Afghan activists in Germany: “A lot has changed for the better.”
“Life is an opportunity. Why shouldn’t I be allowed to be happy? You can believe me: Since the last workshop, I haven’t thought about suicide even once.”
This feedback from a medica mondiale workshop for the staff of the Afghan partner organisation Medica Afghanistan expresses the split in their lives felt by many Afghans after they were evacuated from their home country. They feel torn between their concern and worries for friends and relations who are still in Afghanistan and their growing hope for the future, particularly for their own children.
Feedback like this is also valuable for the team at medica mondiale: it reminds them how strong their colleagues are.
After the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in 2021, the medica mondiale team worked hard to make it possible to evacuate the staff of Medica Afghanistan and their families. Once the perilous escapes had been completed, they helped the newly arrived colleagues settle into their new lives in Germany.
Sustainable support for Afghans
In order to help this succeed in a long-term way, the team at medica mondiale set up a Welcome Project. Within this project, employees of medica mondiale and many volunteers joined forces to help the families cope with their initial dealings with relevant authorities and look for housing. They also arranged for medical, psychosocial and legal counselling, language courses and vocational training.
Accompanying all this, workshops on self-care were offered by Vida Faizi from medica mondiale and Yalda Ahmadi, a former employee of Medica Afghanistan who was evacuated to Germany herself at the end of 2021. In this way, the women were able to build up their own networks among themselves and also strengthen their families.
“We noticed the incoming families were struggling with conflicts and problems, so we wanted to provide psychological support,”
“These former colleagues had experienced very stressful weeks and months in Kabul, living in permanent fear for their lives. Some of them were constantly afraid of being discovered while living in hiding,”
As they worked together, she experienced many touching and encouraging moments, whether it was seeing the photos from Pakistan sent by the first group to arrive there safely, or in Germany when she was able to have the first conversation with a colleague in German – without translation.
Commitment to studies and politics
Many of the former colleagues from Afghanistan are well-trained in psychosocial counselling. The aim of medica mondiale is to take these educated women and ensure they can use their expertise in Germany as trainers or in some form of mutual support. For example, at the University of Applied Sciences in Frankfurt, 45 women have taken part in an access course to study Social Work.
And the Afghan women have not ceased their political involvement after arriving in Germany. Soraya Sobhrang and Sajia Begham from the Afghan partner organisation took part in a high-level meeting at the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. The focus of the meeting was on how people from the diaspora can support civil society organisations in Afghanistan.
Representatives of the Afghan community in Germany were involved in the planning of the Welcome Project from the start, helping to improve and implement programmes and support measures. In this way, the past 1.5 years saw a team emerge which proves how the immense challenge can be overcome together.
Motivated and psychologically stable
“A lot has changed for the better,”
The Afghans are making progress in learning German, with some already gaining relevant proficiency certificates.
“They are settling in, regaining psychological stability, making contacts, taking part in integration courses and making plans for the future.”
Hanife Kurt finds hope in the observation that the families cared for by medica mondiale are well informed and able to find their way around Germany’s authorities and structures.
“They are motivated, want to work and hope to live a decent life.”
Together, the women and their families are facing up to their responsibilities. They are supporting and empowering each other as they continue to fight for women’s rights in Afghanistan – as a collective and together with medica mondiale. For this, they are exploring how they can organise themselves further and are considering whether to set up their own charitable association in Germany. The objectives: to continue their support for each other, to cope with problems together, and to support Afghans in Germany and Afghanistan.
The coming months and years will therefore be full of both work and hope. Or, as a participant in a self-care workshop put it:
“I’ve been through a very difficult time, and I still have a lot of problems. But I believe that one day I will be as strong as anyone else.”