Afghan Refugee Dreams of Peace

Afghan Refugee Dreams of Peace

It’s 150 days until Abdul can apply for his work permit in America, and he is counting them down. Abdul arrived in the United States on Dec. 2, 2023 on a tourist visa to lecture for a few days at the University of Maryland. 

“On Jan. 12 I courageously submitted my application for asylum seeking peace and safety in a new land. In February they took my biometrics and now I have to wait for I don’t know — 2, 4, 6 years.”

He is escaping Afghanistan due to persecution resulting from his activities as a peace ambassador and activist. 

The day after the Taliban took over in 2021 he heard a knock on his door. “I was assaulted by five members of the Taliban who ransacked my house, took all of my belongings including my documents, laptop and essential equipment. They told me I was an ideology promoter, a representative of the U.S. and so on. The invasion of my sanctuary marked not only a violation of my physical well being but also an assault on my very identity and livelihood. I lost my job, my house, everything.”

He says, “I was only 24. I was afraid. It was my first experience with this. I thought ‘I am young. I am a university lecturer; what’s my problem?’” The incident led to his incarceration for 12 days in Herat Central Prison. A religious leader eventually got him released. Abdul explains every morning they would torture his arm with a cable and hit him in the face. “They would ask me how many dollars did you get from the U.S. to promote these ideas.”

At the time Abdul was an assistant professor of sociology at Herat Public University and had been a human rights defender since 2018. “I did a lot of political activities, demonstrations, peace and conflict resolution.” He says when he became a lecturer in the sociology department, he established a peace community.

Now that Abdul is in the United States he spends every day in the George Mason Law Library in Arlington working on his English to add to the other four languages he speaks. He said George Mason has made him an adjunct faculty member so he is currently mentoring bachelor’s and master’s students. He has gone from his very big house in Afghanistan with his flower garden and a car to a shared space at George Mason for $895 a month. “No drink or smoke so I played with my garden.”

His aim is “to make some change to make a better life.” He is designing proposals and seeking funds to support scholarships for women in other countries. He hopes for Afghanistan’s freedom, especially for women’s rights. “I hope to live with peace and diversity together and for the U.S. to be stronger. He says since he came to the U.S. he hasn’t experienced any discrimination. “Other countries have it.”

He continues, “I think diversity in America is the big difference from Afghanistan — diversity in food, culture, life relations, communications. Another difference is America is the land of opportunity. In Afghanistan, opportunity is only for smart people.” He explains there is a lack of education in Afghanistan.

One other cultural difference he has noticed is that in America people don’t allow you to stay more than one night in their home. “In Afghanistan you can spend weeks.” 

Abdul says, “I have a dream. My goal is to be a university lecturer, and I think I would like to go into the political world. A lot of congressmen come from the academic world.“ He says he would like to do his best to resolve Afghanistan’s problems. The U.S. spent a lot of money there. What’s the result? There is sexual and mental violence against women under Taliban control. It’s very important to find funding to stop it, he says.

“My friends from Afghanistan told me it is difficult here. I told them you have to work hard-be smarter. A lot of people just want to make money but you have to improve your education. You can make some change to make a better life.”