Monday, March 20, 2017

I want freedom

Asylum seekers in an Indonesian detention centre. Source
Reza, an Afghan refugee, shares a difficult story about his life in a detention centre in Indonesia   after he was forced to leave Afghanistan on account of threats from the Taliban.  

My name is Reza and I am an Afghan refugee. I am 25 years old, and I am racially a Hazara from Afghanistan. It has been more than two years since I was forced to leave Afghanistan. I was studying at Ghazni University at the time, and had to leave my family because of threats from the Taliban. I studied until I turned fourteen, and then left school to start working as a car mechanic. Sometimes, I worked with my father as a car porter and as an assistant driver.

The Taliban knew that we carried government's load as porters. On a lot of occasions, they issued notices for my father, forcing him to stop working with the government. But my father did not give them any attention. Finally, on September 12, 2014, when we carried things from Ghazni to our district, Malistan, the Taliban attacked us in the Karabakh District. We were two cars in all, and our car was the second. The first car caught fire and my father slowed down. He told me to go out, and I was very scared. I left the car and ran, but when I turned back, I saw that our car had caught fire.  I came to the city  and called my mother. She cried and told me that I should leave Afghanistan. She was not sure if the Taliban would come home and kill us, and said that for all our safety, I had to leave Afghanistan. We don’t know where my father is, and I don’t know if he is alive or dead.

Over two years ago, I made my journey from Pakistan, to Thailand, to Malaysia, and then, arrived in Indonesia. I registered in UNHCR office in Jakarta. Here in Indonesia (Pontianak), refugee and asylum seekers have no opportunity to work, or perform any other activity.

I am the oldest son in my family. My work was in Afghanistan as a mechanic . Back at home I have five sisters, all of whom are younger than I am. It has been about 15 months since I saw them last. My brother is only eighteen, he has left school to work as a tailor and my mother works as a farm hand. Sometimes, they send me money - I feel awful saying this, because they are supporting me when it should be the other way around. They know that I am in a detention camp. I don’t have a work permit and I feel horrible that I cannot work or do anything for my family. I really wish my sisters study and don’t remain illiterate like me. 

Because, here, there are two kinds of refugee. One kind is those who have economic supporters from outside this country. They can rent a home and buy food and other essentials, and are free to go anywhere around the city. The UNHCR have no responsibility for them, and their refugee process is a lot smoother than the "other" kind. The other kind of refugees have no supporters, and must surrender to the immigration services. Immigration brings them into the camp or detention centre. They must accept the life of a prisoner. They are confined to their camp.

I am that "other" kind.

In December 2016, one of the UNHCR members came here and told us we should be "more patient than we think". He said we may be here for 10 years, and if we can't tolerate it, we should "go back to our country". In other words, prison or the Taliban. After two years, I have not had a single interview with immigration. I am fit and healthy and will do any kind of work. I am learning English in the camp, from teachers who are also here. Fitness is one way I focus my energy. It's my only true escape. I have been here for 20 months now.

If you want to know what life is like in the camp in which I live, I only have a video to share. I hope, if nothing else, it will give you a better understanding of what we face daily.  My dream is to be with my family in my country. This is a shared dream among all of us, here at the camp.

The next best thing is simply to live as a free human being, with hope and the opportunity to realise my potential.
(Video credits: Refugee life in an Indonesian Detention Center: A film by Habib Rahimi)