One Journey, Many Paths Festival
Nasrine Gross on Being and Becoming
Remembering & Celebrating Refugees of the World
On June 2, 2018, Nasrine Gross, representing Kabultec, participated in the One Journey, Many Paths Festival held on the grounds of the Washington Cathedral in Washington, DC. She was both a speaker at the event and managed a booth selling Afghan handicrafts to showcase ethnic culture as well as raise funds for Kabultec.
The aim of the festival was to raise awareness about the refugee crisis around the world and appreciate refugee populations in the United States. Gross talked about 1) the plight of Afghan refugees around the world and the returnees in Afghanistan and 2) how successful the Afghan refugees have been in the US.
Gross gave some background on Afghanistan saying: Of the more than 9 million Afghan refugees in the 1990’s were mainly a result of the communist coup and subsequent occupation of the country by the former Soviet Union. She reminded how much the world hated communism and the dictatorships that followed that ideology. Today, as a result of Operation Enduring Freedom more than 7 million have returned home; 4 million are still refugees some of whom from more recent wars with the Taliban militias. However, the returnees have problems that need urgent attention. No refugee ever returns as the same person that left and no home is the same as when the refugee left! Afghanistan is suffering from Taliban attacks and cannot pay enough financial and programmatic attention to the returnees and the internally displaced (IDPs) from the current attacks. Currently, at the Council of Ministers, Dr. Abdullah, the Chief Executive has a subcommittee of the refugees and returnees that is trying to develop appropriate responses to these urgent needs.
Gross stated that at Kabultec we believe that the need for literacy and developing marketable skills in the camps (or here in the US) to be of prime importance, while we acknowledge that challenges such as finding enough food, shelter, running water, proper healthcare that both refugees and returnees face are also all urgent!
Gross then described how successful the Afghan refugees have been in the US: When they first arrived they tackled major hurdles of a new language, new mode of transportation (metro), new and forbidden (haram) foods, not finding their own halal foods, no mosques, no cemeteries, no mullah to marry people, no jobs and no community! Add to that missing home and all that that entails. But they worked hard; they started from the lowest jobs, sent their children to school, learned English and did very difficult jobs to earn a living rather than become a burden!
In doing so, they learned the ropes, but they also built their Afghan community. They took advantage of the abundance that life presents in America and by now have created a renaissance of Afghan culture with a totally modern twist to it: they have become learned musicians, writers (such as Khaled Hosseini), poets, academics, IT professionals, translators, savvy businesspeople, you name it! They have taken the variety of foods in the American grocery stores to modernize and develop a new scrumptious Afghan cuisine. They have accomplished all these things with much more sophistication than what is possible in Afghanistan itself!
She continued: At the same time, the Afghan refugees in the US have tried to make the American Dream come true: they have become upstanding citizens, they stay away from criminal activity, they get along in offices, they do not get into drugs, they do not form gangs, they are always ready to help their neighbors and friends who are not Afghans, they vote and participate in the democratic processes and are prominent politicians (such as Zalmay Khalilzad). In other words, I am not only proud of my Afghan refugee community, but I am also proud to have a community that makes America proud and successful!
Gross concluded by saying we in America must not forget the Afghan refugees that have returned to Afghanistan – to help them resettle with dignity. In the United States, we must not forget the Afghan refugee community – to help them integrate better. For the refugees across the globe, we must be aware of their hardships and find ways to resolve them.