Out of Afghanistan: incredible stories of the boys who walked to Europe
The country is so dangerous it’s no wonder so many leave, travelling alone across the Middle East in search of a new life.
The youngest are 13 years old, pint-sized cousins from Kabul who arrived that morning after a journey of five months. They take off their trainers and place them at the end of their bedrolls. One of them, Morteza, gingerly peels off his socks. The undersides of his toes are completely white.
I ask what happened to his feet. “Water,” he says. Where was he walking in water? Mohammed, the boy on the next bedroll who knows more English, translates. “In the mountains,” he says. Which mountains, I ask, thinking about the range that forms the border between Turkey and Iran. “Croatia, Slovenia, Italy,” Morteza says. Mohammed intervenes. “Not water,” he clarifies. “Snow.”
Suddenly I understand. Morteza’s feet are not waterlogged or blistered. He has limped across Europe with frostbite.
The next day I run into them watching the older Afghans play football in a park. Morteza’s 13-year-old cousin Sohrab, pale and serious beyond his years, recounts, in English learned during two years of school in Afghanistan, what happened. “Slovenia big problem,” he says, explaining how he and Morteza, “my uncle’s boy”, were travelling with eight adults when they were intercepted by the Slovenian police. Two members of their group were caught and the rest made a detour into the mountains. They spent five days in the snow, navigating by handheld GPS, emerging from the Alps in Trento, in the Italian north.
Morteza acquired frostbite on the penultimate part of a 6,000km journey that detoured through the Balkans: through Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia. Their aim is to join their uncle who lives in Europe, the solution their relatives found after Morteza’s father was killed in an explosion. His mother died earlier “in the war”; Sohrab lost his own father when he was 11.
Morteza and Sohrab are among the world’s most vulnerable migrants. Like scores of Afghan teenagers in transit across Europe, they are in flight from violence or the aftershocks of violence that affect children in particularly harsh ways. Those who turn up in Paris have spent up to a year on the road, on the same clandestine routes as adults, but at far greater risk …
Blanche Tax, who is responsible for country guidance at the United Nations refugee agency in Geneva, says security is deteriorating in Afghanistan, which Unicef described two years ago as the world’s most dangerous place to be a child. From January to September, she said, 1,600 children were reported killed or injured, 55% more than the previous year …
Read Whole: The Guardian
For whenever I think my life is difficult—preteens trekked across a continent, leaving all the knew behind, including the bodies of their loved ones, to escape a war torn country and try for a chance at freedom.