Just another refugee kid
You might find me in one of the overcrowded stinking slums outside a big city of Pakistan or Iran, or up in the mountains hiding from the latest danger. If I describe myself, it won’t help you much in your search. I do my best to look like any other kid, so the police will never find me and send me across the border. My name is Omid, and I’ll be fifteen my next birthday. My father gave me my name, which means Hope. The birth of a son brings hope, he said. I don’t know what he meant. Hope is something I lost when he left us once again to try to find somewhere for us to live in safety.
It is four years since he left us in my mother’s village in Afghanistan. We waited and waited for news after he had left. We hoped that maybe next year we would be together again. Next year has come and gone four times. My baby sister could not yet walk when our father went away. Last year my mother decided to take us to Pakistan. We could not live in her relative’s home any longer. We joined a group of refugees who also had to flee from their homes. This must have been the fifth time in my life that I had to flee from one place to another. I can’t even remember what happened the first two times.
I sometimes dream of a home where can live together in safety. I don’t care where that home is, just that we can be safe and live without fear, without bad dreams. I have to stay here and take care of my mother and my sister. Women and girls cannot live alone in this country or our country.
My mother has told me stories about my father. “When you father was fifteen years old he had to flee from his home in a mountain village to Iran. He traveled all alone to find work to support his aging grandparents. If he hadn’t fled he would have been forced to join the rebels and fight the Russians, and his grandparents would be left starving. He always came back home hoping that he would find a peaceful place for his family. Each time he returned there was a new war, and he refused to fight. That is why he always is on the run. They would kill him otherwise. He has always longed for peace. He has been in several countries, trying to find work and trying to make a home where we could live in safety.” Mother repeats that each time I complain about him leaving us.
Just now he is in a small country somewhere in Europe seeking asylum for himself, and as he says, for our whole family. Europe is very far away from where my mother and I and my little sister live. Sometimes I have talked with him on our cell phone. That is our only link with him. Mother always cries after she has talked with him. Sometimes even she thinks he has abandoned us.
I remember a short time of peace when my father took us back to Kabul, the capital city. It was quite frightening to see the ruins of bombed houses. Father said we would be safe now. His cousin knew one of the rulers of the city who had promised to take care of us.
Father had returned from Europe. We might have been able to join him there if his cousin had not asked him to return. There in Kabul, we lived in a nice small house with a tiny garden where mother quickly planted some of her favorite vegetables. Coriander grew quickly and gave a distinct aroma to our food. I helped her tie strings for the yellow and green beans to climb the fence. Tomatoes, cauliflower, and eggplant grew in that small garden. I saw my mother was happy again.
She did not have time to gather in the harvest when we had to flee again. My father’s cousin was shot, and the Taliban was looking for all his relatives and friends. My baby sister was born in a cave somewhere up in the mountains where we were hiding. We returned to the village where my mother was born. It was not safe even there for my father to stay for longer visits. He said that one day he would find a safe place for our family.
To be continued.