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Shafiq, 29

Afghan refugee now living in the USA.

I was born in Kabul into a happy, friendly and kind family. My mother was a doctor, my father was working for the government, my brothers studied. When the Taliban came to our country my family left Afghanistan for Pakistan as refugees but I stayed in Afghanistan to continue studying. I was at school at the time. In 2001, my family came back to Afghanistan. After I finished school I worked as a translator for an American company in 2004. Soon I was receiving threats from local gangs for collaborating with the Americans. In 2003, my father, who worked in the State Security Ministry, was killed by the Taliban. My mother died of a heart defect six months later.

I was able to escape from Afghanistan to Russia under the pretext that I was going of study. I left in January 2006, under the auspices of the Russian Education Ministry. I took a course in public administration and then entered the Rostov State Civil Engineering University. That summer I visited Afghanistan during my holidays. When I arrived in Kabul I found out that my elder brother had been killed as revenge for my father’s work in the ministry.

At this point I realised that I would never be able to see my town again. My employment with an American corporation, my father’s work for the government, the persecution and threats against my family and my brother’s murder – all this led to my final decision. In 2008, I left Afghanistan and went to Russia for the second time. I finished university at a very difficult time in my life. According to Russian law I wasn’t allowed to work in Russia while studying, so I tried to get a scholarship for myself. Eventually I got a scholarship from the university, entered the civil engineering faculty and started studying civil engineering at the State University of Rostov. During the holidays, I worked as a day labourer illegally, carrying cements, dirt, etc. Sometimes, when I was coming home late from the work I was confronted by some Russians who hit me and told me that Russia is not for foreigners.

I had a lot of friends at university, they were very kind. I started to do projects for students for a fee: how to survey, how to build foundations, solving problems in maths. I was earning enough money to live and the work I did allowed me to finish university. While I was still studying, I looked for ways of leaving Russia. I applied with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Moscow and after a while they called me for an interview. I waited for about 18 months for the results of the interview and eventually I succeeded.

When I saw New York city for the first time it looked amazing, it was crowded and the buildings were very nice. Now I've been here for one year and I feel like a part of New York, like I’m living in my own country. I'm very happy living here. The people are very kind and very helpful, they're very good people. I hope that I can get a better job, that I’ll be able to work in a very good company and that I’ll have a good life. You are free here, I want to live here, I am happy living here.