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In the 1980s during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, young men and women were being picked up off the street for no reason, no trial and no news of where they were being taken. Thousands of mothers mourned the disappearance of their children each day. Fearful of being the next family to mourn, my mother and father fled with their families through a passage in the mountains. Like millions of Afghans, they were forced to take refuge in Pakistan, their only option at the time.
My parents met and got married in a refugee camp in Peshawar, Pakistan, where my siblings and I were born and raised. As we were growing up, we always had a sense of emptiness. Our entire life, we felt like we did not belong. We were not allowed identification, which restricted us from most things. Feeling unsatisfied and fed up with our situation, we tried to decide whether to return to the war zone we had fled from over 30 years ago.
Deciding to return was as difficult as deciding to leave. Once again, it felt as if we had no option: Do we spend the rest of our lives being invisible in a society that could never accept us, or do we return to our country which is considered to be the most dangerous country in the world? In 2017, fear of dying with no purpose caused us to leave our homeland, Afghanistan, where our safety was not assured, however, it was where we could finally establish our sense of identity.
My first week in Afghanistan taught me lessons that I will not be able to learn anywhere else. It was approximately 1am, on our fourth day in Kabul. Suddenly, there was an intense shake, followed by a horrific noise. The sound was something we had never heard before. We were all awake. Terrified, we were covering ourselves under our beds. I will never forget my younger brother’s face as he huddled inside my mother's arms. My mother's face had gone flush yellow, yet she was trying to stay strong for us.
The sound was from the blast that had taken place in the US Embassy in Kabul. Days after the attack, we were out of our routine, unable to eat properly, from the fear that we had felt. That is when I realised, being a refugee for 21 years of my life as an invisible person, was actually a blessing. We were blessed, because we did not have to experience suicide bombings every week, we were blessed, because we were all alive, and we were blessed because our tomorrow was certain.
These people in these photos are my motivation for action.
In 2018, I moved to New Zealand. Now I am living in a developed country, I believe it is not too late. We can do a lot by showing respect and following the humanitarian rules of war. If we do not abide by them, not only will a nation be destroyed, but the whole of humanity.
Read more about international humanitarian law (IHL)
International humanitarian law (IHL) is a set of rules that seeks, for humanitarian reasons, to limit the effects of armed conflict. Since the 1860s, the Red Cross Movement has worked to develop and uphold the law, raising awareness and strengthening implementation.
Read more here