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The Young Afghan Diaspora

By Maria Hayat 

After visiting Afghanistan last summer, I could not help but notice all of the flaws and injustices that prevailed in my home country. Whilst I was privileged enough to visit my family, tour around Afghanistan’s notable cafes and wonder around freely in my breathtakingly beautiful village Panjshir, I knew that I would return back by the end of the summer safely on a plane back to the UK to carry on with my studies. Sadly, this is the case for most Afghans who were forced to flee due to many driving factors including conflict, insecurity, lack of job opportunities and a firm perception of a weak/incapable government. Afghan diaspora has escalated over the years, especially since the Afghan-Soviet war and Taliban presence, thus families gave up their degrees, jobs and homes to seek safety elsewhere in the world and unfortunately, some never return to Afghanistan. 

Deriving from the Greek word ‘diaspeirein’, the term diaspora describes the spread of people from their homeland in different parts of the world. Statistics from 2015 shows that Germany leads in Europe with having 156,000 settled Afghan immigrants whilst the UK follows with 68,000 and Iran have the most with 2.35 million. Afghan migrants seem to often form bridges between their host country and Afghanistan by sending over remittances, which aids the Afghan economy with positive multiplier effects. Despite this advantage, Afghanistan is suffering from a lack of capacity of its skilled workforce due to its doctors, engineers, and lawyers fleeing out of Afghanistan to start a new life. 

Collier’s four traps explaining poverty includes bad governance, conflict, natural resources and landlocked with bad neighbors yet it comes as no surprise that Afghanistan ticks all four. Indeed, with a GDP figure of roughly $21billion, 36% of Afghanistan’s population is below the poverty line thereby 9million Afghans are currently suffering from extreme and absolute poverty. As a result of this, the number one killer of Afghanistan is not terrorist attacks or conflict; it is in fact the thriving monster called poverty. The underlying cause for the poverty rates remaining stagnant is corruption, as Afghanistan is the fourth most corrupt country after South Sudan and Syria. Unfortunately, mismanaged funds are a grave problem and it is assisting in Afghanistan becoming a cesspool for corruption as the Economist Moyo calls it ‘dead aid’. The combination of the government’s myopia in Afghanistan’s fatal problems and self-interests has meant that billions of dollars of aid have gone straight to pockets instead of reaching those in desperate need.

Regardless of all of the tragic problems that Afghanistan faces, I strongly believe that the emerging skillful diaspora have the duty to fill the capacity gaps with their expertise and experience upon their return to their homeland. After coming across the Instagram page @afghanmillenials, I was bursting with both pride and sadness as the page highlights the successes of the Afghan diaspora around the world. Whilst I was scrolling through the colourful page of successful young Afghans and their achievements, I came across a few individuals such as Mujib Mashal (a well-known journalist for the New York Times), May Homira Rezai (a medical student and leading researcher) and Omar Popal, an entrepreneur in America who owns prominent restaurant chains, I felt extremely proud of Afghans flourishing in their fields yet I felt a deep sadness that all of this was taking place outside of Afghanistan. Evidently, the Afghan diaspora is becoming increasingly prosperous however the poor farmers in a remote village of Nuristan will never taste Omar Popal’s restaurants or aspiring journalists in Kabul will never be able to gain top advice from Mujib Mashal. Ergo, it goes without a shadow of a doubt to say that the skillful diaspora ought to return to Afghanistan to help their homeland country to grow socially and economically, allowing for the spillover and trickledown effect to take place effectively.

Last summer, I had the honor of being able to shadow the late journalist, Samim Faramaz from TOLOnews whilst he was out on the field as I witnessed him methodically prepare a news package about the Government’s false statements on the Ghazni attacks. Sadly, Samim died just weeks after I was lucky enough to meet him, in a barbaric double suicide attack whilst he was reporting. Samim was one of the few Afghanistan’s true heroes who chose to stay in Afghanistan rather than fleeing as he took great pride in his work in contributing to Afghanistan’s development through quality journalism. I am eternally grateful for meeting Samim, as he made me realise that whilst I am part of the Afghan diaspora, there are individuals like Samim who have chosen to stay and improve Afghanistan, even if it entails putting their life on the line. Therefore, I would like to dedicate this piece to Samim for being a role model to me and hopefully for the rest of young diaspora to return back to Afghanistan one day. 

I plan on returning to Afghanistan indefinitely in the future with my skills and knowledge after I become a practicing lawyer here in the UK but with a lack of security and unstable government, I am deterred from returning just like the rest of the Afghan diaspora. Ultimately, the Afghan government has the role to incentivise the Afghan diaspora to return to their country and use their capacity for a better Afghanistan. Indeed, before coming up with suggestions for the government, it is vital for the main causes of the diaspora to be eradicated. This means that the government needs to prioritise security first and foremost so that the young diaspora feels safe enough to come back to settle and invest both their money and time in Afghanistan. 

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