Alina’s story from Afghanistan: refugee, scholarship recipient, future peacemaker

История Алины из Афганистана: беженка, стипендиат, будущий миротворец

Alina, a refugee from Afghanistan, graduated from a university in Kyrgyzstan. Alina’s story from Afghanistan: refugee, scholarship recipient, future peacemaker Refugees and Migrants

Alina (name changed to protect her identity – editor’s note) was only four years old when she came to the Kyrgyz Republic with her mother, father and younger brother, fleeing widespread violence. insecurity and human rights violations in Afghanistan.

Since she was very young, she had few memories of that time. “I don’t remember anything about my hometown,” says Alina. “I only remember that when we first arrived here, my mother cried all the time.”

Alina’s family was recognized as a refugee family in the Kyrgyz Republic, and they were given a temporary permit, which was renewed annually, allowing them to live in the country and enjoy certain rights and services, including education. And so, when she was 7 years old, Alina went to first grade.

I am grateful to the good people who were with me during that difficult time

As a young refugee, Alina knew neither Kyrgyz nor Russian. She could not read or write in these languages ​​and fell behind other children in her class. However, that summer, despite her young age, she firmly decided to change the situation for the better…

“During the summer, dad really helped me improve my reading and writing,” says Alina. — A neighbor at my father’s work also helped me. My friend’s grandmother helped me. I am grateful to the good people who were next to me during that difficult time.”

By the fourth grade, Alina was one of the best in her class.

Aim higher

In the Kyrgyz Republic, refugee children can attend public primary and secondary schools, but this is not the case for higher education. Unable to compete for government grants on an equal basis with citizens, refugees can only enroll in university if they pay for the education themselves. Like many refugee families, this turned out to be impossible for Alina.

“A friend suggested that I go with her to the university entrance exams,” says Alina. “I passed the exam, but she didn’t, it was terrible!” But I wondered how I could find an opportunity to study there, because obviously the tuition fees were very high.”

Being a member of the Refugee Youth Group, a kind of social network support and development program coordinated by UNHCR in the Kyrgyz Republic, Alina learned about DAFI, the German Albert Einstein Academic Initiative refugee scholarship program.

Recalling that time, Alina says with pride: “My parents took out a loan to pay for the first year of study, and in the second year I received a DAFI scholarship.”

Looking inside yourself

Every year, students from all over the world come to the Kyrgyz Republic to study. Communication with so many new people from different countries made Alina look inside herself.

“I was simply fascinated by the students,” says Alina. “The diverse community opened my eyes, but I had an identity crisis.” Whether I was local or Afghan? I was somewhere in the middle. I had friends among local students and among Afghan students. I was afraid that if I said that I was Afghan, they wouldn’t talk to me.”

Impressed by her classes at the university, Alina began to think about what it all meant: “We had philosophy classes where we developed critical thinking. I questioned many things: my lifestyle, my friends, my relationships with my family.”

By her third year at university, Alina felt more confident. “I understood that I was born in Afghanistan, that I should never forget my culture, my people, our customs, but at the same time I live in another country, in my second homeland, and I have family and friends here,” says she. “I am very glad that I was born in Afghanistan and raised in Kyrgyzstan, and thanks to this I have a multifaceted outlook on life.”

With a clear mind and a light heart, Alina devoted herself to completion of studies, as well as serving the community by participating in volunteer initiatives to clean Bishkek, plant trees and collect clothes for orphanages.

Thanks to the DAFI scholarship program, Alina graduated with honors from the university in 2018 with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and began looking for work. She now works for a Swiss foundation that works to reduce violence and build peace.

Bringing People Together

“Me I was interested in this position because it involves mediation in resolving conflicts in society, between the government and people. In addition, the work to unite society is aimed at uniting people,” says Alina. — There are constantly conflicts in Afghanistan now. I really want to gain experience with how organizations work to solve these problems and bring people together.”

Currently, the Kyrgyz Republic does not issue machine-readable travel documents for refugees and stateless persons, so they cannot travel abroad. In accordance with the recommendations provided by UNHCR, amendments to the Refugee Law, which entered into force on May 2, 2023, provide for the introduction of a procedure for issuing travel documents to refugees.

For those inquisitive and This is good news for motivated young people like Alina: “My biggest dream is to travel the world. I really want to see how other people live, how they solve their problems, what issues they face. And one day, if given the opportunity, I will be able to contribute to the development of my country and be useful to my people.”


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