Young children collect firewood at Doro refugee camp. Women and girls regularly walk long distances, sometimes alone, at least once a day to collect firewood for cooking and to sell. The threat of physical harm or rape from soldiers and other men in host communities while collecting firewood outside the camps is one of their top concerns.
© 2012 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch
By Alice Farmer
Here’s a story to break your heart – thousands of Afghan refugee boys who roam Europe alone, without parents, without enough help from European governments, and at risk of destitution, detention, and death.
This sounds like a version of the “Hunger Games,” but this is all too real. At Human Rights Watch,we’ve been documenting abuses of unaccompanied migrant children for more than 10 years, and I’ve personally interviewed hundreds of these children. The kids I met with are sent abroad in a last ditch effort to find a better life or escape persecution. Traveling with smugglers—under trucks, by foot, and in rickety boats—at least 10,000 unaccompanied children enter the European Union each year. There may be thousands more, as the boys have a strong incentive to hide from registration with any government.
Afghan boys –a substantial proportion of the children I met—have fled awful situations at home. Family members might have been killed, and the boys themselves faced daily violence and deprivation. Some had been recruited as child soldiers.
An Afghan boy named Reza’s story really sticks with me. I met Reza (a pseudonym) in an abandoned, unfinished house under a bridge near Patras, a port city in Greece. To reach the house we walked through a gravel underpass, jumped over an open drain, and crawled through a hole in a barbed-wire-topped fence. A dozen or so Afghan asylum seekers lived in the house, on mattresses on the floor, with no running water or electricity. They introduced me to Reza, a tiny, narrow-framed boy with the faint traces of a first mustache on his upper lip.
Reza, who was just 14, had come to Greece by himself. His father had died, and his mother and older sisters had decided that he should leave Iran, where the family had sought refuge, and go to Europe. He told me he came to Europe to make money to support his mother and sisters. He traveled overland for months, crossing into Greece in the Evros region, where Greek police picked him up. They sent him to jail overnight, then let him go, without giving him any extra help or care, even though he looks like the young boy he is.
“I can’t stay here,” said Reza, speaking of Greece. “The police come at night and we have to run…. I have food, but not regularly.” Reza had a list—a mantra, really—of countries he hoped to reach to find safety. “To Switzerland, Sweden. Or Austria or Germany.” Yet Reza’s path ahead was not safe—he would have to dodge border guards and travel clandestinely further into Europe, perhaps stowing away on ferries or hanging underneath trucks for days at a time. Walking away from Reza after hearing his story, knowing he faced a very real threat of harm and even of death, broke my heart.
Picture: Reza stands outside the abandoned house in which he lives with other Afghan migrants in Patras, Greece. © 2012 Alice Farmer/Human Rights Watch
Do know what’s really scary? You want to forget something. Totally wipe it off your mind. But you never can. It can’t go away, you see. And… and it follows you around like a ghost.
“The Divorcee” (1930) is seen as one of the most important films of the Pre-Code era and it still surprises with the force and courage with which Norma Shearer’s character acts in it. The story of a strong, risqué woman who rebels against the patriarchal ideal of a virtuous wife while the husband is free to have affairs without tarnishing his reputation and hence confronting the hypocrisy of the double standard promoted feminism long before the term was used and made Norma Shearer (along with her other pre-code movies) almost a feminist pioneer. Based on the novel “Ex-Wife” by Ursula Parrott, it was highly controversial back in the day and ended up getting Norma Shearer her Best Actress Oscar for it. The film had a total of four Academy Award nominations including Best Film
“Ahmed,” a 24-year-old former college student from Raqqa, told Human Rights Watch that on April 7, 2012, Military Intelligence officers detained him and his brother at the Raqqa Military Intelligence Branch for their involvement in peaceful demonstrations. (via humanrightswatch)