Afghan refugees in Spain struggle to rebuild their lives

By Javier López and Ana Rodrigo

Madrid, Aug 18 (EFE).- Arezo Rahimi and Sameem Keyan arrived in Spain a year ago after fleeing from Afghanistan a few days after the Taliban took control of the country.

Back home, Arezo was the president of the Women’s Football Federation while Sameem worked as a translator for foreign journalists.

While moving to Spain has saved their lives, one year later, they are still struggling to build a life and find employment.

“We have to start from scratch, a new house, new people, new culture. Learning languages makes integration easier, but we have problems finding a house because we don’t have a job, we need a salary to rent,” Arezo, who has not given up on her football career, tells Efe.

“I would like to create a team, but I have no help or resources at the moment,” she says.

“I could also coach other Afghans I have contacted or even a Spanish team, but for now all I can do is study Spanish and go back home,” she adds.

Arezo managed to flee Afghanistan with part of her family, although many of her relatives were forced to stay behind.

“They had no passport and have not been able to leave, they have had no help, they are in a difficult situation,” she says.

The former football president says the situation in Afghanistan is particularly bad for women which have been a key target for the Taliban.

“Poverty is our big problem, security is our big problem, not women, but the Taliban only focus on women, (…) not going to school, not wearing light colors, not working, not going alone outside the home, they just stay at home, I don’t know why.”

Like Arezo, Sameem is also struggling to build a life in Spain.

“I had no option to stay, I had to leave my country. For people who had played an active role in the previous government or who had worked with international organizations, living in Afghanistan with the Taliban became very dangerous,” the former translator tells Efe.

Sameem fled Afghanistan with his wife and child and has since had a second baby in Spain. He says although they have had a kind reception in Spain, he is worried for the future.

“We are happy to live with very friendly people, like the Spaniards, and to be able to receive the support of the government and the citizens. But I feel uncertain about what might happen in the future,” he says.

The former translator, who is still residing in the reception center where he first arrived one year ago, says the main issue for Afghan refugees is finding a home and employment.

“Faced with the problems of finding work, many refugees have decided to move to other countries with better job opportunities where they think they will find it easier to build a life,” he says, referring to some of his relatives moving to Germany, where there are more opportunities.

In the meantime, he is sending the little money he has back to Afghanistan to help support his three sisters who have stayed behind.

“I am sending money, but I want them to come because they are suffering a lot there.

“I hope that in the future everyone, including those who are still in Afghanistan, will be able to live in peace. We all deserve to live in peace and be treated equally,” says Sameem. EFE

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