Fleeing Conflict

afghanistan refugees

The distressing images coming from Afghanistan following the call of withdrawal of US forces is yet another poignant reminder of the humanitarian crisis facing millions of people around the world. According to the United Nations refugee agency more than 70 million people worldwide were displaced in 2018. In the past three years more numbers have been added to this tally. With each passing year regional conflicts continue to erupt. Looking around the world it seems the international community is unable to garner peace, old conflicts have continued and new conflicts keep erupting around the world. Ever since World War II, people forced to flee conflict are the highest.

The teeming crowds at the Kabul International airport is a reflection of sheer desperation of people. Within Afghanistan also scores of people have been displaced due to decades of conflict. It’s heartbreaking to pack one’s entire life in a bag not knowing where you will get to unpack it. As news of more and more successful evacuations pours in, one is left to wonder what fate awaits those who fail to flee. Besides those who will be unable to make it out of the strife torn country before the August 31st deadline, there are many who have chosen to stay back in their homeland- those who never tried to get out, despite terrible odds facing them.

A distant observer is often unable to comprehend the challenges a refugee faces in the foreign land. Once on the foreign soil, the refugee may have survived the imminent life threat, but greater challenges await him in the new land. Language and cultural barriers are the most difficult to bridge. Housing and earning a living is another major challenge. And then there is a forever yearning to go back to one’s homeland and a longing to be with family and friends left behind. Those who are lucky to leave can work towards a better future in a faraway land and dream of returning home in future. But a crueler fate is in store for those left behind, either by choice or by destiny. A strife torn country in political turmoil lacks basic infrastructure and is heavily dependent on foreign aid to rebuild itself. A country lacking in basic health facilities and minimum or no education facilities for most of the population, has little to offer its people. It is a vicious circle nearly impossible to break. The other side of the story is to rebuild your country, to navigate with the new rulers for fundamental rights of the people, to champion women rights, to secure a better future for your children, for advocacy of better international relations-for all this and much more one needs to stay back. It might seem like tragic optimism, but it has a lot of truth in it. There is little you can do for your country and brethren from faraway foreign lands, one may be able to better one’s lot but is unable to benefit the masses. But in hindsight it may be apt to quote what Oliver Goldsmith said more than two centuries ago, “He who fights and runs away, may live to fight another day; but he who is battle slain can never rise to fight again”. Thus, it is better to save your life to fight another day. To be a refugee is a mark of strength, courage and hope.

Blessed are those who do not have to make the difficult choice of, ‘to flee or not to flee’. Let those born in safe places open their doors to those born in conflict. For a peaceful world, a better future is essential sans borders.

Anahat Gill is a Stock investor and a Literary buff, who happens to live on a farm.
Contact information- [email protected]

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