20 June is marked as World Refugee Day both in Tajikistan and across the globe. Tajikistan has been a safe haven for thousands of refugees mostly from Afghanistan over the years, providing them protection and safety on its territory and access to socio-economic rights, including right to education, employment, health.
“It is an advantage that we are sharing lots of similarities with local Tajiks in terms of culture, language and traditions. At the beginning it was not easy to settle down, to find a job and place to live, but thanks to kind people I found my way”.
Zardasht Said Abdulhafiz, a 39 year old refugee living in Tajikistan
Zardasht arrived in Tajikistan with his wife and two daughters in 2012, running away from the Taliban’s regime after they took their land plot in Kunduz and killed a close relative. Fearing for the lives of his wife and daughters, as well as for their future, Zardasht decided to seek refuge in peaceful Tajikistan.
Asylum seekers arriving to Tajikistan are processed through an official refugee status determination procedure and, once being granted refugee status, are issued a refugee card allowing them to legally reside and work in Tajikistan.
Zardasht breaks down stereotypes that mostly women could be good tailors. Being highly professional in this sector, he is working as a tailor in Dushanbe serving a broad range of clientele. “When I was 14, my father arranged an apprenticeship for me at local tailor’s in Iran, where my family was living as refugees. Since then I have designed and sewed various types of women’s and men’s clothes, using different fabrics and techniques. I have my own style of sewing, which makes my works different from others”.
Profiling Exercise conducted in 2016 by UN Refugee Agency and its partner Refugees, Children & Vulnerable Citizens (RCVC), proved that many refugees in Tajikistan are qualified and skilled professionals who could find their niche in the service sector and contribute to local economies. For those who are willing to acquire a new profession or update their qualifications, UNHCR in close cooperation with the State-run Adult Education Centers in Vahdat, Dushanbe and Rudaki facilitates enrollment in existing vocational trainings and apprenticeship programs.
“When I just started working in Dushanbe as a tailor I faced an initial challenge – the majority of clients would speak Russian, while I did not know a single word. I owe a debt of gratitude to Zarina, a Tajik seamstress, who helped me greatly to learn Russian vocabulary used in a tailor’s daily work”, recalls Zardasht.
Slowly, overcoming challenges one by one, Zardasht could save money and buy his own sewing machine, the main tool that brings income to his family.
At his current job he works with a cheerful team of three ladies, who have become his second family as they accepted Zardasht as their own brother. “We changed our place of work three times already, but we never fall apart as a team. I always feel well supported by my co-workers Malokhat and Marhabo and it is a great pleasure to work with them”.
Talking about her colleague, Marhabo says that, “Zardasht is a very humble, gentle and kind person. Being very attentive and patient to the requirements of the clients, Zardasht is equally responsive to his colleagues, and is always ready to consult and help.”
“UNHCR globally has changed its approach in implementing its assistance and livelihoods programs. Refugees should be empowered and assisted to achieve the maximum extent of self-reliance and economic resilience to sustain their livelihoods rather than considered as a powerless receivers of assistance. Here in Tajikistan we strive to expand partnerships with private companies, to promote legal employment of refugees amongst potential employers and increase awareness about refugees’ labor rights”.
Mr. Vito Trani, UNHCR Representative in Tajikistan
“I dream one day I will open my own sewing workshop or a factory that will produce high quality brand outfits that could be exported and showcased at international markets”, says Zardasht. “But my biggest dream is that my daughters and son would graduate from universities, obtain their diplomas and degrees and work in prestigious fields, making me proud of them”.
Tajikistan hosts over 3,000 refugees and asylum seekers originating mainly from Afghanistan. Although there were numerous achievements and support provided, both the UNHCR and the Government will jointly continue the noble work for finding solutions for refugees, engaging also private networks to reach out women, men, girls and boys in Tajikistan.
On World Refugee Day, we honor the resilience and courage of millions of refugees who have been forced to flee war, persecution and violence. This is also a moment to recognize those communities and people around the world who receive refugees and internally displaced people and offer them a safe haven. Today each of us could demonstrate our compassion and solidarity with refugees and to tell the world that we stand #WithRefugees.