For the past year, ever since European countries began opening their borders to immigrants, Afghans have been fleeing in large numbers. They set out for Europe in search of peace and a better life, but they have a very poor understanding of the dangers that await them.
For many, it is a game of death.
Our odyssey started about a month ago, when we set out to the west, across the vast deserts of Nimroz province. We were not alone: there were many others with us, all of whom wanted to go to Europe.
There were 60 people including five families. We had educated people and illiterates; there were children only two or three years old.
When we reached the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, we were delivered to the Pakistani smugglers. The area was dangerous and we had to walk for many hours. During the day the weather was hot and exhausting, and during the night it was cold. It was desert as far as the eye could see, there was no sign of civilization.
The border between Iran and Afghanistan is so tightly controlled by the Iranian police that the only way of getting into Iran is by going through Pakistan. The worst moment was crossing the border between Iran and Pakistan, through a place called “The Difficult Mountain.”
Its name is well-deserved. Walking in these mountains and valleys can break down even strong young people, let alone families and children who, with even one false step, can lose their lives.
We faced death at every moment. Exhaustion, hunger and thirst, thieves, police, exposure, — the dangers are many.
When you start out along this path, there is no going back. You just have to keep going forward; stopping is suicide. It is like the Apocalypse; everyone thinks only of himself, and if you die they will pass you by without a second thought.
As we traveled through mountains and valleys, we would run into other groups. Some people said one of their members had died of a heart attack, and they had left his body by the side of the road. Others got so tired that they threw away all of their belongings and only kept their water bottles, so as not to die of dehydration.
At night, everyone would shiver from the cold, with no heavy clothes to keep themselves warm. Babies would cry constantly, and their mothers were not able to give them milk, because they were not eating properly themselves.
After hours of walking in the Difficult Mountain, we entered Iran. Now we were past the danger of dying of hunger or thirst; instead, it was the Iranian police that frightened us.
Inside the Iranian border we met a group of 30 armed men, drug smugglers who were walking faster than us. After a short time we heard the Iranian border police firing shots, and this group disappeared. We went back to Pakistan.
People are afraid of the Iranian border police because their government gives them permission to shoot. When the Iranian border police are around, everyone stays as quiet as death.
After a few run-ins with the police, I asked someone why it was that people got so scared when they were around. Some young men who have traveled this path a few times, told us some stories from their previous trips.
One, who was about 20 or25 years old, spoke very politely and with a Herati accent.
“Once when we were passing through here, the Iranian border police saw us and followed us,” he said. “They ordered us to stop a few times, but the driver did not pay any attention and continued to go very fast. The Iranian border police fired shots at us. One of my friends, who was in the trunk of the car, died, and another was severely injured. We were arrested, and after we were brutally tortured, we were deported.”
He shook his head.
“When we asked the Iranian government to give the body of our friend to his family in Afghanistan, they asked for one million tomans (about 333 USD) for each bullet,” he added.”We started this difficult journey to find success, not so that our family would have to pay for a wounded, dead body.”
We walked for 15 hours inside Iran’s border until the smugglers brought a car and picked us up. In order for the driver not to get caught by the police, he was speeding. We were close to our motel when our car got into an accident.
The driver managed to jump out of the car. But all of the passengers were hurt. Everyone was complaining about their backs and necks, and the children were so shocked that they could not even cry. I hurt my back as well.
It was a very serious accident, but no one was killed. The right-side doors of the car were jammed shut. We had to get my father and my small cousin, who were sitting in the front seat, out through the window.
The driver called the smugglers and they immediately sent three smaller cars for us. Some people were injured badly, but instead of taking us to the hospital, the smugglers drove us to the motel. They told us that if they took the injured to the hospital, the police would deport us and arrest them.
The motel had no facilities, and the injured were moaning. We had to tolerate the pain until late at night. Around 1:00 in the morning they brought some medicine; the severely injured were given opium.
It took us three weeks to get from Nimrooz to Tehran. Now that I am here, I feel so tired, and my whole body hurts.
I remember my friend, Fatah, who took the trip a few days before we did.
When I asked him how the journey was, he said “don’t ask!”
I did not understand him then. Now I do.