I received support for the first time –The reality of Afghan Returnees

After July of last year, The Pakistan government strengthened its  repatriation policy of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan and many people were forced to return to their home country. Among them, about 310,000 are referred to as “Non-registered returnees”. Because they were living without refugee registration in Pakistan, they could not get a certification from the United Nations for returning. Most of them have not received any support so far. Anisa Guru (age 33), a non-registered returnee, now lives with her six children in Nangahar Province, eastern Afghanistan. We talked to her about her living conditions.

"We have not received any support so far"

When I was eight years old, Afghanistan was in the midst of civil war from the then Mujahideen administration. So, our family evacuated to Pakistan. We lived peacefully after arriving in Peshawar, Pakistan. I lived with my family and got married when I was 16 years old. My husband could not read or write, so he worked selling fruit to support our family. The income was meagre but I was happy. I believed that life would get better once our children were born, grown and educated.
    I have six children. My eldest daughter is 16 years old, my eldest son is 14 years old, my second daughter 11 years old, my second son 8 years old and my third and fourth sons are six years old. My second daughter was born with a disability in one leg. She needed surgery, but we could not afford it. Considering her future, we borrowed money from relatives to pay for the surgery. However, there is still a disability on her leg. Then, a more tragic event befell our family. One day three years ago, a suicide bombing occurred in Sadel, Peshawar where we lived. My husband was involved in it and was killed. I fell over in shock on the spot. I have never had a more shocking and sad incident in my life to date. I did not have the knowledge to live or job. I did not know how to feed my six children. I asked my husband’s brother if he could provide just a place to live and he lent me 7000 yen to pay the rent. However, being a day labor, he could not afford to lend money. After a few months, he said to me that he could not pay the rent.  
 I thought that I had to live by myself somehow. I knocked on the doors of nearby houses, asking “Do you need help cleaning?” but nobody would hire me. The children would come to me and say “We are starving”. We only had a little bit of money at that time.
I visited nearby houses for work as hard as I could. Then a family asked, “Will you wash
 our laundry?” I answered immediately,” I will.” That was my first job. I could not earn enough money to let my children go to school, but they never got hungry anymore. I strongly remember feeling happy at that time since I was able to at least provide for my family by myself. The families that knew my situation gave me their kids’ old clothes, some extra food, and tips. My family was not able to live without them. That was my life in Pakistan.
    However, our life in Pakistan did not continue for long. The Pakistan government strengthened its policy of repatriating Afghan refugees. We believed that not only would the Pakistan police force us off there, but they would use violence because we were not registered refugees. That is why we decided to leave Pakistan.
Anisa(right) purchasing by coupons that AAR Japan distributed(Apr. 3rd, 2017)

    We live in Jalalabad, Nangahar Province with other families who cannot pay the full rent by themselves. I have to work for the rent nonetheless. It is completely different from Pakistan here. In Pakistan, I could walk out and work, but here it is too dangerous to do so. If anything happens to me, who will protect the children? We had not been able to receive any assistance from anyone. In order to return to Afghanistan from Pakistan, it is necessary to cross the border of Talkham in the Nangahar Province. Aid was distributed there. However, we could not receive it since our family was not registered as refugees. The Afghanistan government did not support us at all even when I asked for help at the refugee・returnee management office numerous times. These $200 coupons and solar panels that I have received from AAR Japan is the first bit of support I’ve received. With this, I can let my children eat thanks to this support. I hope that these kinds of problems disappear and I am able to live safely.

Anisa's brothers-in-law carried goods on truck bed(Apr.3rd, 2017)
Anisa went back home on truck bed with her brothers-in-law because they have a custom which women hardly walk out alone(Apr.3rd, 2017)

AAR will continue to support persons with disabilities, women like Anisa, are and others who have yet to receive any support. We are grateful for your continued co-operation and kind emergency donations.

English editing by Mr. Joseph Scutella