Afghanistan is starkly different from what Masooma had imagined. She was just a little girl when her family fled the Afghan war against the Soviets in the 1980s. They left everything they owned behind to look for sanctuary in Pakistan and she has few memories of the place.
But when she found out six months ago that her family were going to be forcibly repatriated to a war-torn country her seven children had never set foot in and she had last seen 30 years ago, she tried to stay positive. “I had always wondered what life in our own country would be like – I looked forward to my homecoming.” When her family of 10 finally arrived in Afghanistan, any hope they had died. They were unable to return to the province where Masooma was born due to sustained conflict across the country.
With no immediate family in Afghanistan to look out for them and little savings, they ended up in a tented settlement for displaced people. Her children have been out of school for six months as there are no schools near the settlement. Even if there was a school close by, they couldn’t afford the fees, Masooma says, describing how even half a year after returning to Afghanistan her husband has been unable to find work.
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