There is a song by the late Muboraksho, a famous Tajik singer from Badakhshan, called “Chor Javon.”
It’s about four young men who, against the advice of their parents decide to go on a trip in wintertime. They are killed by an avalanche. The song has recently been covered by a rock group and I can’t stand the new version but it keeps running through my head as I think about what happened to my husband recently.
My husband works in a certain city in Afghanistan. Given the present climate there I’m not going to say which one, but in any case, he’s become well-known to the people there as a Tajik who will help other Tajiks (as in, people from Tajikistan, not Afghan Tajiks, since he is obligated to remain neutral in that respect).
Over the past several weeks, as you may know, Iran has been expelling thousands of Afghan refugees. It seems that anyone caught in the net without papers is summarily expelled, without the chance to so much as return to his apartment to get his papers.
Among the thousands were three Tajik teenagers who had lost their passports and had copies of their passports in their apartment. They had gone to Iran to engage in religious study at a madrassa and had only been there a couple of months. The police picked them out as non-Iranians on the street, and when they didn’t have their papers, they got put in the truck and driven to the border. They were dumped on the other side for UNHCR to deal with.
At least, I hope UNHCR was there. There have been a lot of deportations lately.
Somehow, they made it to near the border with Tajikistan. They hoped that there, their fellow Tajik border guards would let them across. However, the Amu Darya separates Tajikistan and Afghanistan, and the Afghans wouldn’t let them across to make their appeal.
They returned to the nearest Afghan city, and were directed by the police to my husband, who housed them and sent their papers by courier to the Tajik consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif. They hoped to get a letter to eventually return to Tajikistan.
When my husband made his weekly trip to Tajikistan, he told this story to his family. That was when he learned that one of the boys he gave shelter to was the grandson of the mullah who took care of his mother when she was orphaned as a child.
The young people are back home. Their things have been sent (presumably by friends at the madrassa) Chinese faux Adidas gym bag after Chinese faux Adidas gym bag, across the border to Herat, over through Hazarajat to Kabul, through the Salang pass up to Kunduz, and finally, dragged by my husband on to the barge to cross the Amu Darya and get stuffed in a taxi up to Dushanbe, where they sit in our apartment waiting for some relative or other to pick them up.