24-year-old Sahar Noor speaks English with a Dutch accent. But actually she came here at the age of 11 with her parent; her family was fleeing the civil war in Afghanistan. Now she’s a journalist and a student, and is determined to be a voice for the almost 40,000 strong Afghan community in the Netherlands.
This population has organised itself into no less than 132 different organisations that all try, in one way or another, to help their countrymen back in Afghanistan and to keep their culture alive in their distant new home.
A large part of the Dutch Afghan community is made up of people younger than 40. Ms Noor says that, while the elders of the community try to meet to celebrate their traditional festivals and culture, a lot of the younger members of the community are driven into more direct action.
They are busy raising money for NGOs back home, or directly involved in loading trucks with food, blankets and furniture that make their way back to Afghanistan through Turkey and Iran.
What does Afghanistan specifically need?
Ms Noor says:
“Everything is needed. I can’t imagine anything that’s not needed in Afghanistan. The country is so torn that it [will] need many years to try to knit it back”.
Some Afghans, especially the older ones, have gone back personally to help, but Ms Noor states that the young have language problems. They’ve been here so long that they have lost their native Dari.
After the fall of the Taliban, the Dutch government declared Afghanistan safe and tried to encourage Afghan refugees who were trying to get asylum here to go back. 800 of them voluntarily returned, but the majority chose to stay and battle the bureaucracy and difficulties of refugee life here, rather than return to a country where they still didn’t feel safe, and where issues such as women’s rights, education and basic infrastructure still leave a lot to be desired.
For more information: radionetherlands.nl