Hope is all what remains

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014
Asylum seekers listening during one of JRS's Information Sessions

Asylum seekers listening during one of JRS’s Information Sessions

In Afghanistan, persecution is not only based on religious differences. Ethnic differences and land seizures can become a reason to fight. “I came to Indonesia in August 2013 and have been here for a year. Now my wife is six months pregnant with our first child,” said Mustafa with tearing eyes. Fatimah, his wife, tries to smile.

That afternoon, JRS met Mustafa and his family in Bogor to help them preparing for the Refugee Status Determination process. “In the next three days, we will be interviewed by UNHCR. We don’t know the process, so we are worried. We have been waiting for a long time. We are very happy that JRS is willing to take the time to help us. Thank you,” said Mustafa when JRS came. Mustafa lived with his wife, Fatimah, and his brother-in-law, Hamid.

“I don’t know where to start,” said Mustafa in broken English. He fled Afghanistan when he was just 8 years old. Because of the civil war in Afghanistan he went to Iran with his parents. After living for 25 years there in exile, they were deported by the Iranian government as they were considered ‘illegals’.

After returning to Afghanistan problems got worse. “I was forced by the villagers to fight against some armed groups. These groups wanted to seize our land. Every night we heard gun shots, but I didn’t like to fight,” Mustafa remembers. Because he could not bear the burden and fear, he left his families only house in Afghanistan. “After a week the five of us finally decided to leave. Me, my wife, my brother-in-law, my father and mother-in-law did not want to take up guns and we were afraid.”

On their way the armed groups stopped the public bus they took and with guns pointed at their heads forced every male to get out of the bus. Mustafa was separated from his wife and his mother-in-law. With Hamid and his father-in-law he surrendered to be forced to get out of the bus, was beaten, and eventually arrested.

“Then one night, there was no one to guard us. We gathered all our courage and escaped through the window,” said Mustafa with a smile, that then disappeared from his face. “But my father-in-law got lost in the middle of the forest when we run away. We were separated and we have never met again until now,” Mustafa said softly as he looked at his wife.

“Our mother also could not be here with us,” added Fatima. After this experience Mustafa’s family decided to flee to Pakistan. In Pakistan they met a people smuggler. The agent promised to bring Mustafa’s family to Australia by boat, but his mother had to be the last one to leave. Feeling they had no other option, they agreed with the agent’s suggestion and gave him all what was left from their savings. “Until now, I can not contact the agent. There is no boat available anymore to get to Australia, and our mother never departed from Pakistan,” Mustafa said as he bowed his head. Fatima squeezed his hand tightly.

“The Refugee Status Determination process of UNHCR is the only hope we still have. So we are very grateful that JRS is willing to come here,” Fatimah said. The loss of family, home and property caused distress for Mustafa and his family. “I never thought that our journey would be like this. But we try to be patient. At least the three of us are still allowed to live together.”

When asked about the condition of her womb, again Fatimah only can smile. “Insya Allah, it is fine. I don’t know exactly because for six months the doctor has checked my womb only once in the third month.” Mustafa said in a very low voice that his family has been facing financial problems because in Indonesia they are not allowed asylum seekers to work. “We decided to move to Jakarta to get financial support. We hope that we could get support at least for our baby. We are also grateful to get a cheaper rent for our home.” Fatimah tried to comfort her husband by saying, ”I just wished you could be a tailor again as you were in the past.” Now, Mustafa looks at his wife and smiles.

“Now I understand the UNHCR process. I feel ready for the interview too. Do not forget us, please, at least as a friend,” Mustafa said to JRS as we were about to leave his home.

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