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“All the business of war, and indeed all the business of life, is to endeavour to find out what you don’t know from what you do.” – Sir Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington

"My dear. A lack of compassion can be as vulgar as an excess of tears. "
- Violet in Downton Abbey

02 september 2016

Escaping the Taliban in Pakistan - Greece's Other Refugees

Over a year ago, Asma, a young widow living in Pakistan, picked up the phone and heard an unfamiliar voice filtering in through the receiver. “If you’ve read your husband’s funeral rites,” said the voice of a man, “You should think about paying now, unless you want to lose your child as well.” Then he hung up. The next day, Asma, accompanied by her older brother, took her three-year-old daughter and fled for Europe.
The voice belonged to one of the Taliban members who had been demanding for months an unpayable sum of 20 million rupees (approximately $191,000) from Asma and her family. After a number of death threats, they beheaded her husband and her two brothers on the streets of Khatam, the town where she was living at the time. Their heads lay on the ground until a driver who was passing through the area recognized them and notified the family. Unable to bring their bodies home due to the condition they were in, she told me in devastated tones that she and her family had to bury them where they died.

(....)


Of the 163,000 refugees that have arrived in Greece between January and June 2016, over 7,000 are Pakistani. But Pakistan is not considered a country that is in turmoil and its citizens are seen mostly as economic migrants capitalizing on the current crisis. While this holds true for quite a number of Pakistanis, there are those like Asma who genuinely fear for their lives and whose cases and stories get lost in the flood. In addition to the ransoms that the Taliban often force Pakistanis to pay, the group has imposed sharia law in the region, forcing women to cover themselves head to toe, and banning sports, music, and movies. Men must wear beards and penalties for crimes include stoning and lashing.
Then there are those who are fleeing a different type of religious persecution. They are not considered Muslim because they belong to one of the minority faiths, such as the Shias and Ahmedis. Some Pakistani asylum seekers are also fleeing political persecution by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, a political group based in Karachi that has been associated with criminal activities and whose militant wing uses violence against its opposition. Lastly, there are those that are escaping bonded labor in the agriculture and brick-kilns industries. They have been forced to work under inhumane and intolerable condition and with low pay. Often, the farm and kiln owners torture and physically abuse their workers, threaten and abduct their families, and rape and molest female employees. The police, who are often privy to bribes, do not take action against the wealthy land owners.
The lack of knowledge amongst the Western world of Pakistan’s internal politics and the many forms of human rights abuse occurring within the country means they do not often receive international attention, leading to a rejection of asylum claims. The Pakistani refugees whom I spoke with often told me that they do not feel they are treated like humans, as they are passed over for many of the aid items that are handed out to Afghans and Syrians, such as toiletries and clothing. They feel that they have been blamed for the majority of the fights that occur in the camps even when they believe the other two majority nationalities are at fault. All of it adds to the ever-growing frustration of being stuck not only in Greece but in the asylum process as well.

Read the whole article here: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/pakistan/2016-08-29/escaping-taliban-pakistan

 





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