'Everywhere Around Us Was War'

The space around Nejebar’s home is immaculate. A rug has been laid across the table and Nejebar straightens it out as we take our place there. It’s late in the afternoon and the noises of the camp have given way to a quiet calmness. It strikes me that Nejebar has taken control of her family’s situation here. There’s a strength and steadiness about her. Her husband, Noor, looks a little disorientated by the experience.

The family is from Herat in Afghanistan. They tell of a traumatic experience in their homeland, which led them to flee.

‘The only reason we left is because of the war. When we were there, every moment we were just trying to protect our children. Everywhere around us was war. There were people around us who died. The situation was very bad. We didn’t come here for no reason.’

‘My husband was working for the government and the Taliban was announcing that they were going to kill anybody who worked for the government. That was the most frightening part. If you were a teacher, or anything like that, they were saying that they were going to kill you, or cut your hands, or cut your throat. One day, the Taliban came to the house of a member of our family. They brought him out and cut his eyes out and killed him. He worked for the government.’

The family arrived in Greece seven months ago and have been in the camp in Agios Andreas for six months now. They are thankful that they are in a country that is safe, but are struggling to live in this way, in the unknown.

‘We took the decision that it is better to die here than to die there from war.’

'It is very peaceful here and it is safe. We are waiting for the borders to open. We thought we would wait here about ten days, but it is taking so long. We want a peaceful life. We want our children to have an education, to go to school. The most important thing is for our children. Not to stay like this…to not be able to go to school.’

After the interview, as we are chatting, Hinayat (Nejebar’s eldest son) says he has a question for us. ‘Why,...’ he asks, ‘...did so many countries come into Afghanistan to help, but did not stay and finish?’

He looks at us, expectant of a reply. ‘Because...’, my colleague Joseph says, ‘...we always think we can just go in quickly and then leave, and instead we make a mess.’