As the crisis in Afghanistan intensified, we spoke to Zemar*, one of our Action Language learners who has lived in the North East for the past 18 months with his wife and two children. They have applied for asylum and are still waiting to hear back from the Home Office so do not yet have refugee status.
How would you describe your experience of leaving your home country, and settling in the North East?
Well, it was quite a difficult decision to leave my country, my relatives, and friends in 2020. I had a short trip to the UK in 2015 and went back to serve my country and my people. But the situation was getting worse and finally, we fled the country. Luckily we arrived here in the UK and settled in the North East of England. We are safe, have no fear of life, our children are going to school and we have access to all what we need. We are thankful. People here in North East are nice toward us and I have always been treated like a native and never felt any kind of discrimination. It makes me happy. I have my freedom.
What sorts of challenges have you encountered settling in the North East?
Well, resettlement definitely has some sort of challenges. As I have always worked, it is very hard to become jobless and just sit at home. It makes life very stressful. For a while, I was feeling that I’m depressed. In terms of social relations, I and my wife feel isolated. We had very hard times. There are none of our relatives and friends to see or talk to them. Last month we were infected with COVID-19 and we suffered a lot. My brother-in-law came from London to buy and bring food for us. We have no access to higher education, we are not allowed to work, and even I couldn’t find an internship opportunity.
How do you feel when watching what is happening in Afghanistan now?
I can’t even imagine what just happened in Afghanistan. I feel like I’m seeing a dream. I can’t believe it. It’s not just the collapse of government; it’s the collapse of a nation and its hopes, the collapse of values, and achievements we have made for the past two decades. Human basic rights, freedom of speech, elections. We have been devastated. It was the result of corruption and injustice in our government but the international community didn’t do what was needed to tackle the problem. They supported corrupt officials, they recognized fraudulent elections, and they were silent about the breach of law and nepotism. And finally, it was very painful how the world abandons Afghanistan. It’s just heart breaking!
What do you hope is done for people who are trying to flee Afghanistan – and those who are seeking asylum in the UK now?
I hope the UK continues to stand by the people of Afghanistan as always. Don’t forget those who worked for British and other international organisations and now face life threats. Don’t hesitate to help them get out of the country, because sometimes it will be too late to save someone’s life. I ask the UK government to grant asylum for all those Afghans who have made asylum claims, as soon as possible. They suffered a lot and need to start a new life. At the same time, we will not give up. We’ll continue our struggle for a democratic Afghanistan and I believe we will succeed. We retreated for a short period of time. We will be back definitely.
Zemar is a pseudonym to protect our learner’s identity.