Trading the Future of Afghanistan for a Life in the West

For many privileged Afghans leaving their country is the only option these days. Fears of a new crisis after 2014 are growing. For Afghanistan this means loosing potential leaders of tomorrow. Marina is one of them.

Afghan Passport

An afghan passport is useless to many Afghans

 “Yes of course I can send you the story in the next 15 minutes”, I told my editor, with a smile as if he was sitting just before me. Around me there were 3 people discussing their lunch at the same time and it was hard enough concentrating on the call.

I was still on telephone when a colleague from the Hindi department showed up. She came inside our office & made a sign to me saying she wants to talk to me.

It’s very rare that someone from the other foreign language departments pass our offices in the far away cellar. I call our floor the terrorist-floor, Afghans and Arabs united in one place.

Not being able to concentrate at all, I finished the call quickly and went outside to flee my annoying co-workers. Manasi, my Indian associate was still waiting. “I need to talk to you”, she said. “We can’t find Marina”. I looked at her, perplexed. What was she talking about? Had something happened to Marina?

I felt like fainting as my knees went weak. Manasi ignored my shock and carried on: “We called her phones, but they’re all shut off. She didn’t come to office since a few days and she deleted her Facebook account”.

In the background my colleagues, who were still arguing about what to eat for lunch, seemed very far away now.

“Her husband was here for a few days and left two days ago. Since then we haven’t heard from her. Her roommate told us she gave back her keys and is not planning to come back” Manasi explained.

A rare chance

Marina came to our office a few weeks back taking part in a programme for women from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kashmir. Three girls from the 3 states were given the chance to stay at our media company and learn and work in Germany for two months.

They were trained in the Hindi department and guided to do stories for a magazine called “Women Talk Online”.

In Afghanistan Marina was a television anchor. She was a sassy and straight forward girl. Many Afghan girls would have been happy to be like her. She was the type of modern, Afghan woman this country needed.

Since not many girls were chosen to come here, she should have been happy. But Marina wasn’t. Whenever I saw her, she complained, “I came here to learn, not to do their work the whole day”, she used to say and roll her eyes.

I would laugh and remind her that this is how work is in this country. “I don’t like this country”, she would answer. “In Afghanistan I am respected. Here I just do what other people tell me to do”.

Escaping to Europe

But that didn’t matter anymore as she is not coming back. Marina had decided to run away and apply for asylum with her husband. Only 4 weeks of her stay had passed when she abandoned the programme and along with that, the chances she had with. Another girl from Afghanistan, who was supposed to be trained here aswell, never showed up at all. As soon as she had her Visa, the programme organizers never heard from her again.

The 15 Minutes I had to send my story to my editor had passed long back. It didn’t matter anymore. Too many thoughts were running through my mind.

At some point I was angry. Why would Marina take this opportunity when she wasn’t going to seize it anyway? Another afghan girl would have been thrilled to do the job and go back to Afghanistan and teach other girls and colleagues.

Will they close down the programme for afghan girls from now on? Probably. Why should one invest in afghan girls, when they run away anyway?

From the other side I felt sorry for Marina. She had made a decision that would keep her from the freedom she was in pursue of for another few years.

Many Afghans imagine life in the West as some sort of paradise. Little do they know that the money in the west does not grow on trees. You have to work much for a little money, which barely is sufficient for the high living costs – The reality is always different, as we imagine it to be.

Risking a new future

Throughout the past decades asylum policies in Europe have developed very complicated and tough. In Germany there is only a very slight chance to be accepted as a migrant – even coming from a country suffering from war.

If you belong to the lucky few ones and have a good lawyer, still years of no chance of work or a proper income await you. Living in a small room with only basic furniture makes it even worse.

Many migrants get depressed and frustrated with the foreign culture, strange language and lack of money and work. If you’re not lucky enough, you’ll be sent back to the country you came from. A lot of my friends, who came from Afghanistan to live in the West, now say that they would go back if they could. “No one cares about you here”, they say. “In Afghanistan at least we were someone and people respected us”. But to Marina it was worth it.

I call a friend in Afghanistan, who knows her but he hadn’t heard from Marina either. No one had.  Going back to my desk I ask myself: Why Marina? I ask myself again and again. Marina could have helped to build a better future for Afghanistan.

Were her fears of another crisis in Afghanistan grown to that extent that she decided to not go back?

Was she thinking she could have more opportunities in Europe? More freedom as a woman being from a traditional society?

Will she get asylum or sent back to Afghanistan and go back to where she started?

Too many questions rolled around my brain and no answers I will get for the questions.

As I open the “Women Talk Online” Website and search for Marina’s stories I find one piece that catches my eye. The title says: “Let me be myself” – how ironic. “Okay fine”, I silently answer, talking to the imaginary Marina in my head. “Be yourself Marina. Good Luck”.

To read more about Marina see the links below:

My Life as a TV-presenter

Let me be myself