Stories of Afghanistan Refugees

Afghan children have known nothing but conflict their entire lives. Since June, tens of thousands of Afghan children have fled their homes amid escalating violence, seeking safety and unsure of what their future may hold.

War-torn Afghanistan is one of the worst places in the world to be a child. When asked why they flee, the vast majority of the refugees Save the Children has worked with say their main reason for fleeing was so their children could have a childhood, an education and a chance at a future. 

Save the Children has been working in Afghanistan since 1976. Today, we have paused our operations in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s announcement that women are banned from working for INGOs. We cannot and will not operate without the full participation of and guarantees of safety for our female front line and office-based staff.

Afghanistan, a child draws inside the tent she lives in with her family

Jakey's* Story: The fear of being taken by armed groups

Jakey was 12 years old when he fled Afghanistan. Traveling by foot, he spent a year moving across Afghanistan into Pakistan, then Iran, Turkey and Bulgaria, until finally settling in Serbia.

Recalling his difficult journey, Jakey said, "When I first arrived I was scared and tired. I didn’t have anybody." 

Jakey's five brothers and two sisters remained in Afghanistan. "It's a really difficult situation [in Afghanistan] for boys that are 15 or 16," he said. "They [armed groups] can just come and say you need to be a soldier. If you say no, they can kill you."

At the temporary refugee settlement where he was staying with other unaccompanied minors, Save the Children provided Jakey with assistance. "Now I know some people here," said Jakey, referring to, among others, Amila*, his Save the Children legal guardian. 

"In the future, I would like to study English," he said.

An Afghan girl holds her hands together while standing outside in a refugee camp.

Ferhana’s* Story: Dreaming of going to bed without being hungry

At ten-years old, Ferhana was living in a tent settlement in Balkh, Afghanistan after her family was displaced by conflict. When COVID hit, Ferhana's parents struggled to find work and afford food. The entire family, including Ferhana's four siblings, survived off tea and bread.

While Ferhana's father would sell things he found to buy biscuits for the family, on the days he didn't find anything, the family went hungry. For five months, the family was unable to buy a single piece of meat, vegetable or fruit.

As COVID continued to spread across Afghanistan, Ferhana grew more scared. 

With the help of Save the Children, the family was able to buy goats. Not only could they begin to eat fresh dairy products again, Ferhana's father began making plans to sell more dairy to a local farm and generate a sustainable income for the family once again. 

Ferhana used to dream of the day she could fall asleep without being hungry. Now, she thinks about how she wants to become a teacher when she grows up - and help make her student's dreams come true. 

Tents are set up in Afghanistan.

Azar's* Story: "You need to help these people."

Azar wore plastic sandals on his otherwise bare feet. It was so cold outside, that the puddles surrounding the leaking tents where 14-year old Azar and other Afghan refugees slept had frozen over. 

Despite the dire conditions at the refugee camp in Croatia where Azar had been living, he remembered the mountainous journey as being even more dangerous. "Fear is constant in the mountains," he said. "There were also wolves. That’s the scary part."

Azar's journey to get from Afghanistan to his leaking tent in Croatia had not been easy. Following a failed first attempt, Azar traveled through the mountains on foot to go from Afghanistan to Iran, from Iran to Turkey and from Turkey to Greece. After that, he traveled to Serbia, then Bosnia and finally to Croatia. 

"I feel bad in my heart," Azar said when discussing the other Afghan refugees he met all along the way and at the camp where he lives. "My only request is that you need to help these people. I don’t have any other demands.”


Two children walk outside in a vast area of Afghanistan.

Mohammad's* Story: Back in Kabul, seeking safety

Mohammad and his family tried desperately to escape Afghanistan. They first traveled to Iran and then used a smuggler to get to Turkey. The two-day journey to Turkey was extremely dangerous, and they traveled by horse and on foot at different stages. At one point Mohammad fell off the horse because his father was so tired he couldn’t hold him anymore.

Once in Turkey, Mohammad’s family traveled across the country to the Aegean Sea, at which point they were put on a boat made for five people, but with 25 people on board. After the two-hour boat trip they continued their journey across Europe and eventually made it to Norway.

The day they arrived in Norway, Mohammad’s family formally registered as asylum seekers. Mohammad started going to school, had many friends and played football. Mohammad was popular and enjoyed school. He and his family saw their future in Norway and always felt safe.

However, after four years living in Norway, Mohammad and his family’s refugee application was rejected by the Norwegian government, and they were told they must leave the country. Soon after, the police arrived at the family’s apartment and they were arrested and put in detention for 20 days. Then they were flown back to Afghanistan and provided with a small amount of money to help with the return process.

Arriving in Kabul, Mohammad and his family had to set up new lives, having sold all their possessions when they fled the country. In Kabul, amid escalating violence, many families like Mohammad's are desperately seeking safety and unsure of what their future may hold.

*Name changed for protection. 


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