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'The people who are most at risk cannot leave the country', warns Afghan activist

Catalonia will take in 208 of the 1,700 refugees granted asylum in Spain following the Taliban takeover

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04 September 2021 01:23 PM

by

Cristina Tomàs White | Barcelona

Bashir Eskandari, a jovial man in his late thirties, lives in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat with his wife and 3-month-old daughter. An international relations student at Barcelona's Autonomous University, one thing sets him apart from his peers: first-hand experience with the delicate geopolitics of the Middle East that forced him to flee Afghanistan years ago.

Now, only weeks after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban prompted a desperate surge in asylum-seekers attempting to leave the country, Eskandari's voice as a human rights activist and the president of the Afghans and Catalans Association is more relevant than ever.

Over a decade in Catalonia

Eskandari's journey to Catalonia, where he has resided since 2010, was not a straightforward one.

"We first left Afghanistan for Iran," recounts Eskansari, who, unlike the predominantly Pashtun Sunni Taliban forces, belongs to the minority Shiite Hazara community. "We then had to go back because the situation was not good there for Afghan refugees. But then, because we couldn't live in Afghanistan, we went back to Iran, where I left my mother and my siblings."

The activist then made his way to Turkey and spent a couple of years in Greece, where he set up another association for Afghan migrants, before eventually moving to the Barcelona area almost twelve years ago.

"I come from a family of politicians and also have a moderate disability because of the Taliban," he explains. He was granted asylum in Spain and has since then been able to obtain Spanish citizenship.

Most of his family still live in Shiite Iran except for a brother and a brother-in-law who were deported back to Afghanistan. "We're calling around and looking all over for them but we do not know where they are and we're very worried," he says.

Taliban terror

According to the latest Catalan Statistics Institute (IDESCAT) figures, there are 242 Afghans who live in Catalonia. Catalonia will now be taking in an additional 208 Afghans of around 1,700 refugees who have been granted asylum in Spain.

Although he welcomes the Spanish government's efforts to "help those in need," Eskandari worries for those who have been left behind, especially women and ethnic minorities, who will be forced to live under Sharia law.

"The people who are most at risk cannot leave the country," he warns. "I know many activists who are women and who are in hiding, constantly on the move because the Taliban are going door to door looking for people."

Eskandari, however, also expresses concern regarding the chaotic evacuation efforts that took place at the Kabul airport over the past weeks, accusing the Taliban of forging documents, and believes "Western forces will eventually have to go back because they've left the country in the hands of terrorists."

"We need to tell everyone what is happening in Afghanistan"

Twenty years after the attack on the Pentagon and the Twin Towers that led to the US invasion of Afghanistan, Eskandari and a handful of other Afghans who live in Catalonia hope to take to the streets of Barcelona to mark the historic date. Whether they will be able to, though, remains to be seen as it coincides with Catalonia's 'La Diada' National Day.

"We need to tell everyone what is happening in Afghanistan," he says. "The country has been at war for over 45 years."

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  • Bashir Eskandari, political exile and president of the Afghans and Catalans Association, during an interview in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Friday, September 3, 2021 (by Alan Ruiz Terol)

  • Bashir Eskandari, political exile and president of the Afghans and Catalans Association, during an interview in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Friday, September 3, 2021 (by Alan Ruiz Terol)

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