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Afghan Refugees and Returnees through the Eyes of Women on the Ground

F a r z a n a W a h i d y, S h i v a Z e n d e d e l & N a j i a W a s i f

a photobook

The Governments of the Islamic Republics of Iran and Pakistan have been hosting one of the worlds largest refugee populations for the last three decades. Mass Afghan migration to Iran started around the same time that it happened in Pakistan, in 1979/80s with the Soviet Occupation. Since then, Afghan migration to both countries has continued unabated, primarily motivated by the direct and indirect effects of war, insecurity, unemployment and ination in Afghanistan. This photobook contains a selection of the photos that were displayed at an exhibition held in Geneva between 2 and 10 October 2012. It also provides a brief overview of the situation for returnees in Afghanistan and refugees in Iran and Pakistan. The photos offer a unique insight into the lives of Afghan refugees during displacement in host countries and upon return to Afghanistan from the perspective of female photographers within those countries. The idea was encouraged by the Norwegian mission in Iran and was kindly funded by Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In recognition of the Norwegian governments commitment to deliver aid to the region and as a reection of the sound cooperation between NRC and the Norwegian government, H.E Steffen Kongstad co-hosted the opening of the exhibition.

June 06, 2012. Trucks of Afghan returnees arrive from Pakistan at a UNHCR Encashment Center in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photos by Farzana Wahidy

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Mohammad Qadir, a returnee from Pakistan, with his family on their way back to their home in Kunduz Province. Mohammad and his family returned to Afghanistan after 28 years in Pakistan and were registered at a UNHCR encashment center by NRC on June 11, 2012. The NRC works at encashment centers across Afghanistan to provide information to returnees and IDP families on available assistance programmes in areas of origin.

Photo by Farzana Wahidy

2011. Repatriation convoy, Rafsanjan Settlement, Kerman, Iran. Photo by Shiva Zendedel

Repatriation convoy, Rafsanjan Settlement, Kerman, Iran. Photo by Shiva Zendedel

2011. Afghan students, Rafsanjan settlement, Kerman Province, Iran. Photo by Shiva Zendedel

While Afghan children living in refugee settlements do not need to pay to attend school, only 3% of the Afghan population in Iran live in these camps/settlements. Afghan children living outside of camps/settlements are often required to pay a fee to attend. There are some exemptions to school fees offered by the Government of Iran, however for most, the fees are too high and many Afghan children miss out on schooling.

June 6, 2012. 10 year old Nasrin nds a spot to study in her IDP settlement in Bagrami district of Kabul.
Photo by Farzana Wahidy

2012. Afghan refugee girl, Bardsir Settlement, Kerman Province, Iran. Photo by Shiva Zendedel

June 09, 2012. A group of refugee returnee women receive training at an NRC Youth Education Pack (YEP) programme female center in Tangi district of Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Photo by Farzana Wahidy

There are approximately 400,000 internally displaced persons in Afghanistan. Conict and lack of access to sustainable livelihood opportunities are causing increasing internal displacement. This rise in internal displacement is especially important given that the overwhelming reintegration trends to date has been secondary displacement and urban migration, both employed as coping mechanisms by returnees and driven also by the poor security conditions in many places of high return. Ensuring all Afghan refugee returnees are able to return and reintegrate in safety and under conditions of human dignity is a key challenges for all national, regional and international partners working to support Afghan refugees.

June 8, 2012. A displaced girl, Gulsoma, holds her brother Mawaz inside a tent provided by NRC in Muslim Abad district of Jalalabad Province. Gulsoma, once a refugee, was forced to ee conict in Kunar Province upon return from Pakistan.

Photo by Farzana Wahidy

Photo by Shiva Zendedel

2011. An Afghan girl looks out into the desert while waiting for her clothes to dry in the settlement of Bardsir, Kerman Province, Iran.

3% of the total registered Afghan refugee population of 840,000 live settlements in Iran. NRC programme in the settlements of Bardsir and Rafsanjan in Kerman Province is currently focusing on shelter and water and sanitation interventions.

August 2012. An Afghan boy carries water home in Dasht e Zahmatkeshan in Kerman Province, Iran.
Photo by Shiva Zendedel

June 2012. Afghan IDP children playing at sunset. Bagrami district, Kabul Province, Afghanistan.
Photo by Farzana Wahidy

An uncertain future now awaits those Afghan refugees still residing in Pakistan and Iran, estimated to stand at over four million. For those who do return to Afghanistan, their reintegration challenges over the next two years will likely differ drastically from those faced by returnees in the past ten years. A signicant portion of the remaining refugees are living in urban areas (estimated to be upwards of 50% in both Pakistan and Iran) and a majority were born in exile, with nearly half estimated to be under the age of 15. Furthermore, the majority of Afghan refugees are increasingly urbanized and living outside of camp settings. Lack of security is cited as a key obstacle to return by Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran, followed closely by perceived lack of employment opportunities and then weak service provision in place of origin.

Waserullah, 5 years old looks up to his friends. Originally from Kapisa, their families ed conict and now live in an IDP settlement in Bagrami district of Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo by Farzana Wahidy

August 2012. An Afghan refugee woman sits by her oven in Akoora refugee camp, Nowshera, Pakistan.
Photo by Najia Wasif

Return to Afghanistan. A snapshot: Since 2002, estimated 5.7 million returned to Afghanistan (81% assisted); not all returned voluntarily; Largest UNHCR-assisted repatriation programme for almost 30 years; 20% of Afghan population are returnees; Voluntary return has slowed, reintegration has been difcult, absorption capacity of country has been questioned; Secondary displacement (especially to urban centers) is high due to lack of livelihoods, services, insecurity and land availability.

August 2012. An Afghan girl poses while her mother washes clothes in the refugee settlement of Rafsanjan in Kerman Province, Iran.
Photo by Shiva Zendedel

June 9, 2012. 50 year old Afsar, a returnee from Pakistan in 2010, throws mud to 47 year old Aziz helping to build their new home.
Photo by Farzana Wahidy

An elderly man, a returnee from Pakistan in 2008, works in his yard in the Province of Nangarhar, Afghanistan.
Photo by Farzana Wahidy

August 2012. View of Rafsanjan refugee settlement, Kerman Province, Iran.


Photo by Shiva Zendedel

August 2012. An Afghan boy waits for his father to nish work at a brick factory in Dasht e Zahmatkeshan in the Province of Kerman, Iran.
Photo by Shiva Zendedel

August 2012. Afghan workers check for cracks in bricks in Dasht e Zahmatkeshan, Kerman Province, Iran.
Photo by Shiva Zendedel

August 2012. Afghan workers rest after hard work in the brick factories of Dasht e Zahmatkeshan in Kerman Province, Iran.
Photo by Shiva Zendedel

There are 1.7 million refugees in Pakistan hopeful that the Government will extend their residency permits beyond December 31,2012, and until conditions for return improve in Afghanistan.

The Government of Pakistan has been providing protection to Afghan refugees for the past three decades. In the coming years, and with the support of the international community the generous asylum space in Pakistan can be preserved until living conditions improve in Afghanistan.

August 2012. Afghan refugee girl carrying water in Khazana refugee camp. Peshawar, Pakistan. Photo by Najia Wasif

June 4, 2012. Ten year old Fatima, retrieves water from a river in Herat Province while her ten year old cousin Mahboba waits her turn. Photo by Farzana Wahidy

Photo by Farzana Wahidy

Fatima and her family were displaced from Faryab Province to Herat 8 months ago following increased insecurity in their village and now live in a shelter built by NRC in Herat, Afghanistan. The NRC shelter programme in Afghanistan targets internally displaced persons, returning Afghan refugees and host communities by providing short-term emergency shelter and longer-term permanent shelter construction.

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Farzana Wahidy

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Najia Wasif

Farzana Wahidy was born in Kapisa, Afghanistan, in 1981 and moved to Kabul at the age of six. She attended school during the years of the Afghan civil war. After the Taliban came to power and prohibited the education of women, she secretly attended an underground school - located in an apartment - with 300 other girls. When the Taliban were defeated Farzana continued her education, completing high school then enrolling in a two-year program sponsored by AINA Photojournalism Institute. In 2004 Farzana began working as a photojournalist for Agence-France Presse, becoming the rst female Afghan photojournalist to work for an international wire service. In 2007 Farzana received a scholarship to attend the two-year Photojournalism Program at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario, Canada, and, in 2008, was one of four recipients of a Merit Award from the All Roads Film Project and Photography Program sponsored by the National Geographic Society. Farzanas photographs have been exhibited in internationally in over 8 countries and have appeared in numerous international publications. %& Shiva Zendedel Moghadam was born in Kerman, Iran in December 1981. At just 18 years of age, she commenced working for UNHCR as an interviewer of asylum seekers in Iran. She was with UNHCR for a further eight years working in various roles and projects in Kerman, Zahedan, Zabul and other border cities of Iran. In 2012 she joined NRC to continue her services to refugees in Iran. Throughout the years of visiting refugee communities and camps, she always had her camera handy, which she used to frame the rare moments of paradox in a refugee's life, a mixture of sadness, happiness and stress. Her work has been recognized by many national and international organizations like BAFIA, UNHCR, and the Kerman Photojournalist Association. She has had several exhibitions in Iran, including to raise money for charities and for World Refugee Day. ' Najia Wahidy AKA Najia Butt was born in Lahore, Pakistan in 1976. Her father was in the army and she spent time in Lahore and Quetta before settling in Karachi. From an early age, Najia was recognized for her abilities in photography and has been the recipient of prizes for her talent. Najia attended the Lahore School of Photography while she also holds an MBA. She now lives in Islamabad where she has her own photography studio and is involved in professional shoots and branding and where she also teaches.!Najias photos have been published in numerous magazines in Pakistan.

Special thanks to
All the NRC and IDMC staff that assisted in Switzerland, Oslo, Brussels and the Islamic Republics of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan; the governments of the Islamic Republics of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan; the Bureau of Aliens and Foreign Immigrants Affairs (BAFIA) of the Islamic Republic of Iran; the Norwegian Embassies in Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan; H.E. Steffen Kongstad, Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations Ofce in Geneva, and the Norwegian Mission in Geneva; the Swiss Embassies in Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan; H.E. Dr Jamaher Anwari, Minister of Refugees and Repatriation, Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan; H.E. Dante Martinelli, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations and the Swiss Mission in Geneva; Mrs Stephanie Roux-Parsons and Le Bureau des Visas of the Dpartement Fdral des Affaires Etrangeres DFAE in Geneva; Head of Visa Section Mr Christoph Keller, Embassy of Switzerland in Islamabad; the Embassy of Afghanistan in Tehran; the Internal Council of Volunteering Agencies in Geneva (ICVA); the Ofce of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Tehran and Geneva; Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nations in Geneva; The European Council on Refugees and Exiles; The Swiss Cooperation Agency in Kabul and Bern; The Palais des Nations in Geneva; Freestudios SA in Geneva. And to all of those who stood in front of Farzana's, Shiva's and Najia's cameras.

A photobook funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs