Why human rights?

A refugee’s story, recently told to me:

In 1992, hundreds of young Afghans educated in a Soviet-run boarding school were sent back to Afghanistan from Kazakhstan.  Many of these teenagers were no longer comfortable speaking their mother tongues of Dari or Pashto, and Afghan culture was as foreign to them as to non-Afghans. The students, most in their early to middle teens, had been given up during the Soviet-Afghan war by  impoverished parents who hoped that an education in the Soviet Union would release their children from the grim prospects of starvation and violent, early death.

In Kazakhstan, the children were indeed educated, and lived a mostly idyllic life with Russian nannies, summer camps with bonfires and games, and trips to Moscow. And then, in 1992, the foundations of that life gave way.

On their return, the Soviet-educated Afghans were left adrift in a country they barely remembered. Many could not find their parents, as the Afghan Civil War was underway. At some point, dozens of the returned highschoolers, those too young to fight, were left to sleep outside, in the grounds of an orphanage that doubled as a hospital. Scorpions stung them, fleas drained their hunger-weakened bodies, they shivered in the cold, and, worst of all, militia commanders constantly preyed on them. One morning, some commanders arrived and began forcing the girls into their vehicles. The girls’ terrified classmates looked on in helpless horror. None of the kidnapped girls were seen again. Later, a boy was lured away and also disappeared forever into the wave of suffering and death that washed over Afghanistan and much of Central Asia then, and rolls on still.

When I think of the terror those girls must have felt as they were taken from their friends and driven to an unimaginable fate, or the long, and entirely preventable suffering of their classmates, I simply cannot imagine any other line of work.

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