Afghan immigrants living in the German city of Hamburg are wary of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan. They told DW that the Taliban's gains have dashed their hopes of returning to their country one day.
Hamburg is home to a large community of Afghan immigrants. The city's Steindamm street, which is nicknamed "small Kabul," is full of shops and restaurants owned by Afghans.
The Kabul Restaurant is usually crowded on the weekend. Many Germans and Afghans come here to enjoy authentic Afghan food. Paintings of famous places in Afghanistan remind the immigrants of their home country.
Here, Afghans also discuss politics and the current developments in Afghanistan. Currently, the gatherings are limited because of COVID-19 restrictions, but people still talk about the rapidly changing situation in the war-ravaged country.
"Afghans from different walks of life share their stories here," one visitor told DW. "Many of them still have family members in Afghanistan. They talk to them regularly to know what is happening in their home country," she said.
The main topic of discussion these days is the withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan. The Taliban, emboldened by their 2020 deal with the US and the unconditional exit of foreign troops from Afghanistan, are gaining control of more territories in the country. Afghans in Hamburg are concerned about these developments and how they are likely to affect their country and relatives there.
'Good time didn't last'
Ibrahim Khadimi told DW that he visits Kabul Restaurant to enjoy food from northern Afghanistan, where he lived until 2014. He said he thought the hardest years for Afghanistan were over after the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001.
"In my village alone, hundreds of boys and girls started going to school. New roads were built and we even got a clinic in our area," Khadimi said.
But the good times didn't last for long, he added.
"The situation in Afghanistan worsened in 2007. It became very difficult for me to stay in the country, so I left Afghanistan in 2014. The insurgents killed two of my friends. Had I stayed there, they could have killed me also," he said.
After the start of the pullout of NATO troops, the security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated even further. Violent attacks across the country have increased manifold in the past few months.
"The surge in attacks has dashed our hopes of someday returning to Afghanistan," Khadimi said.
Khadimi is a relative newcomer in Germany; thousands of Afghans have lived in Hamburg for decades. Many of them visit Afghanistan to meet their relatives and friends.
"Afghanistan is my home country. How can I forget it? It pains me to see what is happening there," 67-year-old Abdul Wali, who has lived in Germany most of his life, told DW.
Losing hope for Afghanistan
It is not just food and memories that connect Hamburg's Afghan community to Afghanistan; many of these people also have business ties to their home country.
An Afghan businessman, who did not want to be named due to his frequent visits to Afghanistan, told DW that it is now getting increasingly difficult to do carry out business deals with his partners in his home country.
"People steal your money in broad daylight even in big cities like Kabul and Herat. Bomb blasts are frequent and taking place everywhere," he said.
The situation will get worse if the Taliban continue to gain strength, he said.
"My close family members are in Germany, but I have other family members who still live in Afghanistan. Everyone I spoke to in Afghanistan wants to leave the country. We have lost hope for Afghanistan," he added.
"Now that foreign troops are leaving, the warlords will get more powerful," he said. "It will make things difficult for everyone."
Additional reporting by Hussain Sirat.
Author: Masood Saifullah
First published: June 29, 2021
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