or spoon-fed news that may or may not be true. I want real accounts, like yours.

Let me know if you're interested, or have the ability to, get PTSD training. My colleague, Victor, from SessionWise.org could offer this to you, if you're interested. You can go to the website to check it out, if you're interested.
Hope your situation, and the plight of your people improved soon.

XX

Tamarack Verrall
Dec 23, 2021
Dec 23, 2021

Dear Kamila,
This is what is needed, action in response to all you have called out. I celebrate that you are alive and here, able to write to us all, challenging us to pay attention, find ways to challenge our own governments, compact in creating unnecessary barriers and roadblocks, after the deal made between the US (and my Canadian) governments, that sold out you, women and girls of Afghanistan, and many men as well. By describing in detail what you and others are going through with such shoddy reception in countries you ave had to flee to (again!) you have given us details to raise with our own governments and with the UN. We will not forget, our let this go. Thank you for your courage. Would it be safe for you, for us to send your letter to government people and agencies, or would it be a better plan to just carry the information, and keep your name here?
In sisterhood,
Tam
In sisterhood,
Tam

Kumasi Goodness
Dec 27, 2021
Dec 27, 2021

Dear Kamila,I feel your pain. It's not easy to live as a refugee as you have recounted but I want to encourage you to try as much as you can to carry on with a positive mind of being liberated and free from that tag on your name and your community people as refugees. It's possible. Just believe that one day your lives will change and it will happen faster than you can imagine. Best wishes.

Regina Afanwi Young
Dec 29, 2021
Dec 29, 2021

Congrats on your story award dear sister. Am so proud of your resilience . Am sorry for all the challenges you faced. Sending you a massive hug.

Elizabeth Francis
Dec 29, 2021
Dec 29, 2021

Dear Kamala, I feel your pain ,its so sad, like jo marie hinted its the innocent citizens that are the pawns in the games world leaders play . I pray for a miracle, that these unfair conditions will be replaced with compassion , find your happy place within, keep faith it will get better