Upside Down

By Parwana Amiri
Bicycles leaned against simple bunk beds.
Photo Copyright: Nasratullah Rahmati. Taken by the son of the family described in this story when the author gave him her phone.

Upside Down 


     “Rahmat came home and told us to collect all our belongings in two days, and that we will leave Afghanistan,” Z. says with joy and excitement in her eyes.

      She wears panjabi, her two younger daughters too. One is 12 and the other is 13. None wear hijab, but their companions do, they were wearing it in Afghanistan as well. They seem to be comfortable in their traditional colorful dress both have brought from Afghanistan, but the way others are looking at them makes them uncomfortable. 

     My analysis of outfits and physical appearance of people is not yet complete, but I will never change my hijab just because others have not seen this type of clothing. In fact this group of people who decide to keep their confidence in what they wear are matured, self dependent and aware of their right to self determination , but those who want to wear what others expect them to wear need to train themselves.

     What is it called? Hmm I think it is mainly the ideology of the idealists.

     Z. knows nothing about crossing borders, as she passed them all with a legal document, with a passport, so she also knows nothing about the camps and detentions. Their first station was Pakistan and their last one Germany.

     What if this were the summary of the story for all refugees passing borders?

     “What happened when they did the evacuation?” I ask the woman. 

      “My husband was working in the German military camp in Kunduz province of Afghanistan as a barber for some years.” 

      The laws about acceptance of refugees is one of the most complicated, unfair, bureaucratic and violent systems of instruction of rules I have ever faced. A scandalous game of truth, which is mercurised by lies. The concept of humanity has the weakest voice in it, this would have never happened if the priority would be the life of people, not their arrival in seeking asylum. 

     The first time I met Z.  was when her husband, R, came to me and asked me to fill out the asylum documents of his family. He came to me with a bundle of passports in his hands.

     “How many children do you have?” I asked him curiously. 

     “Seven children,” he answered calmly. 

     His answer made me get more curious to know his age, and I found from the passport that he was just 35. 

     “How did you get this type of passport?” I asked him while filling out his family’s documents. 

     The type of passport they had was not from Afghanistan, it was something eligible to travel to Europe with no need for a visa. 

     “The organization made them for us themselves within two weeks,” he answered warmly. 

     “And yes, it took my family two years to come from the margins of Europe to the center of Europe,” he added.  

     Some days have passed and Z. got closer to all of us. She is a silent woman and some days later as she had an appointment in the hospital, I go and find out that she is pregnant. 

     This makes me sad, I just think of her youngest baby which is still breastfeeding. 

     She is physically weak and has not gotten used to her new life. 

     Is she thinking about abortion? 

     In Afghanistan abortion is not under control of the government, but is a self decision and religiously not allowed in a sense, it is called “Haram.” But there is no punishment if the man and woman agree on it. 

     In the past few days she was feeling terrible, and in the last appointment with the doctor the risk of birth was alarming. 

     She needs to decide. 

     “Whom were you living with in Kunduz?” I ask her in the common kitchen we use in the camp where we live together. 

     “My husband’s family, and four more brides from the same family. All in a self constructed house which all the brothers built with bricks.”

     Last night eating dinner with my parents and two sisters, all around one table cloth, enjoying the Bamya cooked by my mom, my father with a full mouth said, “I asked mister E. that he should thank Allah for being here, otherwise who could feed all these children in this economic crisis in Afghanistan.” Then he answered with wet eyes that tears circled around.

     “I would have sold one or two of them.” 

     This made me put down the bite of food I prepared to put in my mouth. This made me think of thousands of families who were suffering under this condition and the world was forgetting them day by day. 

     This is a harsh reality, but you are not to know about it until you want to know. 

     The children will keep the name of their country in mind and in their memories, but will be trained to know more about Germany which is to become their second land. They will grow the soil of this second homeland of themselves in their heart. 

     A land in which the mind of many countries is raised.

     My experiences in the camps of Greece are not letting me see the system of imperialism far from my eyes, it is happening to those minds who are escaping. 

     But things are deeper than what I am analyzing, something like the tip of a mountain. Or reading one page of any four religious books.

     All in all, it is about us and what we can do, which we have never done. Like connecting first class with last class, or people who live in another world to the world you live in and all your problems are to run your daily life or overrun it. 

     I like self analysis, so I am wrong if you think I am an aparthedist, but you are if you are thinking that my self-absorbed thoughts are so complicated that you are part of another world.

17 September, 2022