Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Staying to Build Afghanistan

Hundreds of men are transfixed by the theatrical performance of local farmer Kaka Shakoor, his easy-going son Toorialay and his ambitious eldest Zekrullah - who’s left home in an attempt to reach Europe for a better life...

A Project of
We Stay to Build Afghanistan

There is a possibility that we will be dead on the way if we migrate illegally. They face a lot of difficulties on the way, for example, they are tortured, and threatened to death. The most important thing for me is my self-respect, and if that is not with then the money does not mean anything to me. We must stay, and work inside the country, build our homeland, and earn here. Our self-respect will also be safe here.”  

Mobile Theater audience member Noor Ahmad from Helmand ( 27 years old)

Hundreds of young men sit in the dust on a cold February day in Afghanistan’s Nangahaar Province’s Kama District. Alternately laughing and crying, they’re transfixed by the theatrical performance of local farmer Kaka Shakoor, his easy-going son Toorialay and his ambitious eldest Zekrullah – who’s left home in an attempt to reach Europe for a better life.  It’s a dramatic but familiar tale to so many of them, some already returned from similar perilous journeys, having avoided Zekrullah’s tragic end.

The drama this enthralled crowd has been watching is one of 170 mobile theater performances being enacted across rural parts 17 of Afghanistan’s most remote provinces. This is part of a nationwide information initiative to highlight the risks of unsafe migration from Afghanistan to Europe. Working closely with the Government of Afghanistan, Equal Access International (EAI) designed a range of communications initiatives as part of the project ‘We Stay to Build Afghanistan’.  

Over the past three years, Afghans have been the second largest group of migrants to the EU, and many of them are now returning to Afghanistan, voluntarily or through deportations.  But this communication initiative aims to do more than simply educate young Afghans about the risks and legal issues they may face – the main purpose is to emphasize the great dangers many migrants face along the way.

In the crowd in Nangahaar is 20-year old Mohammad Jan said:

To be honest, I learned many things regarding the migration from this show. It is shocking that our youth are leaving the country, and going abroad. They face many dangers and difficulties.”  

Young men form the largest body of people leaving the country in search of a safer and better life in Europe, but they are also those the country can afford to lose least.  The national campaign also includes live radio call-in shows in 24 provinces, public service announcements, community listening and discussions groups, videos, a website and social media plus a live hotline.  Everything is produced in Dari and Pashto, the two main languages of Afghanistan.

While Afghanistan continues to be troubled by serious security and economic problems, young people will always look abroad for other opportunities.  This information initiative is filling a vital gap in knowledge that has contributed to Afghanistan’s brain drain in the past few years. Many people take the perilous journey towards Europe with no knowledge of the physical and financial risks it involves, and tragically a great many have died on the way.  

‘We Stay to Build Afghanistan’ provides real stories from real returnees about the dangers they faced, and why they returned to their communities.  Along with discussions and information about opportunities for education, investment and careers in Afghanistan, the campaign aims to motivate young men to stay at home for the sake of their families, themselves and their country.

Mohamad Jan from Nangahaar says “I would like to say that these youth should stay inside the country, and build the country on our own. Others cannot work for us, it is we who must stay, and this is why I am not going anywhere, and ask others who left the country to come back, and stay.”

“Illegal migrations always result in loss of identity because you will never be treated equally with the citizen of the country you are migrating to." - CLDG member Basher Khan from Parwan Province

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