Diary of an Afghan refugee in Barcelona: “Here I am and this is my home now”

  • Journalist Feridoon Aryan, his wife and children were evacuated from Pakistan after fleeing Kabul following the capture of the capital by the Taliban

  • This is the heartfelt and personal chronicle of what they have been forced to leave behind and of a future with “hope” in the city that has welcomed them.

I believed that the year 2021 would bring with it less misery, death, destruction and unhappiness than what we Afghans have suffered and become accustomed to in the last 40 years. But, unfortunately it was not like that. On August 15, these backward, extremist, evil and brutal forces called Taliban once again entered Kabul, and with their anger annulled our dreams and aspirations, mine, those of my family, those of 39 million Afghans and forced us to leave everything and everyone to be safe. A couple thousand Afghans we have been lucky and we were able to escapeBut millions face humiliation, torture, starvation, and daily deaths under its clutches. We spent a month in Pakistan in a rented room, going out only to knock on embassies. We had been promised that we would be evacuated if we managed to get out of Kabul and reach a third country where we could get a visa to grant us refugee status. We tried numerous times. We eagerly await news from these friendly countries. Luck smiled on us when, thanks to the Government of Spain and some good friends from Catalonia, we managed to get out of this immensely stressful situation and We were able to leave Pakistan and arrive in Madrid on October 12, 2021. We spent the first night safely and without fear of persecution, but I had officially become a refugee. He told me that it was all a nightmare, that I was sleeping in the cozy room of my house in Kabul and that none of it was real. I tried to sleep, but could not overcome the agony and pain that broke my heart, broke my spirit, made me gasp for breath. I felt broken, with shattered pride, empty and useless, without any sense of belonging. I couldn’t sleep that night. I was wide awake, confused, knowing that I had become a homeless and worried person. Why did we deserve that fate? I tried to calm myself thinking about the future, about my children, about protecting them and making it possible for them to grow up in a new place, with hope and a smile on my lips, safe from feeling gripped by horror.

Five beds

I spent that very long night awake and the next day we went to Barcelona. Our new life began when we arrived at an old house. We were given the largest room since we were a family. It was almost empty, with three doors, bars on the windows, five beds, a couple of closets, and a bare concrete floor. This was to be our home for many months to come.. The days passed without much to do beyond going from date to date. The only thing that kept me in my right mind and made me happy was the visit of our good friends and people from Barcelona. If it hadn’t been for them, I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to cope. They invited us to their home, they took us to visit the sights of Barcelona. I realised that each day that passed my children were calmer than the previous and that little by little I was also leaving the past behind, difficult as it seemed to bury it and move on.

I started to get used to this new life after a few weeks, even though my wandering soul was slipping away and I was still in Kabul. I couldn’t hold back crying when I thought of my beautiful city, family and the friends we had left behind. I felt paralyzed thinking about them and feared that I would never regain the will to live. The children had such terrifying nightmares that they constantly woke up and we spent the nights comforting them and telling them that nothing here could hurt them anymore. My children’s plight and not being able to do much more for them hurts the most. The disaster that struck Afghanistan also tragically separated our family. The constant worry to be together again corrodes my soul and disturbs my heart. Afghanistan has a system of unique natural psychological support and is that of the family, and the extended family, who come to help whenever there is a tragedy. I always wish and dream of being a whole family again and I hope that Spain, and Barcelona in particular, will help us to stay together. I’ll be missing something until we can’t all get together. The days and nights will pass without pain or glory, my gaze will not do justice to the beautiful landscapes of Catalonia, I will feel empty and sad.

Pride and dignity

For refugees, the financial situation is a daily stress, tedious and worrying. It is for everyone, I know but it is much more difficult when you cannot work and you depend on the system and you have expenses that the system cannot bear because it is under pressure to serve more and more people. In Afghanistan we had a stable economic situation. I made a good living working as a spokesperson and responsible Media Relations for Unicef and my wife, Nooria Fakhree Aryan, she was a professor at a private university. We had high hopes for our future careers, me as a journalist and Nooria as a gynecologist. Now I feel overwhelmed and wonder day and night how we can pay for daycare, fix school uniforms, or get stationery. I swallow my pride and dignity and wish that one of our good Catalan friends step forward to take care of it. And that thought is also difficult to digest, because I am aware that they also all have their own lives and families to take care of and they work very hard to get every penny.

My good friends tell me that step by step. It is an important phrase for me. Many people use it here. And, it is true, little by little life has returned to normal and I have been feeling more and more full of hope and desire to live. I began to introduce changes in my life, starting with the room they gave us, which I fixed with what little I could and the little that kind-hearted friends gave me. I changed the arrangement of the beds and tried to accept that there, in that space, the four of us lived. I never complained about my situation, I took it as it came and convinced myself that I had to forget the memories of everything I lost -from my former prosperous life- if I wanted to maintain my sanity. We reorganize.

Kind land

My seven-year-old son started school and I started a language course. We are busy in our day to day with legal matters, new experiences and challenges that have come our way along the way. Now I see life in a different way and I am happy to be here. My children are fine and are back in good spirits, they go to the park, they go to school and I see them happy. I am grateful to the best people in the world, the people of Catalonia, the Spanish Government, the Catalan Parliament and my friends here. I wake up stronger every day and with more hope for the future and the days to come. I hope that after learning the language I can be a journalist again, to help people and to feel again that we are together with our families. I feel happy in a kind land where the first thing is humanity and not religion, the color or the language. I mean it very loud and clear. I am happy in Barcelona. You are amazing people. Decent, educated, friendly, courteous, and helpful. What would we have done without you? Here I am and this is my home nowHappy holidays to each and every one of you. May this Christmas bring more happiness and prosperity. I hope my children see the Three Wise Men for the first time.

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And I end with a poem by my favorite poet Sohrab Sepheri.

“It doesn’t matter where I am. The sky is always mine. Windows, ideas, air, love, earth, all mine. What difference does it make if sometimes nostalgia grows like a mushroom?”


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