The Afghan writer who made Dublin home

Nasruddin Saljuqi had to flee from Afghanistan when war broke out. Now he lives in Ireland and is a writer and an advocate for integration of asylum seekers and refugees.

When Nasruddin Saljuqi arrived in Ireland as a refugee in 2000, he was one of the few Afghans living in the country. At the time, he recalls, “not many Irish people would have been able to locate Afghanistan on a world map”.

Sixteen years later, he’s shining a deeper light on the country he fled with the launch of his new book ‘Afghanistan Through the Mirror’, a comprehensive account of the story of Afghan Photography.

Its pages contain a detailed account of Afghanistan’s troubled history through its photography, from the work of Irish photographer John Burke in the second half of the 19th century to the wooden box cameras used today on the streets of the capital Kabul.

What clearly emerges from the pages of the book, is that it is not the work of a beginner - since he graduated in literature, Nasruddin has been the author of a number of books on Afghan history and culture. And, as he says with pride, literature runs in the family: his father was a well-known Afghan poet. It does not come as a surprise, then, that the Persian version of ‘Afghanistan Through the Mirror’ was officially launched in Afghanistan last year by the Minister for Arts and Culture.

“In Iran we did not have any documents, it was really hard.”

Born in Herat, Nasruddin and his family were forced to leave Afghanistan in 1989, fleeing a conflict that caused the death of over a million people and displaced another six million. Having settled down in the Iranian city of Mashhad, Nasruddin found a job at the Afghan Consulate. “In Iran we did not have any documents”, remembers Nasruddin, “it was really hard”. In spite of the difficulties, he was a very active member of the refugee community, first working as a teacher for Afghan refugees and then coordinating and promoting the activities of an association of Afghan artists who fled from the Taliban regime.

In 2000, Nasruddin and his family were chosen for resettlement to Ireland under UNHCR’s resettlement programme. They arrived in Dublin in November of that year, finding a country that was warm and welcoming to them. “Irish people are very sociable and friendly” says Nasruddin, “me and my family integrated very well”. And indeed, all of his  children have graduated from university. Two of them are now working abroad and one has been awarded a PhD.

In 2001, Nasruddin founded the Afghan Community of Ireland. The association assists Afghan refugees and asylum-seekers and promotes integration in Irish society: Nasruddin is a member of the Dublin regional forum of the Ministerial Council for Migrant Integration since 2010. Aside from his activity as a writer, he is also active in the promotion of different cultural events such as photographic and painting exhibitions and Afghan music concerts.

“The work of Nasruddin is invaluable.”

“The work of Nasruddin is invaluable”, says Sabawoon Shafaq, another member of the Afghan community who arrived in Ireland through the UNHCR’s resettlement programme and has since then been awarded a PhD in applied mathematics from Dublin City University. “Not only he is introducing Irish people to the Afghan culture, he is also giving it back to the young Afghans who grew up here and would have otherwise lost it”.

‘Afganistan Through the Mirror’ is accompanied by a DVD containing a number of photographs and videos. Nasruddin Saljuqi has published another book in English: ‘From Dunbura to Guitar - The Diaspora of Afghan Musicians’ (2014), a rich resource for those interested in the history, organology and social context of Afghan music.

For More information and for purchasing the books, please contact the Afghan Community of Ireland.

Caption 1: Nasruddin signs a copy of his book during Dublin Culture Night

Caption 2: One of the pictures taken by Irish photographer John Burke in Afghanistan