Save Lithuania from the threat of being killed by Afghans
“My biggest dream is to go back to my native Afghanistan one day, but right now it’s stronger,” said Taher (his last name redacted, but he asked not to be released out of fear for the safety of other family members left in Afghanistan), one of nearly 200 to Afghans who fled Lithuania from the Taliban regime. Although they do not need to hide in our country, they still do not feel completely safe.
34-year-old Taher, a bachelor of law and political science, was a translator for Lithuanian soldiers who carried out a mission in Afghanistan. When the hardline Islamic Taliban regime returned to power last August after two decades, Taher and his family became insecure in their homeland as the Taliban began to persecute Afghans who had helped the country’s foreign troops.
Taher, his wife and three children, part of the so-called Kabul Eleven, were transferred to Lithuania, where they applied for asylum.
Now he is an official political refugee, works in one of Vilnius restaurants and tries to support his large family. And it is not simple. Although Taher and his children no longer have to constantly look over their shoulder, fearing for their lives, the ever-rising prices of electricity, utilities and food are forcing Afghan families to scrimp.
“However, at least we are safe in Lithuania, while the rest of my family members who remain in Afghanistan are at risk of persecution,” said Taher.
The family of Nessar (surname withheld for family safety) also fears the crackdown, as the Taliban regime sweeps away anyone who does not adhere to the strict requirements of Sharia or has ever supported the Taliban’s anti-Taliban camp.
Nessar’s stepfather served in the Afghan army of the previous government. The family did not manage to leave the homeland in time, so now they are hiding and living in the hope of escaping abroad one day.
“We, the children of the war, cannot tell our life story and express all our problems in a few ways. They are multifaceted. I am lucky that today I can think freely and live peacefully. However, there are thousands of young people like me who just want to live today,” said 23-year-old Nesar.
Nesar longs for his family to be safe someday. Many Afghan families persecuted by the Taliban regime also seek to somehow escape their freedom. Albertas Kelmelis, a social activist living in Norway, is looking for ways to get at least one other person to Lithuania.
“Germany has recently submitted a program for the resettlement of Afghan scientists, athletes, cultural figures and other vulnerable persons. How are we, Lithuanians, worse than the Germans, who transfer “brains” that can contribute a lot to the well-being of the country?”, asked A. Kelmelis.
Once ready to escape
Last August, the so-called Kabul Eleven moved 179 Afghans to Lithuania – translators who helped Lithuanian soldiers and their families. All of them applied for asylum. 178 Afghans have been granted refugee status and one person has gone to Germany.
In March of this year, another 20 Afghans – former employees of the NATO operation in Afghanistan – were transferred to Lithuania. All of them applied for asylum and were all granted refugee status.
Afghans displaced by the Kabul Eleven were temporarily accommodated in Raseini. While waiting to receive refugee status, they learned the Lithuanian language and often sought to acquire a new profession in order to establish themselves in the Lithuanian labor market.
“Hello, it’s nice to meet you,” said Nesaras in free Lithuanian, who is trying to fit in as best as possible in Lithuania, which has given him refuge.
Nesar had previously dreamed of becoming a journalist, worked as a photographer for the Afghan media for several years, and aspired to graduate from the private Kardan University.
“In my homeland, I constantly saw various painful events. Media work in countries like Afghanistan is difficult and dangerous. And the Taliban will never recognize speech and democracy, so when this regime came to freedom, I felt threatened not only as a journalist, but also to live in my country as a free-thinking young person,” said Nesar.
When applying for political refugee status, a young Afghan man told the complicated story of his life on more than one sheet of paper.
“I am from Ghor, one of the most backward and insecure provinces of Afghanistan. My native village is Tevara. Ever since I came into this world, I felt like I was born in a very wrong place – as soon as I started walking, I wished I had never been born, because my country took everyone I loved from me,” Nesar wrote.
According to him, when in 2001 After the fall of the previous Taliban government, no woman in his home village could get any official job. Nessar’s mother aspired to become the first, so she became the head of women’s affairs in Ghor province, but then she began to receive constant threats from the Taliban and the terrorist group “Al Qaeda” associated with it, and was attacked several times.
When Nesar was five, a bomb was dropped on his house at night. Žušuo, and Nesar and his mother survived because they happened to be sleeping in another house at the time. Due to the constant danger to his life, Nesar had to divorce his mother.
But even living alone he did not feel safe. Once, when he was 10 or 11 years old, he was kidnapped and tortured on his way from school, but later escaped.
As a teenager, Nesar crossed the Afghan border illegally into Turkey, but was returned to his homeland.
“When I returned, I saw how dozens of young people were killed, including my friends: on November 3, 2020, terrorists attacked Kabul University when a new book was being presented there. I saw guys and girls shot who, like me, dreamed of being free.
I escaped the confrontation myself by chance, because I had not yet arrived at Kabul University to see my friend – only as I approached him I saw people running away from there. After this attack, I decided to ask for asylum in Lithuania, because I know that I too can be killed at any time. Especially since I work in the media, which constantly receives threats of retaliation,” Nesar wrote in his asylum application.
Haunted by terrible dreams
Nesar escaped from Afghanistan last year on August 25, with the help of the so-called Kabul eleven – he received the right to request asylum in Lithuania, because his mother in Afghanistan cooperated with the Lithuanian army.
For a few months, while his request for political asylum was being considered, Nesaras learned the Lithuanian language and a new profession. The employment service offered him courses in cooking or hairdressing. Nesar decided to become a hairdresser.
“For the first week after arriving in Raseinius, I felt confused because my life would no longer be in danger. It was a completely new experience for me. But I often had nightmares that reminded me of what I experienced in Afghanistan. My soul finally calmed down only after a month, when I really started to feel no more danger,” said Nesar.
After receiving the status of a political refugee, the Afghan moved to Vilnius, rented an apartment and found a job in one of the prestigious beauty salons.
“It’s still difficult for me to survive, because the apartment rent is more than my salary, and no one can support me financially, so I have to find solutions myself. However, I already have regular customers, they know me, I can already speak a little Lithuanian and that is enough to understand the customers’ wishes. I hope that I will study at the university again,” said the Afghan.
Although he himself feels safe in Lithuania, he constantly worries about his family remaining in Afghanistan. Nessar was lucky because he was in Kabul when the Kabul XI evacuated the Afghans who stood by us. And his family took a long time to get to Kabul from Chagchan, the capital of Ghor province, because the road was too dangerous – it was already under the control of the Taliban.
“For now, I don’t expect to go back to Afghanistan one day and see them – we only communicate online.” The situation in my country looks desperate for now and I don’t think it will get any better anytime soon. But I would really like my loved ones to be able to live without the fear of being killed because of the wrong clothes or a false message on the phone,” said Nesar.
Survives for his family
In Afghanistan, Taher cooperated with NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and during their mission of road assurance in military operations against Taliban fighters in various parts of Afghanistan.
In addition, he worked on the SIKA-West project of the international company AECOM, which ensures stability in key vulnerable areas.
“The Taliban know about this and are now looking for people who helped NATO allies, so if I had stayed in Afghanistan, the Taliban would have killed me in revenge,” Taher said.
After escaping from his homeland, the former translator of the Lithuanian army in Afghanistan got a job as a cook in a Mexican restaurant in Vilnius. For now, he is the sole breadwinner of the family. Although his 8-year-old son attends school, and his 6-year-old daughter attends kindergarten, the youngest 4-year-old son has not yet received a place in kindergarten, so his wife is forced to look after him at home.
However, the family in Lithuania enjoys the freedom that they can never have in their homeland – they travel, have fun, just stay quietly at home, they are not afraid of being attacked.
Still, while Taher feels safe now, he worries about other relatives left in Afghanistan who have been forced into hiding.
“They have lost their homes and all other possessions and are constantly in fear for their lives because the Taliban is an extremist-terrorist group based on the principles of Islamic fundamentalism.” She does not believe in democracy, does not respect human rights – our sisters are not even allowed to study. Life under the Taliban’s brutal regime has become hell for educated Afghans.
My two youngest brothers used to be members of the national football team of Gor province, where we were born. Now they have lost hope and their dreams have died. The brothers cannot even return to their home province of Gor. Despite the fact that part of my family is safe in Lithuania, the other part is suffering in Afghanistan,” said Taher.
Taher is closely following the news in Afghanistan and has no hope that the situation there will improve any time soon. Not only are human rights being violated in the country, they have also experienced a social and economic crisis. There is a lack of food, so over 20 million Afghans are completely dependent on humanitarian aid.
“People are trying to escape from a brutal regime, from hunger. They are trying to cross the Afghan border illegally, but many Afghans have already died trying to escape,” Taher lamented.
He is still afraid to talk about himself and his family because he is afraid that he might harm them even more – the Taliban will find them and kill them.
Read the entire article in the Saturday newspaper “Lietuvos rytas”.