I fled Afghanistan 18 months ago with my brother and sister – we haven’t seen our parents since
I will never forget the last day I saw my mother and father.
It was August 2021 and the Taliban were taking over in Afghanistan. We were at Kabul airport trying to get on a flight out of the country. The army was using tear gas, there was shooting, and they were spraying water on people. We couldn’t see each other – it was terrifying.
I was holding tight onto my younger sister and brother, but in the chaos, we became separated from our parents. I was 18 years old, my brother was 16, and my sister was eight. I haven’t seen my mother or father since, which was over a year and a half ago.
So I want to say – if your mum is near to you, please go and celebrate with her today on Mother’s Day.
Now, I can only message her but I can’t celebrate in person. I’m waiting for the day when I can be with her again.
Before the Taliban takeover, my family and I lived in the centre of Kabul. I had just finished my own studies and I was teaching children.
After our Government collapsed, we saw white Taliban flags outside some of the windows in our area and we knew that they supported the militant group. This was a scary moment – realising our neighbourhood had these members.
We believed that they had already identified me as a school teacher and had seen me going to work. The Taliban think women should stay at home and not work or study, so I was frightened about what would happen to me.
On top of that, my father ran a business renting out shops in a market, which made us a target because he used to work with western companies and the Taliban wanted to take it over. My brother was at risk of violence (he had already been attacked), and I was at risk of forced marriage.
Some of my aunts and uncles live in the UK and they were actually on holiday in Afghanistan at the time. So we decided that we had to try and leave and we thought we might be able to get to the UK with them.
At the airport, there was complete chaos and huge crowds – it was very difficult to go from one section to another. I put headphones on the ears of my little sister to try and stop her hearing the shooting. But even after, she still suffered from shock.
In the crush – at one checkpoint controlled by the Afghan army – I was able to drag my brother and sister with me into the airport, but my parents were left outside. We were taken by the US Army forces. I was shouting and screaming that I wanted my parents with us. I was so worried about my mother because she has asthma and struggles with breathing.
I told the soldiers that my mum and dad were outside. But they said if I went to be with them, I wouldn’t get back into the airport.
So we got on a flight. We went via the United Arab Emirates, where we were able to recharge our phones and I tried to contact my family, but I couldn’t. At that moment, I felt like I had lost my mother.
They had been using tear gas near the airport and I worried she’d had an asthma attack. I felt completely hopeless.
When we got to Heathrow, I saw on the news that there had been a huge suicide attack at Kabul airport, in which over 170 Afghans died. It was a terrifying moment for me.
After we arrived in the UK, we were placed in a hotel. For a whole week, we had no idea where our parents were, and we had nothing to do all day apart from worry about them.
They finally managed to get in touch with us through my uncle’s Facebook – we spoke to them and found out they had moved because our flat had been destroyed. It was looted by people who took almost everything – TV, carpet, furniture.
My parents are not safe in Afghanistan. The Taliban questioned them about where we were and took their phones too. They found our numbers – mine and my brother’s – and this made them more suspicious.
My dad has had to change his phone number 10 times. On top of having asthma, my mum has diabetes too, but it is difficult for her to go outside to the hospital. That is because the Taliban don’t let women leave the house alone and my father can’t leave either because it is not safe for him. The whole situation is terrible – they have moved to a safer area, but everywhere is dangerous.
In the UK, I have taken on the responsibility of looking after my brother and sister. My little sister used to cry in the morning and say that she doesn’t want to go to school because she wants her mum and dad. I would reply: ‘Don’t worry, our mum and dad are coming. One day.’
When I see my sister so sad, I can’t control myself. My brother also wants and needs his parents. It’s hard living with such uncertainty.
After a long time in different hotels, I moved into my own home with my brother and sister in Yorkshire. It’s really tough for me. I am 19 years old now but I am like a mum to my siblings. I clean the house and cook, but I mostly stay at home and look at people outside. I have started a new course, but how can I focus on my education?
I have asked the Home Office to help bring my parents over and I have spoken with three or four different lawyers. They all say to just wait, but it is now 19 months since we last saw them. It’s unbearable.
My message for the UK Government is: ‘Please just bring my mum and dad over. We just need a visa for them.’ The UK Government is powerful.
All people should have rights, it shouldn’t matter if they came on the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) for those who worked with the military, or the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS), like we did.
I am a human. I have pain, family, and feelings – just like everybody else. I know many other Afghan families who were separated from close family too.
The problem seems to be that no one feels our pain. The Government should keep its promise to help Afghan people and change the unfair rules to allow refugee children to bring our parents to safety.
In the future, I’d like to study and work with computers. If my parents come to the UK, I can go to college, get a full-time job and have opportunities like other young people.
This Mother’s Day, I hope for every family and every mum to be near to her children.
I hope that by this same time next year, I can be reunited with my family.
The Refugee Council is campaigning to reunite separated refugee families, as part of The Families Together Coalition – you can find out more on their website here.
Immigration Nation is a series that aims to destigmatise the word ‘immigrant’ and explore the powerful first-person stories of people who’ve arrived in the UK – and called it home. If you have a story you’d like to share, email email@example.com
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