GOLEM, Albania (AP) – An Afghan teacher calls Albania a “paradise” while a former Afghan government official can’t get enough of the “freedom” that exists in the small Western Balkan country where they were evacuated after the Taliban have taken control of their homeland.
Others are more thoughtful. An Afghan woman who has mentored orphaned girls deplores the end of her project and the fate of her former students and women under their new Taliban rulers, while a businessman misses her company at home.
They are all in limbo, awaiting a US visa at the resort town of Koaveri in Golem Beach, 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of the Albanian capital, Tirana. And they all share a common dream: to go from the United States to Canada, where they hope to build a better future.
The resort is home to 571 Afghan displaced people torn from their “scary and chaotic” country, as Faridoon Hakimi, who has become the leader of the community, described Afghanistan.
A group of 125 Afghans, including judges, cyclists, journalists, TV presenters, human rights activists, relatives of Afghan diplomats, artists, law enforcement and scientists landed in Albania on 11 October. 13, assisted by IsrAID, an Israeli humanitarian organization.
Albania has hosted up to 2,000 Afghan displaced people, all housed in hotels and resorts. They are expected to stay there for about a year until the US authorities finish processing their special immigration visas.
“The Country of Albania in the World / Its Soil Is Like Heaven” was part of a poem 61-year-old poet and teacher Sadiq Zarei wrote and recited to visiting Associated Press reporters. “They saved shama’il and all of us,” he ends, referring to a collection of sacred tales about the life of the Islamic prophet Mohammed, compiled by a 9th-century scholar.
Hakimi said everyone at the resort can now pray in peace there or go to a nearby mosque, especially on Fridays. The 2.8 million Albanians are predominantly Muslim and live in harmony with the Orthodox and Catholic communities.
Hakimi, a 36-year-old former public administration adviser in a province near Kabul, spoke for hours about the saga of how they fled Afghanistan.
“People never expected this to happen suddenly,” he said of the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.
Together with his wife, his 2 and 5 year old sons and his mother, Hakimi traveled to Kunduz in northern Afghanistan, where they tried to enter Tajikistan. There were about 125 people like him that the Taliban tried to stop. After several days, they went to Mazar-i-Sharif airport, flew to Tajikistan and had to wait three days inside the terminal until Albania offered them visas and IsrAID chartered a plane.
At the resort, Hakimi and 17 other section leaders are working tirelessly to provide food, entertainment, psychological support and other basic needs to the relocated community. He and the others enjoy the freedom they have been given and praised the warmth of the Albanian staff.
“We would hardly go through this difficult time without their warm welcome,” said Hakimi.
In the fenced and supervised bathhouse, children play while the elderly stay at the bar, stroll or stroll on the beach. A young Afghan woman studies on a laptop. Many gather in groups to spend the day in Tirana or the nearby city of Durres.
When Mohammad Javed Khan, who worked as a clerk in the Afghan parliament, was asked what they had found in Albania, his immediate response was “Freedom”.
“The freedom that every human being needs; relaxation, sleep, “he said.” We can sleep without fear.
Safety and fears for family members were the main concerns for Afghans trying to flee. Khan, who arrived with his wife and 3-month-old daughter, said he had finally relaxed.
“Nobody is going to take our daughter,” said the 27-year-old. “Nobody will carry out suicide bombings. … We ran away because there was no security “.
Leqa Fahimi arrived with her husband, 9-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son, who misses home and wants to return. In Afghanistan, she worked with an international non-governmental organization that dealt with orphaned girls.
“I taught them kindness, friendship, self-confidence, how to share their story with the world,” said Fahimi, adding in a desperate voice, “We had a lot of activities for the girls. And now … I don’t know where they are. “
The displaced people try to keep themselves busy by helping the resort staff and each other by organizing sports or entertainment activities for the children.
Hakimi is awaiting confirmation of a special visa application from the US government.
“We have all the good things we lost at home,” he said, “but I want to go to Canada, where my brother and sister are.”
The same with Fahimi, the poet-teacher, and the clerk, Khan.
“We would love to go to Canada because Canada has the best immigration policies and part of my family lives in Canada,” Khan said.
Follow all AP stories about Afghanistan at https://apnews.com/hub/Afghanistan
Follow Llazar Semini up https://twitter.com/lsemini