I was a little girl when I came to the Netherlands. I have very few memories of my childhood before the Netherlands but the ones that I have are vivid, alive and sometimes even scary. For a very long time my memories until my 9th/10th birthday were not even present. A few scenes would sometimes flash by but I could not make any sense out of it. One of those scenes that I kept on seeing was a big ocean of flames , a river and a hallway of a flat where we slept. The segments would flash by when someone mentioned Afghanistan or my parents talked about their life there but that was it. It was like 9 years of my life I was Blanco. I never saw that as an issue and most of the time blamed my chaotic mind for not remembering anything. The first time I was confronted with this is when family members would talk about the time in a refugee camp or their journey after that. I would not be able to have memories of it and I would run along on their memories and make a picture of it in my own mind. But what about my journey, how did the Sodaba of 4/5/6/7/8/9 years old feel, think or experience all of it? I wished that I knew how she experienced things and not really long ago I did experienced it. Not only that, but after 29 years of living in the Netherlands I was able to solve the puzzle of my life, my feelings, my experiences and my constant living in fear of uncertainty.
With the fall of Afghanistan this summer and my mind being more active and open to flashbacks I was about to experience what most people call PTSD but I call a moment of finally getting answers. The fragments in my mind became real stories and for the first time I had a very vivid and clear view on my time during the war, the journey out of Afghanistan and the time in a refugee camp. I remember the fear, the pain and the extreme sorrow my mother experienced when my father had to go away for his safety. I remembered fleeing in the night from our own house to my grandmothers house to live with them while my dad was gone. I remembered the darkness of no light at home and no water to consume. I remembered helping my youngest uncle to get water from the river , bring it to the 3th floor put it in the bathtub so that the sand etc. would sink and we could drink or bath. I remembered the bodies hanging from the traffic lights on the crossroad that was visible from the balcony of our flat. I remembered the bombs. The hard and mind muting sounds of destruction. Like a person coming back from amnesia it started all to come back bit by bit. The sleeping in the hall was because of the bombs so that if a bit of the flat was hit we had a chance to survive. The endless sitting at home not being able to go outside or play as a 4/5 year old and the constant firing and explosions that sometimes was visible from the 3th floor window of the flat. A huge explosion when a bomb hit an oil storage that from a mile away while standing against the big flat window I could feel its heat and see the sea of flames. The evacuation of thousands of poor people who had to leave their homes because of that event. Staring down from the 3th floor I saw the never ending line of people passing our flat but at that time I was not able to capture their despair. The bad luck of people living in the flat next to us who became victim of a bomb. The luck or unluck of a little one, just a few months old ,who was alive amongst the ruins of several families. The day of fleeing, a young girl of 5 wearing a headscarf, being scripted not to utter a word to no one, sitting on a white plastic chair in a crowded hall which was the passport check at the Kabul Airport. Feeling the anxiety and fear of her parents but not knowing from who and why. The hotel room in Pakistan , a very hard banging on the door and parents scared, talking to each other, telling me to be quite and to say we are going to India to visit family if someone may ask me. Like every 5 year old I had a million questions but did not want to bother my parents so I probably put it all in a file and hid it from them and eventually even from myself.
In every aspect of this story fleeing Afghanistan I found one common factor “ Fear”. Fear is imprinted in the minds and lives of people who flee war and prosecution. Fear is experienced in daily life even after 29 years. Fear is what moves people to save their families but fear is also the thing that ruins families once they have reached safety and never are offered help to process the fear. I know my story, my memories and my experiences is not the most brutal or horrific ones. Refugees have seen, felt and experienced much more and worst. The reason I am sharing this with you is not because I want sympathy for me. It is because I want you to realize that if a 5 year old child after 29 years still feels the after math of this journey in her daily life how do the refugees of now feel when they reach safety but feel unwanted and sometimes even unsafe. Do we call them barbaric or traumatized? Do they need exclusion from society or inclusion and mental help to process everything. Refugees are traumatized people in search for safety and help and by treating them as bad as we do we are underlining their fears. Refugees have been through a lot and believe me that they are not here to get your job or ruin your culture. They are here so that they can be alive. Be kind to them for history, and the present shows us that war creates refugees and that despair can even occur here in Europe.
My plea to everyone who can only share sympathy for a refugee who looks like them: Please be more human. Search for your soul and try to see through your differences with them. See the bond that you share. If you are a mother think how you would feel if your children would be in danger, if you are a father remember how far would you go to protect your family? If you are young and carefree try to understand how a lockdown made you feel? We are not even talking about the fear of death but just a single lockdown. How does it feel to be homeless? To be broke, to be traumatized? How does it feel to be human but not getting that dignity only because you don’t have blue eyes and blond hair. How does it feel to be unwanted? A trauma upon several other trauma’s that families have to digest.