Report Wire - For Afghan Refugees, a Mix of Luxury and Trauma at Albania’s Beach Resorts

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For Afghan Refugees, a Mix of Luxury and Trauma at Albania’s Beach Resorts

7 min read
For Afghan Refugees, a Mix of Luxury and Trauma at Albania’s Beach Resorts

The medical pupil, in a trauma-induced trance after every week below Taliban rule and three days of terror ready for a flight out of Kabul’s airport, regarded out the window on her first day at her new dwelling and noticed the Statue of Liberty.
“I thought for a moment that perhaps I was in New York,” stated Tahera, a 21-year-old pupil. But the statue, product of plaster as an alternative of copper and situated in northern Albania, a fiercely pro-U.S. nation, was “much shorter than the real one,” she added, summoning up a wry humorousness regardless of her harrowing ordeal.
The statue was an unintentionally taunting ornament, a kitschy flourish on the grounds of an Albanian seaside resort housing greater than 440 Afghans who fled Kabul after the town fell to the Taliban on Aug. 15.
Before being flown final week to Albania, a rustic she had by no means heard of, Tahera had hoped to flee to the United States or Britain, the place she has an uncle. (The New York Times is utilizing solely Tahera’s first identify to guard her household nonetheless in Afghanistan.) But with these nations and different rich nations cautious of taking in refugees, she has discovered shelter in what is probably the world’s strangest and most luxurious refugee camp.

Albania, one among Europe’s poorest nations, has dedicated to taking in as much as 4,000 refugees from Afghanistan, greater than some other nation. The 677 who’ve arrived, together with about 250 kids, are being housed in resorts alongside the Adriatic coast, a follow primarily based on an emergency-response strategy that Albania developed after a devastating earthquake in 2019, when folks left homeless had been put up in seaside resorts.
Although the Afghans are grateful for the lodging, the contact of luxurious rings considerably hole for a lot of.
Parwarish, an Afghan ladies’s activist who labored on initiatives funded by the US Agency for International Development, stated that she was touched by the Albanians’ kindness however that she nonetheless was sleeping fitfully and having nightmares.
“I see my family dying in my dreams,” she stated. “All this luxury is great if you have peace of mind. I don’t.”
The resolution to welcome the Afghans seems to be in style in Albania, a rustic with a protracted historical past of its folks withdrawing. Providing for the refugees “is the right and natural thing to do,” Prime Minister Edi Rama stated in an interview in Tirana, the capital.
While opposition politicians in France, Germany and different European nations often stoke concern of refugees and migrants to place stress on authorities leaders, Rama’s opponents have largely stayed quiet or supported his welcoming of Afghans.
“We don’t put people in camps. They are dehumanizing and where all the problems start psychologically,” the prime minister stated. “We have been like them many times in our own history. They are just trying to escape from hell.”
Tahera, the medical pupil, shares a room with an Afghan girl who misplaced each of her fingers in a bomb assault in Afghanistan. Now at a resort with three swimming swimming pools and a protracted sandy seaside, Tahera desires to be taught to swim, eager to take her thoughts off the traumas. She additionally seems to be ahead to studying to experience a bicycle, a type of train that Afghanistan’s conservative, patriarchal society frowns on for girls.
Determined to maintain her deliberate medical profession on monitor, she is taking a first-aid course provided on the resort by an Afghan physician from London.
Albania, a NATO member that despatched troops to Afghanistan to hitch the US-led effort to carry the Taliban at bay, has lengthy helped folks the United States doesn’t need or doesn’t know what to do with.
When the US army determined in 2006 {that a} group of Chinese Uyghurs it had held captive for 4 years at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, weren’t harmful terrorists as China had maintained, Albania agreed to provide them a spot to dwell.
But Rama stated of taking within the Afghans, “We are not doing this because the Americans asked us.”
Sensing that the US-backed authorities in Kabul wouldn’t final lengthy as U.S. troops accomplished their withdrawal from Afghanistan, Rama first provided at a NATO summit in June to assist with what he feared can be a flood of Afghan refugees. He urged different leaders to do the identical. (A senior American diplomat in Tirana confirmed Rama’s account.)
But NATO leaders noticed little purpose for rapid fear. They caught to Washington’s optimistic view that the Taliban had been months and even years away from victory.
Two months later, Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, setting off an exodus of girls’s activists, civil society staff, journalists and different Afghans who concern the Taliban.
In Albania, on the Rafaelo Resort, a cluster of four- and five-star resorts close to the city of Lezhe, evacuees from Afghanistan eat in a separate restaurant that serves halal meals however mingle by the pool with vacationers, largely ethnic Albanians from neighboring Kosovo.
The Afghans’ room and board are coated by overseas organizations just like the National Endowment for Democracy and the Yalda Hakim Foundation, which was arrange by a BBC journalist of Afghan origin. George Soros’ Open Society Foundations are paying for 135 Afghans who labored with the group in Afghanistan to remain at a high-end lodge and spa down the coast. (The group negotiated a steep low cost.)
The presence of veiled Afghan ladies on poolside lounger chairs on the Rafaelo Resort has come as a shock to the paying company, however none appeared to thoughts.
“I had no idea there were so many Afghans living here, but they don’t bother me,” stated Besnik Zeqiri, a Kosovo Albanian émigré to the United States. “They are all humans and need to be protected.”
Liri Gezon, one other vacationer, stated he had seen terrified Afghans at Kabul’s airport on tv and was completely satisfied to see them secure in Albania. “They are not creating any problems for us and deserve to live like we do,” he stated, recalling how lots of of 1000’s of ethnic Albanians had fled Kosovo to flee marauding Serbian forces within the late Nineteen Nineties and knew the trauma of flight.
Albania’s overseas minister, Olta Xhacka, stated in an interview that the Afghan evacuees had been initially anticipated to remain a few months whereas their visas for the United States had been being processed. “But we are now working on the premise that they will stay in Albania for at least one year, maybe longer,” she stated, including that these unable to safe visas to maneuver elsewhere can be welcome to remain in Albania.
Wahab, a journalist who helped run a US-funded information company protecting ladies’s points within the western Afghan metropolis of Herat, stated he had by no means anticipated such deluxe amenities. He fled Afghanistan along with his spouse and three kids, with assist from the National Endowment for Democracy.
“We are luxury refugees,” he joked. “We go to the beach and see half-naked women. We sleep, eat and go to the beach. For most people this would seem like paradise.”
But Afghanistan retains intruding. He can’t cease desirous about the eight Taliban checkpoints that stopped the bus he was touring on along with his household from Herat to Kabul, or seeing the Afghan capital for maybe the final time as his evacuation flight took off. Kabul, which the Taliban had taken over just a few days earlier, “looked very, very dark,” he stated.
An editor, who requested to not be named as a result of her household has obtained threats from the Taliban, stated she had “lost all hope in Afghanistan” and believed that the United States was “in a way right to leave our country, because nothing was really changing.”

As a fiercely impartial journalist who grew up in a household of Pashtun, Afghanistan’s most conservative and quite a few ethnic group, she was herself proof that some issues might change. But the lightning-swift return of the Pashtun-dominated Taliban sounded the loss of life knell for her media outfit.
“Any change we achieved has now been multiplied by zero,” she stated. “We are back at naught.”
Tahera, the medical pupil, avoids discussions about why her world imploded so rapidly.
She had by no means deliberate to depart Afghanistan, however as a lady and a member of the usually persecuted Hazara minority, she determined that there was no future for her in a Taliban-ruled nation.
“I always told my family and friends, ‘I will never leave my country,’ ” she stated. Yet her father urged her to go when the Yalda Hakim Foundation provided her an opportunity to get out, though it meant abandoning her dad and mom, 5 sisters and an toddler brother.
“I miss my family,” she stated. “I miss my university. I miss Afghanistan. I worry all the time. There are just too many questions I don’t know the answer to.”