Refugee Stories: From Kabul to Bradford
Faraz* is one of 15,000 Afghan citizens who have arrived in the UK via the Government’s resettlement scheme since the Taliban conquered the country in August. Forced to flee for he and his pregnant wife’s safety, Faraz is now living in a bridging hotel in Bradford waiting for his family to be permanently housed. He is being supported by World Jewish Relief Specialist Training and Employment Programme and our partner Horton Housing Association. Faraz tells us his refugee story, one of hardship and tragedy, but also of hope for he and his family’s future:
“I am from Afghanistan, but I lived in the UK on and off for about 12 years when I was younger, studying, working as an IT consultant, and running my own business. I would visit my family in Afghanistan every couple of years. It was relatively peaceful back then.
When I met my wife I moved back to Afghanistan, and we’ve lived there for the past few years. In Afghanistan I worked with several small charities and nongovernmental organisations in the Panjshir Valley in the north. I primarily focused on youth, community organising, and building a bridge between international donors and Afghans. I wanted to do my bit for the community and help improve people’s lives.
We were living in Kabul when the Taliban took over the city on 15 August. We left the country on 20th. Those five days were very dangerous, because I have a British passport, which made me a particular target. My mother tried to hide my British passport between the layers of a mattress, and then under the floorboards. She said, ‘if they find you with it, you never know what they will do to you’.
I contacted the British Embassy, and fortunately they told me to come to Kabul Airport with my wife, who was pregnant with our daughter, to be evacuated. It wasn’t easy to get inside the airport. We spent two nights outside in the cold, but eventually we made it in. The airport was scary. Everyone was in panic mode. We were surrounded by the Taliban on all sides, wearing their uniform and holding guns, and attacking people indiscriminately.
We arrived in the UK on 23 August. Thankfully we are now safe. But part of my heart is still in Afghanistan because my family are stuck there. It is so hard. My thoughts are with them constantly.
It’s particularly hard for my wife, who was a secondary school Chemistry teacher back in Afghanistan. She is passionate about her subject and her students and is completely gutted that girls’ secondary schools in Afghanistan have closed. Despite the poverty and hardships that her students were facing, they were so determined to educate themselves. Suddenly, all that hard work and potential has gone to waste. Their hopes and dreams are on hold. My wife is really sad about that.
My daughter Ella was born in Bradford Royal Hospital just after we arrived. She is incredibly lucky that she will grow up here with the right to education. She can follow her dreams and do anything she wants to with her future. It’s a great relief.
The bridging hotel is not the most ideal environment and longer-term I hope that we will have a house. But compared to where we came from it is amazing. We have food, shelter, and a place to live. There is a community, the children play with each other, and my wife has the companionship of the other women. We have had the most amazing support we could have expected. I have no complaints. I am so grateful. Of course, I have a busy, full-time job being a new parent. Anyone who has a kid knows how it is. Sleepless nights – but it is great!
It is good to see the children here taking part in World Jewish Relief’s activities, and the women learning English. If it weren’t for these activities, the children would be stuck in their rooms. They can go outside, release some energy. They are having fun!
Meanwhile, in Panjshir Valley where my family is from, the Taliban fought their last battle to take control of Afghanistan. When they arrived, they cut electricity, telephone connection, the internet, and totally isolated people. Then, with heavy bombardment they went into the Valley and conducted a massacre. They killed anyone they came across, including two of my cousins who were innocent civilians. My brother went missing on his way home from the farm where he works, and we later found out that he was killed too. I am in contact with my late brother’s wife. She and my nephews and nieces are terrified, left without their husband and father. I am desperate to get them out of the country. For Afghans, this is one of the most depressing times of our lives.”
* His name has been changed for his safety.
Below: World Jewish Relief’s activities for young people in Bradford’s bridging hotel, funded generously by the UK Jewish community’s response to our Afghan Refugee Crisis Appeal: