Words of support for UNHCR as Kite Runner author publishes new novel

News Stories, 22 May 2007

© UNHCR/T.Irwin
Author and UNHCR Goodwill Envoy in the US, Khaled Hosseini (left), meets Darfur refugee Yacoub Hussein. Before arriving at a UNHCR refugee camp in Chad, Hussein and his family lived for two months under a tree.

WASHINGTON, D.C., United States, May 22 (UNHCR) Khaled Hosseini, author of the internationally best-selling novel, The Kite Runner, published his second book Tuesday in which he describes his work as a Goodwill Envoy for UNHCR as one of the most rewarding and meaningful experiences of his life.

In the afterword to A Thousand Splendid Suns, Hosseini recalls his work for UNHCR since receiving the Humanitarian of the Year Award at the 2006 World Refugee Day commemorations in Washington, DC. "Over the past year," he writes, "I have had the privilege of working as a US envoy for UNHCR ... one of the world's foremost humanitarian agencies."

In presenting Hosseini with the award, UNHCR sought to recognize the powerful impact his first novel has had on raising awareness of Afghan refugees. In A Thousand Splendid Suns, Hosseini chronicles the lives of two women over three decades of turmoil in Afghanistan. "Today, more than 2 million Afghan refugees remain in Pakistan," he writes in the afterword.

Assisting Afghan refugees remains one of UNHCR's major programmes. Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, the UN refugee agency has assisted more than 4 million Afghans to return home. It continues to provide protection to the 3 million Afghan refugees who remain in Pakistan and Iran. Hosseini's own family left Afghanistan in 1976 and sough asylum four years later in the United States.

Earlier this year, Hosseini visited UNHCR camps in eastern Chad where some 240,000 refugees from Sudan's Darfur region are sheltered. For the author, the trip was the result of his desire to see first-hand one of UNHCR's most complex operations, He also wanted to use his experiences to bring wider attention to the Darfur crisis in the United States, where the non-profit organization USA for UNHCR is running a fund-raising campaign entitled Aid Darfur.

"In the camps, people told me stories of the janjaweed [Arab militia] attacking their villages and killing children, killing women, killing the elderly. Their homes are burnt and everything they own is taken from them.

"The visit certainly changed me in a very profound way," said Hosseini upon his return. "For one thing, it fortified in my mind the notion of how fortunate I am, and how fortunate my children are, to be living in a free country and to have so many things that we take for granted."

During his 45-city US book tour, which begins this week, event organizers will be distributing special bookmarks which call on readers to support refugees worldwide.

Hosseini will also once again mark World Refugee Day with UNHCR. On June 20 in San Francisco he'll take part in a panel discussion on the refugee agency's US theme, "A new home, a new life". Events are also being organized in Washington and Chicago with partner organizations planning commemorations in dozens of other cities.

By Tim Irwin in Washington, D.C., United States




UNHCR country pages

Khaled Hosseini Biography

Acclaimed American author Khaled Hosseini knows what it's like to be a refugee.

Khaled Hosseini and UNHCR

Read about Khaled Hosseini's support for UNHCR.

Afghanistan: Rebuilding a War-Torn Country

The cycle of life has started again in Afghanistan as returnees put their shoulders to the wheel to rebuild their war-torn country.

Return is only the first step on Afghanistan's long road to recovery. UNHCR is helping returnees settle back home with repatriation packages, shelter kits, mine-awareness training and vaccination against diseases. Slowly but surely, Afghans across the land are reuniting with loved ones, reconstructing homes, going back to school and resuming work. A new phase in their lives has begun.

Watch the process of return, reintegration, rehabilitation and reconstruction unfold in Afghanistan through this gallery.

Afghanistan: Rebuilding a War-Torn Country

Rebuilding Lives in Afghanistan

With elections scheduled in October, 2004 is a crucial year for the future of Afghanistan, and Afghans are returning to their homeland in record numbers. In the first seven months of 2004 alone, more than half a million returned from exile. In all, more than 3.6 million Afghans have returned since UNHCR's voluntary repatriation programme started in 2002.

The UN refugee agency and its partner organisations are working hard to help the returnees rebuild their lives in Afghanistan. Returnees receive a grant to cover basic needs, as well as access to medical facilities, immunisations and landmine awareness training.

UNHCR's housing programme provides tool kits and building supplies for families to build new homes where old ones have been destroyed. The agency also supports the rehabilitation of public buildings as well as programmes to rehabilitate the water supply, vocational training and cash-for-work projects.

Rebuilding Lives in Afghanistan

The Reality of Return in Afghanistan

Beyond the smiles of homecoming lie the harsh realities of return. With more than 5 million Afghans returning home since 2002, Afghanistan's absorption capacity is reaching saturation point.

Landmine awareness training at UNHCR's encashment centres – their first stop after returning from decades in exile – is a sombre reminder of the immense challenges facing this war-torn country. Many returnees and internally displaced Afghans are struggling to rebuild their lives. Some are squatting in tents in the capital, Kabul. Basic needs like shelter, land and safe drinking water are seldom met. Jobs are scarce, and long queues of men looking for work are a common sight in marketplaces.

Despite the obstacles, their spirit is strong. Returning Afghans – young and old, women and men – seem determined to do their bit for nation building, one brick at a time.

Posted on 31 January 2008

The Reality of Return in Afghanistan

Croatia: Sunday Train ArrivalsPlay video

Croatia: Sunday Train Arrivals

On Sunday a train of 1800 refugees and migrants made their way north from the town of Tovarnik on Croatia's Serbian border. They disembarked at Cakovec just south of Slovenia. Most of the people are Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi. Their route to Western Europe has been stalled due to the closing of Hungarian borders. Now the people have changed their path that takes through Slovenia. Croatia granted passage to over 10,000 refugees this weekend. Croatian authorities asked Slovenia to take 5000 refugees and migrants per day. Slovenia agreed to take half that number. More than a thousand of desperate people are being backed up as result, with more expected to arrive later Monday.
Afghanistan Needs Your SupportPlay video

Afghanistan Needs Your Support

Croatia; Destination UnknownPlay video

Croatia; Destination Unknown