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Zarrin in charcoal


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“My life was very good in Afghanistan. I was a teacher, an English teacher. I liked my life. I had a big house like a garden. My husband was rich; he was a businessman. My children studied in priority school. One day my husband drove me to my school. Some Taliban members came and stood in front of my school and called to me, “Come here.” I did not go. I shouted. People began coming and they left. Back in the school I told the principal and he called my husband and my husband picked me up. My brother said we must leave the country or we might be killed. It was very difficult for me to make a decision because I liked my life.

“The Taliban sent many warnings to my husband. ‘Why does your wife go to school and teach children? If your wife goes to school we'll throw acid on her face and take your children. Women should not teach; they should only stay at home.’ And after that my husband decided to leave.”

Zarrin and her husband endured an arduous journey from Afghanistan through Iran and into Turkey before crossing the Aegean Sea to Greece. Over the mountains, they each carried a child while their oldest walked. At one point Zarrin was alone with the children for three days with nothing to eat but snow while her husband left to buy food and travel documents. All the while what she feared most lay ahead — the sea crossing between Turkey and Greece.

“I went to the ship despairing. My husband paid for a spot on a good ship, not a rubber raft, but we didn’t get it. When we got into the boat, lots of water was coming in — I thought maybe my children would drown. I’m shouting! The smuggler said, “No, no. Go! You must go!” The sea was rough and the boat tipped. It was so stormy! The waves were coming into the boat but the police were coming on shore and when my husband saw, he shouted that he didn't want to stay here so we got back in the boat.

“My husband brought a lot of money and I was carrying it. The smuggler said, ‘All the persons take and throw your things into the sea. If you do not throw everything into the sea, maybe you will all drown.’ The ship was full of water. Water! My dress, yes, my clothes were wet. I was so distressed I didn’t remember our money in the backpack. The smugglers took all our bags and threw them into the sea.

When we arrived in Greece, my husband asked me, “Where is your bag?” I said, “In the sea.” My husband began shouting and fell on the ground. He was carried into a building. The doctor came and examined him. They brought an ambulance to give oxygen because he wasn’t breathing. My family was shouting. The doctor was worried about him because his color was very bad. He couldn’t speak. He couldn’t open his eyes. He couldn’t hear. And he wasn’t breathing. My children were crying and I was crying. After two hours of oxygen and some

tablets, the doctor examined him and let him go on the bus into the island. Now he is OK. It was very difficult.

It is my advice for another person to never come by ship, because the sea is very dangerous. All the time in my dreams at night I see my family drowning in the sea. Sometimes I cry in my dreams. When I sit in the day, I think about the journey, about the sea. I don’t ever want to go back to the sea. Now we don’t have any money here because I lost it. This life is really difficult for me. This is very difficult for my family.


Afghanistan, Iran, Greece, Lesbos, Oinofyta, Refugee camp, health care, health complications, education, family, family separation, diabetes, business, wealth, poverty, women’s rights, discrimination, media portrayal, hospitalization, boats, single woman


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