Afghan refugees forced to live in makeshift settlements in children’s park

Zubair Qureshi

Some 220 families of Afghanistan’s Hazara community (Afghan nationals from Hazarajat) are forced to take shelter in a makeshift tent settlement in a Children Park opposite the National Press of Islamabad in sector F-6.

There is only one public toilet for the entire community living in the makeshift arrangement. Besides, they have problems like where to take a bath and in case of rains, and there is plenty of rain these days, they have to take shelter under the shade of the shops of the nearby market.

Last year, these Afghan refugees families fled insurgency after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan fearing for their lives and arrived in Pakistan. Later, moving from one city to the other some of them settled in Islamabad.

Here, finding no other place to go they are now living in deplorable conditions on a children’s playing ground.

They belong to Hazarajat areas of Afghanistan, the provinces where the Hazara community mostly lives—Bamiyan, Daykundi, Ghazni, Parwan, Ghor, Maidan Wardak, and Samangan.

Surraya Mosawi, a 33 years old university graduate from Herat said half of these people living in the tent settlement are in the 1-18 years age bracket.

Surraya Mosawi, a 33 years old university graduate from Herat said half of these people living in the tent settlement are in the 1-18 years age bracket.

Mosawi was born in Iran in a refugee camp. She was 15 when upon the Iranian government’s decision to charge refugees for education her parents decided for voluntary repatriation.

The Hazara community was a target of various Taliban groups even during the Karzai and the Ashraf Ghani regimes but life was pretty uncertain after the Taliban took over last year. In this way, she said she was a refugee once again.

“I can still remember it was like a nightmare when we heard the Taliban had taken over Kabul and President Ashraf Ghani with all his men had fled the country.

There was blood, fire and violence everywhere and everyone was running for his life,” recalled Surraya.

Some of the Hazara community members left Kabul in the international rescue flights. She along with others headed to Pakistan however still a large number is living in Afghanistan.

She said the Hazara community people living in Afghanistan were facing a perpetual threat. Some militant groups within the Taliban attack and kill them for no reason at all.

Another Afghan girl of the tent village Somaiya, 18, said in Pakistan, at least their lives were safe. She said the Pakistani authorities had not asked them to vacate the park but still they were facing a number of problems.

Dawood Poya, 26, said they were facing acute water shortage.

A kind lady in the neighbourhood had provided them with a couple of tanks for storing water which was of great help but even then water was insufficient for their daily use, he said.

We want permanent residence and request the government of Pakistan to provide our children with education and other facilities like health coverage, etc, said one elderly lady. Our men need some jobs for livelihood.

In Afghanistan, they used to work, study and participate in social activities but here they had nothing to do and no one employed them, she said.


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