Afghani refugees call Paris’ Place de la Republic home, photo essay by Ted McDonnell
Place de la Republic in Paris is a symbol of “living together” for the French especially after recent terror attacks that claimed more than 130 lives, yet for 400 Afghani refugees it has become home.
The Afghanis refugees most who have travelled for more than two years to reach Paris feel ignored and abandoned by the French government. They say they have been displaced from their homeland now they feel displaced in their adopted home, which is currently Place de la Republic.
The young men ranging in age from 15 – 28 sleep every night in the rain and cold with temperatures dipping below 0 degrees. During the day, they walk the streets or visit libraries to fill in the boredom of the days. Most are trying to learn French at free classes around the city.
“We don’t want the French to give us money but to just give us a place to stay, a place to live, opportunities to work and education for the young boys who have been robbed of opportunities for education in Afghanistan,” the group’s spokesperson Khanagul Tarakhel.
Khanagul, 28, was a driver for American forces for five years, but was forced to flee Afghanistan after he received death threats from the Taliban shortly after they murdered his school teacher father. He regrettably left behind his wife and three children. He is hoping one day to re-settle them in France.
Most of the Afghanis have seen horrific atrocities and many have had family members killed by Taliban and ISIS. One witnessed his brother being beheaded by the Taliban.
Now, in France they are faceless refugees in a big city sleeping rough during winter nights in Paris.
The youngest of the group of 400 Afghanis refugees, Abid Zadran,16, Jabarkhil Matullah,16, and Safi Gullmahammad,15, travelled to France in search of a new life away from the violence of their homeland.
“All we want is education and a home. We want a chance that’s all. Not money; just education and a chance of a new life,” Abid says.
They are supported by a small band of Parisians and Muslim support services. They are fed several times a day, but they say the French government ignores their existence as the world’s focus remains on the plight of Syrian refugees.
Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo has promised to assist the Afghani refugees but as the weeks roll on nothing has been done.
“We can’t go back, they will kill us. Islam does not ask people to kill, bit these murderers amongst the Taliban and ISIS kill everyone” Khanagul concluded.
The Afghanis are given two month permits to live in Paris.