Having come to the UK as an Afghan refugee in 1999 when I was a child, I have dedicated nearly all of my life to advocating for marginalised populations, with a heightened focus on forced refugees and migrants.
I have been a long-time volunteer for the Afghanistan and Central Asian Association (ACAA), an award-winning grassroots charity that advocates for the integration and empowerment of refugees and asylum seekers, with a heightened focus on the Afghan diaspora. I have been on the frontline of the organisation’s response since the Fall of Kabul in August 2021 where demand for the organisation’s services has increased significantly. Services include, but are not limited to English classes, an advice clinic, women’s empowerment sessions, mental health support and a supplementary school. With the Fall of Kabul, the advice clinic has received the greatest demand, particularly as Afghans in the UK have sought solutions on evacuating their families from Afghanistan and recent arrivals have settled into the UK.
It has never been more important to celebrate the very cultures that are in danger of disappearing.
Recently, I have led the ACAA’s Refugee Week Festival initiative which we have hosted over four years in West London’s Gunnersbury Park. Yearly, I manage a team of over 100 volunteers and each year over 3,000 refugees attend this family friendly event. The event marks Refugee Week, an annual celebration of the contributions, creativity, and resilience of refugees which, this year, it was themed around ‘compassion’. The first day of the combined arts festival focused on Afghanistan, the second on Ukraine. These events served as a crucial means of bringing the community together and celebrating refugees’ contributions to society. As those in Afghanistan continue to suffer under the Taliban and people in Ukraine struggle in their war-torn country, it has never been more important to celebrate the very cultures that are in danger of disappearing.
I have always done this work at ACAA on a voluntary basis on top of full-time work. From 2021 to 2022 I worked for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Team. I currently work at the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, concentrating on how the government pandemic response affected different populations, including refugees and asylum seekers. I hold the core vision that people’s nationality (or lack therefore) should not be a reason for exclusion from opportunities. Despite my commitment to both ACAA and my job, I find other ways to empowering marginalised communities. Since 2022 I have served as a Trustee for the Separated Child Foundation. Recognising the heightened vulnerabilities of children who come to the UK without their parents, this role as a Trustee gives me an additional means to advocate for refugees and migrants.
I strongly hold the belief that people’s nationality (and more generally background) should not be an obstacle to accessing opportunities and finding success.