The theme of Refugee Week 2019 is You, me, and those who came before. It is an invitation to explore the lives of refugees, and those who have welcomed them – throughout the generations.
I’m observing Refugee Week with a poem a day. This poem highlights the horrors faced by children – such horrors and distress that they can’t find the words to describe what has happened to them. This poem, brought to our attention by Kate Clanchy, is by Shukria Rezaei (pictured right) who “can’t write” about her Hazara people – she just can’t find the words. I read her poem side by side this report on the growing outrage over the separation of children from their parents at the southern US border.
Shukria’s Hazara people have been persecuted for centuries. They settled in Afghanistan in the thirteenth century but for much of that time have lived on the edge of economic survival, being driven from their land and being sold as slaves. They are Shi’a and have been persecuted by the majority Sunni population. The Taliban declared jihad on the Hazaras when they seized power in 1996.
This is the first poem Shukria wrote when she came to the UK aged 15.
I can’t write about my Hazara people
who have suffered for decades
in Afghanistan where they come from
in Pakistan where they are murdered
in Iran where they offend
because of their almond-shaped eyes
my mind is blank!
I can’t write about how loud the shooting was
just two miles from my house.
How my aunt fainted.
How nervous my mom got,
how the cup fell from her hand.
I can’t write about how innocent people died,
how the Martyr’s necropolis gets bigger and bigger,
how my people suffer,
how cruel this world can get,
how frightening it is
for kids like me.
Shukria Rezaei (15)