World Refugee Day

June 20th is World Refugee Day. Frankly, there is no need to dedicate one or a few days anymore! Wars and violence continue to force millions to flee their homelands and become refugees every day as fear, distortion, and uncertainty reign and dreams start to crumble.

While decent human beings shed tears, extend hands and embrace displaced refugees, there are corrupt, vicious politicians and leader that fail to provide the necessary support and backbone. Governments sit idle and watch as if the crisis is entertainment rather than REAL human suffering. 

Bigots and those that are detached from humanity openly attack and try to put blame on victims as if it was the refugee’s decision to be a refugee. Time and time again there is proof that even the slightest issues within humanity become all of humanities problems. We cannot turn a blind eye to the refugee crisis.

The current refugee crisis is the biggest humanitarian challenge since World War II and calls for lasting and dignified solutions. It is time for world leaders to work towards establishing peace and end lasting wars.  It is only then that refugees can hope for return to their homelands and end all miseries and fears of children and their families.  

It is immoral to continue supporting war profiteers and flooding our world with massive weapons of destruction. Our leaders need to stand up and move towards social impact, economic mobility, and providing relief towards empowerment, development, and self-sufficiency.  

In the meantime, refugees and immigrants need to move towards self-sufficiency by adapting, educating one another, and participating as productive and responsible members in their new communities. Everyone deserves a second chance.

War is A Loss of Decency

I remember the image of a bare child on a road, running for his life, followed by other images of desperate families fearfully running away from their homes to unknown destinations.  I remember asking my father about those images of the Vietnam War, trying to make sense of it.  His only explanation: “No one can understand wars but through the experience of the victims.”

Since that moment I wanted to have a greater understanding of what war inflicts on humanity as I was quickly confronted with a conscious question, “What if a war is imposed on my country and this happened to me and my family?”   

No, I thought, we are living in one of the safest and most comfortable places on earth.

And in August of 1980, there I was, running away from one of the safest spots in the world—a top tourist destination—while watching Russian soldiers take over the streets of my birthplace.  I left behind a huge family, my friends, and my beloved peaceful country.  It was the most distressing and horrific feeling of my life, and I was filled with anger, disappointment and betrayal. 

On August 20th of 1980 I had made it to Frankfurt’s international airport and found myself standing in front of a German police desk, seeking asylum.  Yes, another victim like millions of others who had nothing to do with the conflict and had no intention of leaving for unthinkable and unfamiliar territories. 

While riding a bus towards Shoenick refugee camp, I realized that it wasn’t just me (an Afghan) but faces of various nationalities.  I recall mutual sad expressions and feelings of disgust and anxiety. I was however more interested in talking to a fellow refugee across the aisle, who looked of Asian descent.  I struck a conversation with a “Hello” and asked, “Where are you from?” I was overcome with a feeling of curiosity, recalling the image of the Vietnamese boy running from war.  

“Vietnam” he indicated.  I was caught with extreme emotions and sense of further frustration—what now?  It had been years since the end of the Vietnam War

Thirty-five years from that moment, I would not dare to ask anyone as to why and how people leave their homelands.  There is no real logic or answer for wars!  The inhumane growth of arms race and waging wars has turned into a competition for victory at the expense of human lives (“collateral damage”) without regards for human rights, social justice and respect for human dignity

It is also important to remember that none of these victimized citizens have had any capability of producing armament—but natural resources such as oil, mineral and other goods. These victims have been immorally manipulated to exchange natural resources for modern weaponry and use against their own citizens throughout the course of modern history. 

War advocates and profiteers have also done a very good job through propaganda by persuading the young, the innocent and needy in the name of common good, or so-called noble causes like Democracy, Liberty and “Love for the Country.” 

The majority of casualties are the innocents.  In World War II, 65% of the dead were civilians; in more recent decades—the Vietnam, Afghan and Iraq wars—90% of casualties have been civilian deaths.  These wars have and continue to destabilize the world, while sending millions into mental despair and exile away from their homeland.

At last, wars are waged to:

Terrorize, oppress, kill, dominate, destabilize communities/countries and bring the worst in humanity.  Wars do nothing but bring misery, corrupt minds and demonize.

War is a Loss of Decency.

How Can Immigrants Succeed?

“Once an immigrant, always an immigrant.”

I will never forget this statement once made by a single mother of three who was forced to leave her native land.

I had no time to sell off my property, plan my finances or leisurely depart from my homeland that summer in 1980, when Afghanistan became a front-line against soviet invasion.

In some cases, you have kids whose futures you lose sleep over, or your parents to take care of, and there is no other option to protect them but to leave your homeland in the hopes of finding and building a future life somewhere else. In others—you choose to protect your child from danger by sending them away, without adult protection, in hopes of seeing them find a safe haven.

Somehow, when you are far away from home and lonely—you are considered a lucky one.

You’ve arrived in a new environment without knowing anyone or the language. You can’t really go to school because you have no money, so you have to just find a job ASAP to get the money for you and your family. You want to work--but where do you start?

The words refugee/immigrant and immigration are heard and talked about in every corner of the world today. Laced with pre-conceived meaning, they are words that continue to bring new, unforeseen challenges with the arrival of every new group to a new country.

While migrations have been a part of human history for a long time, immigrants play an increasingly major role in the complex and uncertain process of overall changes taking place in the world.

The global issue of the non-voluntary movement and immigration of people is one of the most pressing and uncertain challenges facing humanity.  Eruption of conflicts and wars continue to give birth to short-, medium- and long-term political, social and economic disorders around the world.  As a result, increasing numbers of migrants undertake dangerous and uncertain journeys by land and sea to reach Europe and North America to escape this chaos, while these countries struggle to deal with the influx of millions—on top of enormous financial challenges at home.

Frankly, it is impossible to cease, control or prevent the movement of masses taking place around the globe. 

Receiving countries like the US and Canada have done a much better job in finding effective means to facilitate a safe and dignified re-location and integration of immigrants.  Canada and Australia have been particularly effective while leveraging the enormous talent, technical skills and entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants.  Providing early incentives (Language classes, business/entrepreneurship, government and local state loan subsidies) has proven extremely effective in successful integration of immigrants in the last two decades.

Several other countries have failed to effectively deal with proper integration of new arrivals. This is particularly true for European countries where new arrivals spend years within segregated areas and confinements: dormitories, former military compounds, or housing units diverged from the rest of the city or remote village. Thousands of families continue to be deprived of basic schooling, job training/opportunities, and any chances for successful integration within their new environment. 

The majority of immigrant children spend the important developmental years growing within compounds of unhealthy, prison-like conditions with limited access to school and advanced education.  Some of these young adults continue to fall prey and join extremist groups, for little pay or out of sheer frustration and lack of opportunities to assimilate into productive members and future citizens of their host nations.

The United States and Canada continue to attract more refugees for resettlement than all other countries combined—and have done a great job in not only welcoming refugees/immigrants, but continuing to provide great opportunities for smooth integration within a new environment.

However, opportunities for many refugees and immigrants during this critical period of transformation in the United States are dwindling. This is mainly due to a lack of strict policies/comprehensive reforms combined with enormous cuts in funding of early language, schooling, and other early job skills development programs.

There are, for example, inconsistent policies governing criminal activities amongst state and federal agencies in different regions with regards to detainees; this is combined with a huge absence of public defenders and resources for rehabilitation.  It is not entirely surprising that new research indicates second generation immigrants in the U.S. are more likely to commit crimes than their foreign-born parents.  The main reasons are attributed to the second generations’ lack of proper education, financial stability, proper parent supervision as well as access to afterschool activities.

In light of the evolving global context of conflict and forced migration, displacement—highlighted mainly by the Middle East crisis—will continue to present new challenges in the years ahead for the European Union and North American nations.

The terrorist event of 9/11 combined with fresh attacks of political violence in European cities has created another dimension and challenge for immigration policies; this climate of fear and uncertainty has shrouded the process of stopping and distinguishing between economic, social, family integration, and the entry of extremist religious groups.

In particular, the U.S. is in dire need of establishing and coordinating efforts between the state and federal government levels in order to support each other and address the challenges of immigration, while respecting the ethnicities as a core base of interest (regardless of their number of generations from arrival) so as to be as inclusive as possible.  It is a valid point and fact that ethnicities all over the world continue to feel the pull of the “American Dream.”

So how do we achieve more consistent, high-quality decision-makings for asylum seekers? How do we—a nation built from immigrants—establish a strong base for future action? I will argue Education is the first priority, followed by the establishment of uniform strategic guidelines on asylum; what’s more an increased engagement by the international community for practical cooperation, strengthening, implementation and consolidation of these existing laws. 

Denpai Kyareng's Article on Lost Decency

Lost Decency: The Untold Afghan Story

By Atta Arghandiwal

A simple but very precise book for anyone who wants to know what happened in Afghanistan and what made it as one of the most dangerous regions on the earth today. After it attained independence from Great Britain in 1919, the country was ruled by liberal but weak Monarchs. Afghan people were proud of their culture and their sense of decency. Both men and women folks worked together without much discrimination to build the new Afghanistan. The girls could be seen wearing skirts and jeans, and going to school and colleges. Burqa system was not imposed harshly on the womenfolk as a law. People looked forward to a promising future with strong and stable government.

After the rule of King Zahir Shah for forty years without any significant upheavals, the country caught itself in the quagmire of the cold war in 1950s. Both Soviet and USA and their allies were trying to gain access into the land by outdoing each other in development work of Afghanistan. Soviet Russia and Chinese communist ideology was gaining access in people’s mind. Ideology of religious fundamentalist from Middle Eastern groups also began to influence the direction the country was headed to. In 1978, the local communist leaders supported by Soviet government launched military coup and toppled the people’s government. This was followed by the Russian invasion and the Afghanistan, the peaceful land turned into a land of oppression and violent fighting. Different faction of people fought bravely on their own with the support of U.S. and its allies. “By 1984 the United States was authorizing military supplies to Mujahideen of nearly $250 million per month,” writes the author. Russian invaders dealt harshly with the people, more than five million Afghan fled the land and took refuge in the neighboring countries.

One of the Author’s brothers, Zia was among the resistance fighters, and fought with the Russian invader bravely. Atta, the author fled to Germany along with other Afghans. From Germany he sought asylum in the United States, where he built a career in banking and ultimately had his family join him later.

Afghanistan remained under Soviet occupation for nearly a decade [1980 – 1989], during which the people and the land suffered irreparable damage. It has not been easy for Soviet Russia either, it’s said that more than 4 billion dollar a year was spent to maintain the puppet Kabul government, and thirty times this amount was spent on the cost of running the war for those years. Now that Russians were gone, the people were looking forward to a peace and stable life under their own government. But during the course of resistance against Russia, various Afghan factions with direct help from the United States and the Western allies, and from the Arab world have established their own territories of control. With the fall of Dr. Najibullah’s government in 1992, these factions came up to form an interim government. “But despite UN attempt to broker peace and bring the warring groups into a coalition government, Afghanistan remained at war.”

Amidst this uncertainty and instability, when a convoy of an influential Pakistani businessman was stopped by bandits in Kandahar, Pakistani government urged the students from fundamentalist school at the border to intervene. The student group not only released the convoy, but went on to capture Kandahar city. They soon began to take the role of disciplining the land, and many at first welcomed the change to have peace and economic stability denied by the warring warlords. Pakistan and ISI funded and supported this group, which came to be known as Taliban. Talib means ‘religious students’ and their core leaders were from Pakistan and other Arab nations. By 1996, Kabul was under the full control of Taliban. “They introduced religious police, a rigid military campaign against their opponents, and the use of non-Afghan forces.” It is estimated that 45 per cent of the Taliban forces were non-Afghan. The brutality with which they controlled the region and the use of non-Afghan forces from Middle East Arab countries led by Osama Bin Laden, gradually infuriated and earned the doubts and misgiving of the local populace. The United States initially thought Taliban as source of stability in the region and ally in sharing anti-Iran stance, and misjudged Taliban’s total hostility toward foreign values.

Then came the 9/11 incident in 2001 attack on World Trade Center building and Twin Tower by the Taliban terrorists. This was followed by the U.S. retaliation, and active involvement in the region. The author felt very bad that the Afghanistan has been turned into terrorist den by the non-Afghan militants from Middle East countries. He, his family and many Afghan people have been so affectionately received and provided for by this land and the fact that his own people attacked the United States made him feel very bad and sick. He made his best to explain to the people here that the attack was not done by the Afghan people, but by the non-Afghan militants who had made Afghanistan their activity base.

In 2011, the author visits Afghanistan, and was devastated to see that once peaceful land with pride and decency has been turned into violent, and corrupt with no trace of decency. The government is formed by the vested warlords who are least bothered about the people’s welfare; they are only interested in making themselves richer and richer. Factional fighting among the warlords has been exploited by the religious fundamentalist, which has caused the presence of foreign troops and dependency on them. All the funds from the United States and its allies are sabotaged by the few elites and the vast majority is languishing in poverty. Old Afghanistan of proud people with honesty and decency is lost. 

As a closing thought, the Author finds himself asking, “What if the Soviet Union had never invaded? What if Afghanistan had never been deserted after Russian withdrawal? Do you think 9/11 would have happened?”

This is difficult to say, but reading the book I can’t help thinking about Tibet and Tibetans. We must preserve and maintain our decency, moral integrity and unity so that when the time comes for the Chinese to leave Tibet, we are ready to take over the administration without internal feud or factional fighting. Till date, because of the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his vision, we have been able to maintain and promote our positive values, cultural integrity and unity among all the Tibetans. The book is a clear mirror to warn us that we all must cherish and maintain this unity and cultural values so that Tibet don’t become Afghanistan of today in future.

Immigrant Communities and Notables Come Together For Launch of New Resource Book

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This past Sunday saw the heartwarming gathering of many notables and members of immigrant communities for the launch of a new resource book, Immigrant Success Planning – A Family Resource Guide. Held in the beautiful Canyon View Hall atop a hill in San Ramon, California, the event had over 320 guests in attendance despite a rainy day.

The author, Atta Arghandiwal, was born in Afghanistan but left shortly after the Soviet invasion and became a refugee in Germany. Two weeks after his arrival in the United States, he started work as a bank teller, and built a successful twenty-eight year career, eventually being promoted to senior vice president.

The making of Immigrant Success Planning was born in Atta’s own struggles as an immigrant. Not being able to find an immigrant resource guide that fit his needs, he eventually created one, bringing together all of the useful information he had learned through experience and time. Immigrant Success Planning is a condensed lifestyle guide for immigrants—a road map for the whole family, filled with proven tips and strategies that can be used from the birth of a child to retirement and beyond.

Guests at the event included representatives from such organizations as USA International, Rising International, various social services, and the Afghan Coalition. A number of immigrant authors and poets attended, as well as community leaders, scholars, artists, entrepreneurs, politicians, and, of course, the dear friends and family members of the author, Atta Arghandiwal. The event drew people from as far as San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno, and San Jose, including well-known radio host Dr. Michael Krasny of National Public Radio, television host Robin Fahr of Tri Valley Television, and UN Ambassador Dr. Waheed Waheedullah, who also wrote the foreword for the book.

The guests enjoyed traditional Afghani refreshments and music. The event was filled with socializing, wonderful speakers, and book signings by the author, for which there was a long line. Publisher Julie Salisbury charmed the audience as MC with her British accent, presenting many interesting speakers to the crowd, including:

Dr. Waheed Waheedullah of the UN; Mr. Quasim Tarin, CEO and Chairman of Afghan Business Network and Chamber of Commerce NC division; Nancy O’Malley, District Attorney of Alameda County; Marla Markman, editor of the book, and Eileen Sandlin, the co-author;
as well as the author and his son Edreece.

Immigrant Success Planning is the resource that immigrants have been waiting for, and now they finally have it.

Source: Influence Publishing