There are now 101 activists and their immediate family members who have been able to find safety in Germany and other countries. For some legally complicated cases we continue to carry out as much political advocacy work as possible. The specially established Welcome Team at medica mondiale is made up of a few employees and many more volunteers. Even before the first evacuations took place, it was obvious that the refugees would need help to deal with the challenges and requirements of life in their new host country, as the Officer for Refuge and Asylum, Hanife Kurt, explains:
“The first psychosocial counselling is particularly important to help stabilise a refugee after their experiences of threat and flight. Most of the Afghans had to leave behind loved ones. And there are very practical issues such as a lack of clothing, the need to organise accommodation, and overcoming bureaucratic obstacles.”
Practically and emotionally helpful: Language courses, self-care and counselling
medica mondiale put dedicated contact people in place to channel information flows and match up offers to needs. These women were themselves offered self-care workshops to help them face the enormous challenge of being confronted with issues of violence and flight on a daily basis, enabling them to renew their own strength and continue being effective counsellors. Furthermore, medica mondiale made it possible for refugees to consult volunteer medical staff for healthcare, including care related to Covid-19. Online legal advice was also provided. Staff at medica mondiale donated clothes, toys and urgently needed small furniture and other household items.
An academically as teacher qualified German-Afghan, Tatara Shirl, was recruited to help refugees prepare for the Integration Courses of the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF): she offered online German language courses to the activists and their families until mid-July 2022. The families were spread throughout Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia, so the language course has been a welcome opportunity to see each other regularly. Further training and qualifications for the activists is being supported in a joint project with the University of Applied Sciences Frankfurt.
Longing for normality in exceptional circumstances
Among the Afghans there is a strong spirit of teamwork and mutual support. Online cafés were set up, and where distances allowed, self-led groups met up for physical activities such as football or fitness exercises. medica mondiale has also ensured everyone received the €9 monthly ticket for public transport to facilitate attendance at these important sources of strength.
“Now I feel as if I am slowly returning to my normal life. My daughters are learning new skills such as a new language, swimming and playing guitar. My husband and I attend the same integration course, which is a beautiful experience for us both. And my eldest daughter’s nightmares stopped about one month ago. That is great!”
Thinking of Afghanistan: Pain and hope
Among the refugees, stories are shared of activists who are still missing after being dragged out of their houses by Taliban fighters. Media reports document the increasing exclusion of women from public life in Afghanistan, which upsets the women’s rights defenders, but the new ruling powers will never be able to entirely wipe out the activists’ hope. Their love for their homeland is too strong, as is their belief in a better future:
“It is true that I relive the memories and pains from Afghanistan every night before I go to bed, but it is also true that I start every morning here with hope for the future.”
*The name has been changed by the editors for security reasons