Sunday, December 4

from sadness to frustration

A Khatera Safi, a 27-year-old Afghan, has come across the war in Ukraine as well as the eternal misfortune she is subjecting her country to. If there had been no war in Ukraine, perhaps the State’s resources to welcome refugees would not be so full, and it may be that today she would have an easier time going to live in Mallorca. In Marratxí, a job awaits her as a player and coach of adapted basketball at the Asnimo foundation. This Majorcan NGO works with people who suffer from disabilities, like the one that Khatera has endured since, at the age of eleven, she was attacked by a bad fever.

Talent and spirit have driven this Afghan woman to overcome the paralysis of her legs, storm the basketball courts in a wheelchair and the law classrooms at Kabul University until she became prosecutor. that was the job who had been working in Afghanistan for four years until the Taliban returned. His specialty, repealed crimes of violence against women. For that same reason his life became so in danger that, six months ago, he ended up in Spain. And now here he has an offer that the director of Asnimo himself, Bartholomew Marquez Coll, has made it appear black on white in a document: “We consider we can offer a job opportunity for Khatera”, says the paper, and adds: “knowing that she is a professional adapted basketball player, she could be part of the foundation’s team” .

Khatera waits in the Refugee Center from Getafe, trains in a nearby gym, thinks a lot and endures with a stoic gesture and without protesting the heat of Madrid, these days more inclement than that of Kapisa, the Afghan province from which she originates. But the permit does not arrive, because the accommodations of the state network are full, and more so in Mallorca. And Khatera sees her dream postponed month after month.

From sadness to sadness

That, the long waits, is an ingredient present in almost all the experiences of Afghan refugees in Spain. Especially in those who began to arrive a year ago, after the fall of the Western military scaffolding that supported an attempt at a democratic regime in Kabul. There are already 3,900 evacuees in the last year on flights chartered by Spain, the Government has communicated, with the last contingent of 294 arriving on the night of August 10.

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“The arrival is hard, because immediately they remember what they have left there, the properties, the house, life… And adapting to the reality of Spain, to the culture and language here, is not easy at all,” he explains. Mad Aidar, veteran Afghan refugee: came in 1987, after the Russian invasion took his father’s life. Aidar chairs the Association of Afghans in Spain from Dénia (Alicante), and has been in refuge for enough years to clearly systematize the phases an Afghan goes through in this country.

In the case of those who have been arriving on the flights organized by Defense, Foreign Affairs and Inclusion, first a feeling of euphoria for having left behind the danger of death. But threats from the Taliban are not the only thing they leave behind: they also part of the family stays there, and that’s why the euphoria doesn’t last long, almost nothing. “They immediately think of the relatives who have not been able to leave, and the situation around them. That is always a source of sadness. The beginning can be hell.”

This situation that surrounds them is not only that of the constant and deadly injunctions of the sharia, or Islamic law interpreted by its most fanatical defenders. Aidar handles data from UNHCR and other NGOs by transmitting the estimate that “every day 20 million Afghan families wake up not knowing if they are going to have dinner that night.” Oppression and lack are his landscape. If someone gets sick, he will play a sinister lottery: if his illness fits into the specialty of one of the doctors in his city who has not yet left the country, good luck. If there is no specialist, the government evacuation permit does not arrive and the visa for surgical operation in Pakistan or Indiaor there are simply no medicines, bad luck: he died because Allah wanted him to.

It is not at all clear that another phenomenon “that has exploded in the last year” will enter the divine programming, says Aidar: the sale of minors. At between 1,000 and 2,000 dollars they are quoted in the desperate rural market -or even in the capital- of adults who are looking for a child wife who guarantees care and servitude in their old age, and parents who cannot support all their offspring and give up one of their their children to feed others.

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These harsh situations erode like the waves the minds of those already housed in a Spanish city. They are ready to start a new life here, perhaps they can already earn a living, but they collide with the frustration of not being able to help the family. And that, frustration, is the second common ingredient of their Spanish experience.

money from hand to hand

Across Europe, the Afghan refugee community is drawing on an old financial tradition, the abolá, an artisanal bench dating back to the days of the Silk Road caravans. Abolá is to transfer in the Pashtun language. In order not to carry money with them that could be stolen by bandits, merchants traveled from loan point to loan point, through a chain of trust that keeps a small commission for the transfer.

“Today in Afghanistan Neither banking nor MoneyGram is workingand we have no way of sending money to help the family,” explains Aidar. They only have the abolá. Someone is given money here, and someone at another point on the map, already close to the Pakistani border, will risk his life by showing up at the trusted contact’s house, giving him a password, receiving the loan and putting him into Afghan territory.

And that, of course, can be done by the lucky ones who already have a way to earn income. Being able to live autonomously is the final phase of the reception program that the Ministry of Inclusion, with the collaboration of NGOs such as UNHCR and ACCEM, designed for the special reception program deployed from the Kabul airport and the Torrejón base a year ago. In the words of the Secretary of State for Migration, Isabel Castro, it is about “providing them with progressive autonomy and social and labor insertion, with individualized integration itineraries.” And they have been working on it for a year now, since the first flight took off in Kabul, on August 15, 2021. But insertion is easier to achieve than erasing the anguish, nostalgia or sadness from the mind of a refugee.

“My family is in danger”

Of the reception phases, living in a shelter “is the hardest”, explains the spokesman for the Association of Afghans. In part, due to the feeling of loss of autonomy. The same that harasses, for example, Khatera in his fifth month in Spain. In the Getafe refugee shelter, south of Madrid, prosecutor Safi waits with a brother minor who has also been able to come to Spain. In Kapisa, all in the same house, the parents, four sisters, three of them married, and two brothers have remained; one of them, the eldest, father of three children, is in severe danger: he was a soldier-“soldier”, says the sister- in the disintegrated regular army.

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“My family is in danger,” cries Khatera. “My family need the money,” he adds to explain why she is in a hurry to work. “And I need my family,” he concludes in a sad voice. “I was very happy when I arrived in Spain, and I am happy here,” she says gratefully, “but I need my family,” she repeats. The problem is that to travel to Mallorca and start rebuilding your life, you need a government permit, which in turn depends on there being a place, accommodation, on an island with many refugees.

Khatera’s case is not unique, but Mad Aidar says that it should not be generalized either. After a year’s stay in Spain, or something more for those who left Afghanistan before, “there are people who are not doing badly, families who already have their own job and are happy,” Explain.

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This catalyst for the Afghan colony in Spain says that the most common form of employment is trade, “especially if they can import solid wood furniture and rugs and decorative objects from India.” He did it himself before dedicating himself to construction, his current livelihood.

The two, one from Getafe and the other in Denia, have agreed to end their interviews with this newspaper lamenting a terrible edge of the current Afghan reality: “The Taliban have closed all schools to girls older than 12,” she recounts. “Western governments should do more to force the Taliban to let girls go to school, to build a future for themselves,” he implores.

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