Refugees Magazine Issue 107 (Refugee voices from exile) - A man who makes a difference
Refugees (107, I - 1997)
During a recent influx of internally displaced persons into the western Afghan city of Herat, UNHCR mounted a major relief operation with its local counterpart, the Ministry of Repatriation. While working in the new camps, UNHCR officers were struck by the dedication and sensitivity displayed by one particular ministry employee - Abdul Qader. It transpired that he too, had his own story of displacement to tell.
Interview by Arafat Jamal and Qadar Rahimi
I come from a town in Badghis called Jahan Dusti, which means "world friendship." I owned 180 sheep and 40 acres of land where I cultivated cotton with government support. I taught Pashto and Dari in the local primary school and felt that, before the communist era began, my fortunes were improving day by day.
But then the revolution came. The new government flooded the countryside with teachers, provoking a peasant backlash which eventually forced me to abandon my profession and flee the district. The new communist authorities at the time insisted that anyone who was not their ally was an enemy and so, though I was not in total agreement with them, I joined the anti-Soviet mujaheddin. Because I was educated I was sent on a number of missions to buy weapons.
We were happy when the communists fell, and for a time we prospered. But the mujaheddin began to fight among themselves, and we found ourselves again in the middle of another war. Two factions used our region as a battlefield, and I disliked them both.
Then the Taliban came, and for a time we were happy again. But their troops suddenly left our village and we fled, this time fearing the advance of the Uzbeks.We left most of our possessions and some of our weak people. As we crossed the Murghab river several children died. We walked for several days until we reached the Khushk region where I sold my remaining livestock for a pittance. I rented a lorry to transport my extended family and myself to Herat where I knew I would be able to receive assistance from the United Nations.
Compared to my life in Badghis, my existence in Shaidai camp is nothing. But when I recall our harrowing journey to Herat, I am thankful. There is not much employment here, although one of my eight children works as a labourer in the city. I assist the Médecins Sans Frontières in its home visitor sanitation and health programme, and am looking forward to resuming my former profession as a teacher in a UNHCR primary education programme in the camp.
When I think of the bad actions of our leaders, I feel that the future is not good. But my faith teaches me not to be discouraged, and I console myself by recalling the saying: 'where a stream once flowed, water will run again.'
Source: Refugees Magazine Issue 107 (1997)