I was born 26 years ago in a desolate mountain village in Afghanistan. I did not know that life would take me one day to live a limbo life in another part of the world called Indonesia.
Fortunately, my life in Afghanistan prepared me well for the challenges ahead as a refugee in an often unwelcoming world.
I was supposed to start primary school in 1995 in the village where I was born. It was exactly at this time that the uprising of the Taliban regime occurred. My ethnic group, the Hazaras, was especially persecuted by the Taliban and other malicious groups. It was only following the collapse of the Taliban in 2001, like for many other Hazaras, that was I able to finally go to school for the first time.
Having finished primary school in my village, I with my brother went to Kabul to continue my schooling. There I was admitted to Afghan-Turk High School, the best school in Afghanistan. The admission process was long and very competitive, but I was admitted. I followed my dreams and stuck to my goals: Despite the field’s competitiveness and its challenges, I eventually entered civil engineering at one of the best public universities in my country, Kabul Polytechnic University.
It had been one of my goals to contribute to building a bright future for Afghanistan where everyone could experience the same rights. In fact, with NATO coming to my country, so many Afghans of my generation, especially Hazaras, had the same goal: To build and to show a new image of Afghanistan to the world. After graduating in 2012, I started working in different sectors, including with the Afghan government. I worked with the Afghan government to prove that the new Hazara generation, despite being marginalized for years, is willing to support the government.
But then, like for many Hazaras, my life totally changed.
In the beginning of 2014, I was given a project to be evaluated by our ministry in a place close to Kabul in the Wardak province. I went there, gathered reports and finished monitoring. A short time after that, I was threatened by the head of the Wardak Provincial Council. Then my home in Kabul was attacked. I took my elder brother and fled to Pakistan, Malaysia and finally Indonesia.
In my country, Hazaras can find themselves trapped, kidnapped, tortured and killed. The lucky ones become stranded abroad as migrants, either at sea or behind the doors of UNHCR seeking refuge. I am one of the lucky people who fled Afghanistan and sought refuge under UNHCR representation in Jakarta. I am thankful for UNHCR representation in places like Jakarta, as the institution protects the rights of the victims of persecution.
The first day I arrived in Indonesia, I felt totally secure in spite of the stranded life and migrant chaos. I found Indonesians hardworking, friendly and respectful.
But I wanted to study. I visited the University of Indonesia and talked to the administration officers to see if they could accept me as a student so that I could continue my higher education. I found out that I and other refugees did not have the right to study nor work in the country. I was truly in limbo.
I managed to make use of the UI’s library for awhile, until I heard about Roshan Learning Center from a friend. I found it inspiring because of the supportive and diverse refugee community. I realized there are people who value education even if refugees like myself can pay nothing in return. I thought that this is the place I had been looking for. I made friends with other educated Afghans, Iranians and Indonesians. No one discriminated against me because I was Hazara or because I was a refugee.
In a world where the call for globalization and education is becoming weaker, and anti-migrant views common, educational institutions such as Roshan are increasingly necessary support systems. They help make up for the the tough life of limbo refugees must go through living without work or formal schooling.
Roshan plays a vital role for helping refugees in transit. I know from my own experience that refugees are productive contributors in countries open to accepting and resettling them after their hard journeys for a better life. But they need an education, not discrimination, to be able to contribute.
And now? Now I live in Connecticut in the U.S. One of the most important things I have noticed in my first month here is the diversity. In my new home city, I see different kinds of people. There are people who continue living their lives from different parts of the globe. Here, we have people from South Africa, Europe, Asia. And they live their lives without being discriminated against. It does not matter whether you are black, brown or white. It does not matter whether you are beautiful or ugly. It does not matter what religion you practice. The one and only thing that matters is your eligibility. No one takes away your rights and rewards if you deserve them. You work for it, you get it. That is one of the rules which I like the most.