Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Afghani Immigrants: Stories of Expatriation and Dreams of Return | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Jeddah Asharq Al-Awsat- Behind the finely detailed Persian carpets that never fail to attract works the young Afghani Mohammed Nour continuously day and night and irregularly receiving payment for his adjustments to the carpets to satisfy the demands of individual customers. The young man in his twenties who works in one of the carpet shops on Hiraa Street portrays a face behind which there is sharp intelligence. When the topic of Afghanistan arises, his face portrays both sadness for a homeland torn by wars, and a dream of returning so that maybe migrating Afghans who were dispersed by years of sectarianism would find their grounds there.

Mohammed says, &#34I wish that I could go home but I”m scared of losing the rest of my family.&#34 Despite this fear, Mohammed is arranging to visit his homeland after so long to visit his mother who has chosen a prospective wife for him.

Ali, known as &#34the Afghani&#34 to the visitors of Fakehat Lebnan restaurant on Al-Tahleya Street, would sell accessories for the house in front of the restaurant to raise a few riyals to buy himself a Shish Tawook sandwich (grilled chicken) that satisfies his appetite every evening as he moves between the cars whose owners stop to buy dinner. That is how he spends his evenings, whereas the morning is spent daydreaming of &#34going to school and reaching the fourth year.&#34

The ten years of Ali”s life have not allowed him to forget his country as the young Afghani frequently listens to all that his mother tells him about their beloved homeland. Not one day passes without the topic of Afghanistan arising amongst the brothers, sisters, husbands and four grandchildren of the household. Ali narrates, &#34I recall one prominent image of Afghanistan that is the white snow that covers my village every winter.&#34 Although he watches TV, he seems oblivious to what he sees as he says, &#34my mother is going to Afghanistan soon to get my elder husband married.&#34

Ali”s situation is not unique as there are a number of Afghani children who roam the long streets of Jeddah in the evening. As for the daytime with its scorching sun, that is left for school for those who can afford it.

The features of eleven-year-old Ruqayya Al-Qandahariya”s small face appear through the veil that she has wrapped around her head. Every evening she sets out from the neighborhood of Al-Faisaliah, south of Jeddah with her nieces who are between the ages of six and eight in a limousine to Shamal Al-Khalidiya neighborhood. She starts her evening journey in front of &#34Fifa&#34 and settles at street crossings at rush hour to sell products until around midnight when she embarks on her return journey in another limo. Ruqayya says, &#34I”m not scared of taking a taxi alone, I only fear God.&#34 Yet the joys of this eloquent Afghani girl are not only selling her goods and having conversations with by passers, there are also the breaks at prayer times at the mosque close to her selling point. She says, &#34I have become used to heading to the mosque to listen to Miss Nadia who talks about religion in an interesting way that I enjoy.&#34 Afghanistan seems to be a mere shadow that passes in the memory of this outspoken Afghani girl who speaks the Pashto language. She pays no attention to the subject and says, &#34I don”t know Afghanistan.&#34

Many Afghani sons and daughters living in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia are unaware of their country”s history and culture and know it only through childhood memories or by stories retold by their elders. Despite peaceful surroundings and security, the dream of returning preoccupies the older Afghans who will reach &#34Afghanistan in the end, no matter how long the journey.&#34