A long way back home

Juma Gul's story is about finding himself as a stranger in his homeland of Afghanistan after returning from Pakistan after nearly 30 years of displacement. Despite tough times, he reconnected with his homeland.

"I was born in Afghanistan in 1981 in a village in the Kandahar province near the Pakistani border.  Rather than telling you the long story of how we had to flee due to war and violence, I’ll share my experience of what it meant to return to Afghanistan after nearly 30 years.

My family and I returned to Kandahar in Afghanistan in November 2014 after we had lived as refugees in Pakistan for a long time. Challenges were plenty. Despite coming back to my homeland, I found that people looked at us as foreigners because of the accent we had acquired while living in Pakistan.

We found ourselves as strangers in our own homeland.

Juma Gul

Stranger at home
Finding a house to rent and enrolling my children into school was our priority. The tuition fees were expensive and hard for us to afford. We found ourselves as strangers in our own homeland with everything and everyone being unfamiliar to us - and it made us feel lonely.

My wife and daughters began to show signs of stress and developed psychological and social problems as did I. We lacked the social network to rely on, people to comfortably share our feelings with and to feel supported and understood. The weight of worry on how to support my family was continuously heavy on my mind. I could not set up my own business but still needed to bring food to the table and pay the rent. I felt completely lost as my plans failed, and I could not turn to anyone for help. These were tough times. 

I can’t stress how difficult this was, but we were determined to make it happen whatever the effort and however long it would take.

Juma Gul

After some time, I decided to focus on what was essential. My children needed to have civil documentation if they were to be admitted into school. Making sure they would have access to education was my priority. Gradually we built our network and reconnected with relatives, made friends and worked hard to reintegrate. I can’t stress how difficult this was, but we were determined to make it happen whatever the effort and however long it would take. 

Seven years on
It is now seven years ago since our return. My children have benefited from school with my eldest recently graduating from high school and due to enter medical school in Kandahar next year. I could not be prouder. My wife is now comfortable and has friends and relatives around her and she finally feels like she’s home.

As for me, I got a job at DRC in my hometown almost four years ago. It is meaningful in all ways, knowing that I’m putting my own experience into my work, understanding those I serve. It’s reassuring to know that I’m helping those who have gone through similar experiences that I did some years ago. Not only do I help and contribute towards supporting the needs of vulnerable people who have gone through displacement - both internally displaced and returnees - in my professional capacity, but I also empathize with them on a personal level, just like any person should."

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