WLOG 007: Kabul 582
I am in Kabul again. Five hundred and eighty two days ago we went on a journey to the West, to Europe.Source: B92
We were stopped in front of the walls and in the end, we went back where we came from. Now, I and my family know that it was a mistake. A big mistake.
by Tanaz Ullah
I remember the days when it all started, when all the neighborhood and all of our friends started to talk about Germany, how the Germans invited us to come, that there we will have apartments, schools, work permits, jobs, new life... In the beginning, I didn't believe in those stories, but people started leaving and all of a sudden people we knew were sending greetings from Germany.
An explosion in a mosque we went to sped up our decision. Father said we should go. We couldn't leave right away because grandpa and grandma were old and we couldn't just leave them behind. They wouldn't leave Kabul. Grandpa used to say that he fought against the Taliban, Russians and Americans and now he wanted to die in his Afghanistan. He was a retired teacher and I can thank him for the love for numbers and dates.
Father and mother, without the 3 of us knowing it, sold the land they had in province and from part of that money arranged with one family to take care of our grandparents. Father organized everything, we packed and on February 26th 2016 we left Kabul.
The road to Turkey lasted exactly 65 days. It was horrifying, I was scared and most of the time I kept my eyes closed. In one moment father said that the borders were closed, but we continued the journey. I trusted him that he knows what we should do.
They don't like us in Iran. The man who was leading us was looking at me in a way that made me look down. It was better in Turkey but we waited for our connection to continue further, thinking should we go across the sea or no. We were hiding in Bulgaria because father was afraid of what was happening to Afghans in this country so he gave a lot of money to avoid being arrested, or violence and prison. So, we spent everything we had saved for the road and were left with very little money.
In Bulgaria I felt enormous hatred. Everyone hated us there, absolutely everyone. I saw the pictures from the camp that my friend who was arrested sent me. That was the first time that I asked myself what we are even doing here.
We were on a road from Turkey to Serbia for another 37 days. We entered Serbia 7 July 7 in a large group. There were 17 of us in a van. We were lucky that we moved fast and within a few hours we crossed the border and arrived in Belgrade. We came to a big, green park where there were a lot of people from Afghanistan, but most of them spoke language I didn't understand. There were a lot of men from Afghanistan regions that we have never been before because those are dangerous. No one told us that we will find so many Pashtoons there. The one thing every girl from Kabul knows in that she must never be left alone with them. I traveled across half of the world to be afraid of the same people as in my country. Something wasn't right there.
I remember the first night in Belgrade. We slept in the park behind a wooden hut from which the food was distributed. We were exhausted from the road and we in such deep slumber that we never noticed when someone stole our bags we stacked next to us. We woke up without everything we carried and kept for 5,500 kilometers. We were desperate, I thought it was the end of our journey and that now we will go back. But, when we complained that we were robbed in half an hour we were given new bags and clean clothes. I think it was the first time I smiled in two months. People in Belgrade were good to us.
The next day we went to camp which was 10 kilometers away. We got a room just for us and that was great. We kept returning to the park every day. We loved taking a bus ride from the camp to the city and back, even though sometimes we were kicked out because we didn't have tickets. I quite liked the food we were given in the park, especially because they would give it to us without having to wait in line.
With time I got to know Belgrade better. I knew where to go when I needed something or when I wanted to do something. I visited the market where I could buy rice, carrots and chicken when mother was making Kabul's pilau. I found out where I can learn German and improve English language. The classes gave me not only knowledge but also hope. I felt stronger. The teacher gave us books in German language and every afternoon we, girls from the camp, would sit in a different room and repeat the lessons out loud. We would imagine that we were in Germany and that it's our life now. We would giggle from happiness. Ich liebe dich.
One day I dreamt about Kabul. I dreamt about Sunday morning when the kids are flying kites in the sky. We all used to go to park to watch it. I would sometimes do it, too. Us, women, are good at flying kites, too. I used to do it with my little neighbor Amir. I dreamt about Kabul on the first day I was happy again. It was the day I got my German language diploma, February 15th, 2017.
Father started talking about Hungary, how we should somehow speed up our going there. Because we had spent a lot more money than we had planned on our way to Belgrade, we had to wait for our turn to go into Hungary. And absolutely nothing was happening there. The autumn has come and gone, then winter, and then spring. The only thing that changed was that I got my diploma I would often look at before going to bed. On one of the classes we talked about where we would like to go, but my family and I didn't have a plan. I remember she said that Berlin was a place for us, that people are good but it's uncertain for work. The only thing that mattered to me was that people were good and I could go to college there. Mathematics.
I remember the day when one of the camp's officials came to our room and told us to get ready and that by the end of the week we should cross the border and ask for asylum in Hungary. I've written down the date, June 26th 2017. In the meantime the law changed and instead of being happy, we were terrified. We knew that we will not be able to leave the camp until they've accepted our asylum. The rumors were that we wouldn't even have our mobile phones or internet.
Before we left I went to the center where I learned German to say goodbye to my teacher. She told me not to be afraid and that those were just rumors. She gave me a silk scarf for good luck. She told me she brought it from her trip to India. She wrapped it around me and made my hair.
I spent exactly 360 days in Serbia. We entered into Hungarian camp 2 July. It was really hard because everything was so stern and cramped. Mostly we just waited to call us for the interviews. The food was good. I sent the pictures from the camp to my teacher until she told me not to do it because it is dangerous. We waited to be moved to an open camp from where we had planned to go to Germany right away. To Berlin, where good people live.
We were already in camp for more than two months. The camp was clean and tidy but we were dying from boredom and waiting. I wasn't good. I wanted all of this to end, to have life again. I dreamt of Kabul again.
The next morning, on September 17th, they called us to come together. A translator read out to us that our asylum was denied. I remember I wanted to burst into tears but something just ripped through me and I only smiled. It was the end, but in that moment it was the only thing I wanted. The end, any (kind of) end. I felt relief. I cried after.
The day after that we were returned to Serbia through the same gate. I called my teacher to tell her what happened. She told me to come to Belgrade and that we will see what next. Four hours later we were in the center where I learned German. All of the teachers were there; they hugged us and told us not to worry, that we will find a solution.
We didn't worry. We didn't know what to do but we were happy to be in Belgrade again. We sat at a big table. They made us tea. We didn't want to talk about Hungary. That subject was finished.
The teacher told us that she had asked around and that there was a possibility to return to Kabul, if we wanted that. Right away, the thoughts of kites came to my mind. Yes! We want that! As soon as possible. Father kept silent. He is always silent when he agrees. That night we went to camp near Belgrade where we spent 359 days. I think that was the first carefree night we had since the day we started our journey. We decided to go back home.
On October 1st we landed in Kabul. The money we were given for the travel and a new life had to go to people who organized the trip for us. Father was in debt and we had to guarantee for the debt with our lives. Still, I wasn't afraid we haven't had any money because we managed to erase the biggest mistake we ever made- going on a 582 days long journey.
I know that good people live in Berlin but I don't know if on a Sunday morning someone would knock on the door and call me to fly kites in the park the way my little neighbor Amir did today.
This blog is based on everyday-life stories of women refugees and migrants who are currently residing in Serbia. The blog was written by an author whose name has been changed to protect her privacy and was produced by Info Park with support of UN Women in Serbia with an aim of shedding light on the situation of women refugees and migrants. The views and analysis contained in the blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of UN Women, the United Nations or any of its affiliated organizations.