Hundreds of Afghan refugees in Greece took to the streets of Athens on Thursday to protest the Taliban takeover of their country, saying they feared for relatives still there.
Chanting “We don’t want Islamists in Afghanistan”, around 500 protesters many of them women and children flocked onto Syntagma Square outside the Greek parliament waving the black, red and green colours of the Afghan flag.
Greece is currently home to 40,000 long-term Afghan refugees and asylum seekers, making it the largest migrant population there, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
An Afghan flag in one hand, 19-year-old refugee Golbahar Shojayie said she was “anxious and stressed” about the future of her country under renewed Taliban rule.
“They don’t let women out of the house without a man. It’s horrible,” she told AFP.
She called on the Greek authorities to provide shelter from those fleeing the Taliban. “Please give a place to these people. Don’t let these people alone!”
She said she had spoken by phone the previous day with her uncle, who described how he and his family had fled under cover of darkness to neighbouring Pakistan.
Relatives ‘in hiding’
“I can’t sleep at night,” said Razia Bayoni, a 35-year-old Afghan woman who arrived in Greece three years ago with her three children and her husband, who lost a leg to a Taliban landmine.
“I learnt that the Taliban killed seven people in my village, Malistan,” where her mother still lives, southwest of Kabul.
She has had no news from her family, explaining that “because of the Taliban, there’s no phone, no electricity”.
“For 20 years, women tried to be freer, choose their lives. The Taliban are destroying that,” she said.
The demonstrators would march to the offices of the European Union in Athens “to show that the Taliban are terrorists, they will kill women and children”, she said.
Among the marchers was Julmurad Hussaini, 27, who reached Athens in 2019 having first sought refuge on the Greek island of Lesbos.
In his home province of Samangon, his relatives are “in hiding”, and did not have the resources to get to Europe, he told AFP.
Sijadullah Zakhel, in Greece for the past four years, said he usually calls his family in Afghanistan about once a week, but now he phones every day, worried for their survival.
“I am 21-years-old,” he says “and I didn’t see one good day in Afghanistan. I want my family to come here, where there is not this same stress”.
At the head of the march, protesters held a banner proclaiming: “Now we know that we will not return home, thanks to NATO, the United States, Europe”.
Greece’s Minister of Migration, Notis Mitarachis, warned on Wednesday that Greece is determined not to once again become the “gateway” to Europe for refugees crossing from Turkey as it was in 2015.