Shakib Taaha fled Afghanistan with his family after a colleague was murdered by Islamist extremists. Now he’s living and working in Sweden, but doesn’t yet know if he’ll be allowed to stay.
Back in Afghanistan, the 23-year-old law graduate worked as an executive with a Christian aid organization in his home town of Hirat, where he lived with his five-year-old son and his wife, a school teacher.
But his employer’s Christian profile made it a target for fanatics and the family fled in 2015.
“After the threats seemed serious and life-threatening to me and my family, I started thinking about Sweden,” Taaha tells The Local Voices.
“I thought it would be the perfect choice, since my sister has been living there for around ten years.”
The two most difficult decisions of his life, he says, were leaving his homeland and undertaking the perilous journey to Europe.
And the trip proved as fraught as he had feared. On the Iran-Turkey border the family witnessed guards shooting refugees, before making their way to the Aegean coast.
“Crossing the sea from Turkey to Greece was very scary. Our nerves remained shot until the moment we arrived on Greek shores. I was responsible for three human beings: me, my kid and wife – it was hard, but I had no other choice.”
They arrived in Malmö on January 2nd this year, immediately applied for asylum, and made their way north to stay with Taaha's sister in Stockholm, where they have lived ever since.
Because the family were finger-printed in Germany, it looked at first like he would not be able to seek legal employment, but to Taaha’s great relief the migration agency gave him a work permit.
“This was the most uplifting thing to have happened me since I left my country,” he says.
With his sister’s help and a few other contacts he quickly got two job offers, one in newspaper distribution and another packing construction supplies. He took the construction job, since it was full time.
“I am happy with my new job, although it’s not relevant to my previous experience when I worked as a supply chain coordinator and was responsible for 75 employees.
"I know it won’t be easy to get a positon like that in Sweden any time soon — I understand very well my current situation and the challenges I’m facing.”
Now he has an income and pays taxes.
“Our only problem in Sweden is that we can’t take language lessons until we get residency permits, and that could take ages.”
Sweden is “awesome”, he says, and he and his family feel completely secure in their new home.
“We don’t get threats any more, that’s the most important thing: no-one threatens our life.”