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Who are our new Afghan neighbors? Meet two of them

Since September, the Afghan American Alliance of Georgia has been helping hundreds of Afghan refugees resettle here in Metro Atlanta. Because of the danger in their homeland, our new neighbors have had to leave behind everything they loved – relatives, friends, jobs and worldly possessions.

So how are they doing now? Two refugees tell us their stories of transition, resilience and renewal here in Georgia.

Maiwand Zadran was born in Kabul in 1986, a time of civil war and political upheaval. To escape the troubles of that era, his family moved to Pakistan. They did not return to Afghanistan until 2005.

Then, as a young man, Maiwand left home again -- this time to pursue a scholarship at a major university in India. When he completed his bachelor's degree, he returned home to build his career in Afghanistan’s Attorney General’s office, where he held top administrative roles. He helped root out kidnappers, money launderers and others who were undermining his country.

When the US-backed Afghan government collapsed in August, 2021, Maiwand knew he would be in danger from the Taliban. “We were the first target for these guys because we had sent them to jail,” he said. “I was inside of my home hiding for days. It was very horrible.”

After about a week, he and his wife were evacuated by the US military. The journey was complicated and hard. First, they were flown to Qatar. Then it was on to Italy for several days and Philadelphia after that. Finally, they were sent to Atlanta where Maiwand had a sibling already living here.

With help from the International Rescue Committee, he was able to get a single-bedroom apartment in Clarkston. “It was tough at first,” he said. They had lost everything – and needed so much.

That’s where AAAGa came in. “They are very kind people who are furnishing homes and helping us apply for benefits,” he said. “They help us get access to the Internet and computers…they did all sorts of stuff to help us.”

At last, Maiwand has a driver’s license and his wife, who had been a teacher in Afghanistan, is taking classes to learn English.

Now his No. 1 goal is to get a job. “I need to work. Without work, I cannot support my wife here or my family in Afghanistan,” he said.

The biggest hurdle is their status as refugees. “We have a two-year visa to be here, but so far, we cannot get a green card,” he said. “If we can get green cards, we will feel safe and know that we can stay.”

He is interviewing with several companies, hoping to get tech-related work. “I will start with anything,” he said. While searching for a paycheck, he also is helping with AAAGa, serving as a translator. “I am proud that I am a volunteer,” he said. “I am glad I am able to help others.”

Fetrat Farhat had an important career in Afghanistan, working for judicial reform. He was a legal advisor for the US Embassy. “I really loved my job,” he said. “I felt I was doing something good for my country.”

But when the Taliban overran Kabul last August, he knew this reform era was doomed. “There was no chance for those of us who had worked in a democratic environment,” he said. “Working with these people would be impossible.”

He turned to the US military for help getting himself, his pregnant wife and their four children out of Kabul. “I am very grateful that they provided a safe evacuation for us,” he said. First, the family was sent to Qatar, then Philadelphia and finally to Atlanta, where he has relatives.

“I didn’t know about Georgia before,” he said. Not only was the environment here unfamiliar, but Fetrat and his wife literally had nothing to start their new life. “We couldn’t bring anything with us. Nothing. So I thought: how will we do this?”

But then volunteers with AAAGa showed up. “Everything was provided for us – furniture, clothes, carpets,” he said.

“But I needed a job to stand on my own feet,” he said. Fortunately, he was able to land a paid position with the International Rescue Committee, working as a legal assistant. He hopes to eventually become a lawyer in this country. “I want to ensure justice,” he added.

At 43, Fetrat is feeling optimistic that he can build a new life in Clarkston. His wife has given birth and their older children are doing well in school.

“I really miss Afghanistan. My memories, my friends, my other family members -- they are always on my mind,” he said. Still, with the help of AAAGa, “I am feeling at home here,” he said. “The volunteers have helped me a lot.”

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