26 April 2019 • Gideon Wille
After death threats by the Taliban, a new life in the Netherlands
Ashuqullah Amin worked as an interpreter and facilitator for the Dutch training mission in Kunduz, Afghanistan. After the Dutch left, he was threatened by the Taliban. He applied for political asylum in the Netherlands and is now doing a nursing degree programme at our university of applied sciences, thanks to the assistance by the UAF (Foundation for Refugee Students). “The Netherlands is a beautiful country, I feel safe here.”
“One of my friends, who was assisting the German military mission, was beheaded by the Taliban,” explains Ashuqullah. “He was driving somewhere and was captured by the Taliban. They drove his car with his body in the back to his home and left it there. That is really terrifying of course. The Taliban has no regard for the lives of others.”
“Kunduz is not a big city. Everybody knows everybody. The Taliban knew I was assisting the Dutch. At first there was nothing wrong. But in 2015, a year after the Dutch left, I began to experience problems. I started getting letters and phone calls saying I had helped non-Muslims and that I had to die. I left Kunduz within a week after these threats began. First I fled to another province.”
A dark period
“But I wasn’t safe there either. The Taliban has people all across Afghanistan and there is no protection. I contacted the Dutch embassy where they told me that the Dutch government needed to make a decision about my arrival first. I waited for seven months and it was very hard. I hardly went outside. I felt like a prisoner and had very few social contacts. It was a very dark period.”
By the end of 2015 I was allowed to go to the Netherlands. I spent about three months in the AZC Oranje, a refugee centre, in Drenthe. I had to complete all kinds of procedures. My life in the Netherlands didn’t really begin until May 2016, when I got my own place! Now I was able to do all kinds of things. I wanted to start learning Dutch right away, but unfortunately I had to wait until the start of the next school year. Dutch is a difficult language. Just take the fact that for each noun you have to know if the definite article is ‘de’ or ‘het’. Fortunately I had a great teacher. And I ended up in a network with Dutch people, which really helped.”
The UAF tested my language skills and intelligence. The results were positive so I was able to count on their assistance to fund my degree programme. In Afghanistan I had studied odontology for a year. In the Netherlands, I tried to study dental hygiene, but my Dutch wasn’t good enough yet. But now it is. I chose nursing because it will provide good job perspectives. The UAF pays for my travel expenses, books and tuition fees. I am very happy about that. There are many refugees like me who weren’t able to complete their degrees, but thanks to the UAF it’s possible.
“It is a fun degree programme. All the first year students become buddies. I work as a volunteer for Stichting de Zonnebloem. Every two weeks I visit a senior lady who lives in a care home. She is paralysed and has dementia. I help her with her groceries or we go for a walk. For Christmas I decorated her living room. I enjoy doing this, helping others.”
Developing a network
“I do miss Afghanistan. My mother is ill now, but there is no chance that I could ever go back. I lived there for 25 years and had a large network. Then you suddenly end up in a different country where you don’t know anybody. It is not easy to rebuild your network. I had a lot of help. There are more than a million volunteers in the Netherlands. A number of them help refugees, for example with administrative tasks such as signing a rental contract, arranging insurance and applying for gas, water, electricity and internet services. The Dutch are very friendly.”
UAF helps refugee students build a future
The Hague University of Applied Sciences provides financial support to UAF. Currently, 55 students are able to study at THUAS thanks to the assistance of UAF. Would you like to donate to UAF or would you like to know more? Visit their website.
After fleeing Afghanistan, Ashuqullah made a new start by enrolling in a university of applied sciences nursing degree programme.