'They Took My Children'

When Ruhia sits down to share her story, she does so clutching a red wallet. As she talks she sobs, grief stricken, and opens it, removing two small photographs of a boy and a girl.

They were her children, killed by the Taliban.

Ruhia lifts the hem of her dress to reveal scars across her feet: wounds suffered when they attempted to cut her down as she fled.

After finally managing to escape from Afghanistan, Ruhia and her one surviving son made the perilous journey to Europe in search of sanctuary. She nearly drowned in the attempt.

‘They took my children, the Taliban, and they killed them at the border. And they cut my feet with a knife. When I came here in the sea I almost drowned in the water. The coastguards came and they saved us. If they had come a few minutes later we would have been dead. In the place I lived there was a lot of Taliban. Every day they were bringing people and cutting their heads off. Then they put a bomb in our house and they told us if we came back they would cut us into pieces.’

When sadness prevents her from speaking, her friend Rahima comes to comfort her: a consolation only possible between people who share the same extremity of pain. Like Ruhia, Rahima has also endured the loss of a child: her son was taken by the Taliban.

‘When some new people come here to the camp I think they are Taliban, too, or that they are going to hurt us. My heart is beating. I don’t have anybody to help me.’

‘I am just in God’s hands.’

A person’s pain cannot be measured. Yet the hours I spent with Ruhia revealed a depth of pain and suffering that I have not before witnessed. It staggers me that the human heart can hold such pain, and survive.

'At night we sit together as women, we drink tea, we tell our stories, and we cry together’