This week is International Refugee Week, and throughout the week, we are putting the spotlight on some of the refugees that have settled in Dorset.

Today we hear from Fayeza and Mustafa from Afghanistan. 

They and their two young children became refugees when the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in 2021.

Both were well qualified with university degrees and held down good jobs.

Fayeza used to work at the refugee centre helping those who had had to flee their homes, and Mustafa was a teacher before working as a data analyst with the group WAW (Women for Afghan Women). He was also working for the BBC as a translator, translating the daily radio and TV broadcasts.

As the Taliban was fighting in Faryab, close to their home, they remember the army on one side of her home, the Taliban the other, shots being fired across their house. It was too dangerous to stay there at night when the skies would be red with gunfire, and they would go into the nearby town to friends and family to sleep before returning the next day. 

They had to pick bullets out of the walls of their bedroom to keep the house clean and tidy. They lost friends and relatives during this time; their neighbours were killed by the Taliban along with hundreds of other civilians.

The BBC contacted Mustafa offering a way out, to Pakistan, India or Turkey, but they had to get to Kabul. Faryab was in full Taliban control by then, and they travelled by car as soon as they could with their 3-year-old and 4 month old sons to get to Kabul.

At the airport they found thousands of others and mass confusion. They had no paperwork, just an email from the BBC giving them the right to seek refuge.

They had to sleep on the ground, with no food and little water. The Taliban were shooting people around the airport and there was nowhere safe to be. Mustafa found some other BBC employees and they stood in queues for hours.

As they were still outside the safe area with the British and American forces, the Taliban were beating people and Mustafa was injured.  After three days they finally got through to where the British Army were organising flights only to find Mustafa’s phone had no battery and they had no proof of permission to leave. Fortunately, they had sent a screenshot to a cousin in case their phones were stolen and he was able to send it to them. Finally, after days waiting, the family were flown out to Dubai.

On 25th August 2021 they arrived in Birmingham and were taken to a quarantine hotel in Gatwick, then on to a Bridging Hotel in Bournemouth. In January 2022 they were offered housing in Weymouth and the chance to start building their lives again.

It is impossible to stress how much they miss their family and friends and how much they would love to travel back to Afghanistan and visit them. They very much hope that one day it will be safe for them to do so.

Mustafa is now working as a teaching assistant in a Weymouth secondary school helping three Afghan children there with their studies.  He would like to become a teacher again one day.

Fayeza is busy with her children, the youngest is only 2 years old, but as he gets older, she would like to retrain as a social worker and is working to improve her English. She was unable to speak any when she arrived but has made amazing progress.

Whilst there is still great sadness about why they had to leave their home they are optimistic for the future with the opportunities to study and work in this country.

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