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For Afghan refugees living in Delhi, a tense wait for news of their loved ones back home

With the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, the Taliban have been making steady advances in the country and have claimed that they have occupied 85% of the country.

As tensions soar in their home country, Afghan refugees in Delhi wait anxiously for communication and news from their relatives back home.

With the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, the Taliban have been making steady advances in the country and have claimed that they have occupied 85% of the country. Among the villages occupied by the Taliban is 23-year-old Izatullah’s village in Mazar-i-Sharif district which he said was captured 20 days ago. He himself had been driven out of his home there as a teenager in 2014, and had come to Delhi with his mother and brother, while the rest of his siblings and his father had stayed back.

“My father works with the government, so it is exceptionally difficult for them now. They have now fled the village and are taking refuge with some relatives in the hills. Contact is difficult, they can only call after midnight. Sometimes there is no network at all. It is terrifying, but there’s nothing we can do to help them from here,” he said.

He says that staying back in Afghanistan is difficult, but so is leaving it and seeking a life elsewhere. “The truth is that nobody wants to stay there but not everybody is able to come away. Some people don’t have passports, or don’t have a place to stay, and it’s difficult to live here. There are so many Afghan people I know who live here but can’t earn enough to eat. People back home ask us that if they come away, will there be work for them, but there isn’t. When I first came, I had to work as a sweeper, and the money is low and rent high even now. For me, it was for the best. Half the men in my village are now either dead or have been taken by the Taliban and are missing,” he said. Now, he runs a travel agency from a rented property in Lajpat Nagar.

Izatullah is part of a sizeable Afghan refugee population which live in pockets of different localities in Delhi such as Lajpat Nagar, Bhogal, Malviya Nagar, Ashram, Zakir Nagar, and Tilak Nagar.

Haji Mohammad Naseem (52) said that he is waiting for it to become easier to get visas to help his brother and parents, who are in Kabul, come over to India as well. He himself had brought his children over to live here five years back. “Nobody knows what is going to happen. I know that if travel restrictions loosen, there will be 10,000 people leaving daily. I brought my children here to have a safe life and so that they can go to school peacefully. I’m hoping that my relatives will also be able to join me here soon,” said Naseem, who runs a provision store in Lajpat Nagar.

However, for some, communications are strained with their homeland. A 28-year-old who lives and works in a travel agency in Bhogal said he has had no contact with anyone back in Afghanistan since he had left his home in Kandahar in 2010.

“My mother, sister and I had to flee because of our family itself – my relatives from my father’s side of the family are in the Taliban. Because we are in so much danger from them, we have not been in touch with any family or friends for all these years. The only chance I have of going back is if my uncles die but I have no way of knowing. These times are especially hard for my mother — when we had left, I was very young, but she had a life there and friends and family she cared about. She is obviously very worried now, but she cannot contact anyone,” he said.

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