'Mojtaba dreams of finding a cure for cancer.
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© UNHCR/Gordon Welters

Mojtaba was 13 at the time fleeing to Europe

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“The journey to Europe was very tough. I was only 13 at the time. The hardest thing for me was not knowing who I could trust.”

Mojtaba, 23 years old, recalls

There was no science in my childhood. I helped my parents in the fields in Ghazni province [in Afghanistan]. They were farmers, growing potatoes, fruits and vegetables. We were surrounded by the Taliban. As members of the Hazara minority, we were always at risk. It felt like being in prison. We couldn’t move freely and sooner or later, we were going to be attacked. Europe was our only hope of safety.”

The Tavakoli family, members of Afghanistan’s oppressed Hazara minority, sent two of their sons to Europe in 2006 to escape the Taliban. After Mojtaba’s older brother Morteza, 18, drowned in the Aegean Sea, Mojtaba continued the journey alone. In Austria, he was supported by an Austrian couple, Marion Weigl and Bernhard Wimmer. Once he was granted asylum in Austria, Mojtaba was able to bring his Afghan family to join him.

Unfortunately, another brother of Mojtaba, Mustafa, 12, died of cancer in Vienna in 2014. Personal loss and the kindness of those who supported him motivates Mojtaba, “I have seen things that people twice my age have not seen. This makes me strict with myself to use my opportunities and make my family proud.”

In fact, Mojtaba had only elementary education when he fled the Taliban in Afghanistan at the age of 13. Now 23, he is studying molecular biology at the Medical University of Vienna and aiming for a future in cancer research.

Show your solidarity with refugees like Mojtaba by signing the #WithRefugees petition today.

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Mojtaba and his brother took their chances crossing the Aegean Sea in desperate bids to reach Europe. 2015 saw a record breaking 1,000,000 people risking their lives with hope of reaching Europe for dreams of a better future. Like so many families, Mojtaba lost his brother to the Mediterranean waters.

Afghans make up the 2nd largest population of refugees crossing these waters.