Over 200 refugees participated in a vibrant three-day event was held in Yazd from 4-6 March 2017 to mark the closing ceremony of the Government of Iran’s cultural initiative for Afghan refugees, ‘Knowing Afghanistan’.
For the fourth year running, the Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants’ Affairs (BAFIA) has organised a series of these events across the Islamic Republic of Iran in an effort to better acquaint Afghan refugees living in Iran with their country of origin. Those that benefit the most from these annual events are often the second and third generation of Afghans, who have had few other opportunities to familiarise themselves with Afghanistan’s culture, history and traditions.
UNHCR Representative Sivanka Dhanapala together with BAFIA counterparts participated in the final event contest in Yazd, which was attended by Afghan students, as well as NGOs and government officials including the Representative of the Supreme Leader’s Office Mr Salehi and the Afghan Ambassador to Iran H.E. Ambassador Noor. Creative performances were carried out by refugee students themselves, including sports activities, singing, poetry and local anthem recitals.
During the final talent competition in Yazd, young Afghans who particularly captivated the audience included an 11 year old refugee who is renowned for having memorized the Holy Quran, and a young refugee residing in Yazd who has harnessed his talents as a professional singer, leading him to successfully collaborate with an Iranian national.
In view of supporting youth empowerment and social inclusion efforts fostered by the Government of Iran, UNHCR participated in and supported the Knowing Afghanistan events across the country. Engagement with the refugee community proved very successful for the fourth year running. In Tehran province over 400 Afghans – mainly youth – participated in their local event, while in Shiraz, 250 Afghans were involved in their self-led ceremony through the facilitation of UNHCR and provincial BAFIA.
In total, 14 events were held countrywide in 2016, successfully engaging over 5,500 Afghan refugees in the rich history and culture of their homeland.
During the Knowing Afghanistan ceremony held in Bushehr, one poem recited by a young schoolgirl particularly resonated with her audience. Translated below, it poignantly highlights the dilemmas felt by many second and third generation Afghans, who often experience an affinity to their distant home in Afghanistan, yet also a belonging to their actual home in Iran. The sense of being both Afghan and Iranian, neither yet both, is perfectly captured in this poem; a sentiment which undoubtedly resonates with many of Iran’s young refugees.
I am Afghan and I am Iranian, too
I wish! I wish I could close my eyes to all who don’t understand love.
In this unrestful world, a curtain of pain has exhausted my heart.
I am an alone heart, I am an alone heart.
I am chocked up and it has stopped me speaking.
I am full of pains but I smile every day. I smile despite the fact that my homeland is not mine. Its flowers are always crying, its sky; cloudy and rainy, its land; dry and frozen. There are tears everywhere, exhausted voices. Yes, I am a sunset without a sunrise.
They assume their children are wasted who sacrificed for nothing and their future is ruined.
They say there is nothing like home but my asylum is Iran. Here is my home and my home town.
Who is afraid of enemies’ tricks in the endless sky? What a pain on the hearts: the sadness of birds’ songs in the dark sky and on the sorrowful tulips, the sadness of playful Afghan children in the allies, the sadness of blue sky over the farms.
Who is afraid of geographic boarders? Who is afraid of the heavy looks of others?
I am Afghan. I am Iranian, too.
Who is afraid of geographic boarders? Here is my homeland because my leader and rector has allowed me to learn and develop, whether we have legal documentation or not.
Here is where I start knowing myself. Here is where I grew up and flourished.
Iran is my homeland, so O’ compatriot! Appreciate it! Appreciate your peace of mind! Appreciate breathing in your homeland! Appreciate unreachable flights in your garden of imagination! Lest you, alike me, be bewildered between here and there!
Viva compatriot! Viva Afghan! Viva Iranian!
Viva homeland! Viva Afghanistan! Viva Iran!
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