Samir Ahmad fled Afghanistan after getting threats from the Taliban. Skip forward two years and he has just landed a job teaching Swedish — on the same day his residence permit came through.
What was your work like, and why did the Taliban target you?
We had a project that was funded by the US and a few other international donors. I was in contact with high-level officials and we were doing important development work.
Unfortunately the Taliban, who don’t want to see Afghanistan develop, knew about me and started to send me warnings and threats. What made it really dangerous was that I was living in an area inhabited by many Taliban members.
Every time I remember my life back home it hurts. I was working hard and hoping to see my country develop.
Tell us about your journey to Sweden.
I fled from Afghanistan to Pakistan in June 2014. After less than a week I managed to fly to Sweden through Dubai — with the help of a smuggler, of course, who took a lot of money. When I arrived in Sweden I applied for asylum.
It was hard to flee from Afghanistan to Pakistan, especially as I had no documents. I just left with no documents at all. It was stressful. I was scared and had no hope for the future.
I didn’t know if I’d be safe in Pakistan, because the Taliban exists there as well, and you never know who is Taliban and who’s not. They dress like everyone else. Also, I was in Pakistan illegally but didn’t think I had a choice.
I wasn’t sure I’d find a smuggler, but a friend put me in touch with someone who promised me safe passage to Europe. The smuggler chose my destination, not me.
Throughout the entire journey I didn’t know what country I was going to end up in. When we arrived at Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport the smuggler took away our false documents and told us to find our own way.
What have been the best and worst things about starting a new life in Sweden?
The worst thing is thinking back on my previous life in Afghanistan. Everything I’d built up over 24 years just vanished in a few days. Not to mention my family and all the great memories I have of them.
It’s not that easy to build a good life in Afghanistan, but I had my own apartment, car, work and had almost everything I wanted. And so when I was moved to the asylum centre here in Sweden, I felt very bad. I was put in a room with five others, and the hygiene conditions weren’t that good. For example, the toilet was mostly grimy and really stank.
But the warm welcome and kindness from the migration agency’s staff made up for all of that — it gives one hope.
What are you doing now, and how did it come about?
I started studying Swedish on my own. Then I got the chance to further improve my Swedish with Klondyk, a project for refugees run by ABF here in Boden in northern Sweden. I later came into contact with the Afghan association in Boden and started to participate in different voluntary activities.
In September 2014 I got an internship as an administrator and interpreter with a company that helps refugees integrate. They wanted to offer me a job but then the government pulled the plug on the scheme [Etableringslots] that was partly funding them.
I volunteered as a seller at Pingstkyrkan Secondhand, a chef at Ria Oasen-Boden, an interpreter at BodenFlyktinghjälp [refugee assistance], and a part-time Swedish assistant at ABF Boden.
This March I started my internship as a Swedish language assistant teacher at Studieförbundet Vuxenskolan – and a month later I was offered a job. It’s due to start after the summer holidays.
We have more than 300 students from 23 countries, and I really enjoy helping them, especially when I see the students starting to speak or write in Swedish
What advice do you have for others in your situation?
Use every second of your time learning Swedish, establish yourself in Swedish society and help each other with everyday activities. Finally, and most importantly, respect Sweden’s laws.
Undereducated refugees need to work harder to find their own ways in the society. And I think we, the educated, need to help them doing so. Now I speak Swedish and I feel very well assimilated into the society, I think I am an example of an integrated newcomer.
What are your future plans?
I want to complete my education and get a PhD. I’d like to become a university lecturer and assist in the development of Swedish society.