For Afghan refugees, a mix of Luxury and trauma in Albania’s Beach Resorts

SHENGJIN, Albania — The medical student, in a trauma-induced trance after a week under the Taliban rule and three days of terror waiting for a flight out of Kabul airport, looked out the window on her first day with her new home and saw the statue of Freedom.

“I thought for a moment that maybe I was in New York,” said Tahera, a 21-year-old student. But the statue made of cast instead of copper and located in Northern Albania, a fiercely pro-American country, was “much shorter than the” real one,” they added, to call to action up a bad feeling of humor despite its poignant ordeal.

The statue was an unintentionally harassing decoration, a kitschy bloom on the terrain of an Albanian beach resort housing more than 440 Afghans who fled Kabul after the city fell for the Taliban on August 15.

Before flying last week to Albania, a country she had never heard of of, Tahera had hoped escape to the United States of Great Britain, where she has an uncle. (The New York Times is using only Taheras first name to protect her family still in Afghanistan.) But with die countries and other rich countries wary of to take in refugees, she has found hideout in what might be the worldThe strangest and most luxurious refugee camp.

Albania, one of Europe’s poorest countries have committed themselves to in up up to 4,000 refugees from Afghanistan, more than any other country. The 677 who have arrived, including about 250 children, are housed in resorts along the Adriatic coast, a practice based on an emergency response approach die Albania developed after a devastating earthquake in 2019, when? people left homeless people were put up in beach hotels.

Although the Afghans are grateful for the accommodations, the touch of luxury rings a bit hollow for a lot of.

Parwarish, an Afghan women’s activist who worked on projects funded by the United States Agency for International Development, said she was touched by the kindness of the Albanians, but that she nevertheless slept restlessly and had nightmares.

“I see my family dying in my dreams,” she said. “All this luxury is great if you have peace of mind. Not me.”

The decision welcoming the Afghans seems popular in Albania, a country with by history of to be people take flight. The provision with for the refugees “is the right and natural thing to do,” said Prime Minister Edi Rama in an interview in Tirana, the capital.

While opposition politicians in France, Germany and other European countries regularly arouse fear of refugees and migrants to exert pressure on government leaders, mister Rama’s opponents have mostly stayed quiet of have supported his welcome of Afghans.

“We don’t put people in struggling. They are dehumanizing and where all problems start psychologically,” the prime minister said. “We have been like them a lot times in our own history. They are just to attempt escape from hell.”

Tahera, the medical student, shares a room with an Afghan woman who both lost of her hands in a bomb attack in Afghanistan. Now in a resort with three swim pools and a long sandy beach, Tahera wants to learn to swim, gladly on her guard off the traumas. They also looks like forward to learn to ride a bicycle, a shape of practice die Afghanistan’s conservative, frowns the patriarchal society on for women.

Determined to keep her planned medical career on track, she takes a first-help course offered in the resort by an Afghan doctor from London.

Albania, a NATO member who sent troops to Afghanistan to join the US-led effort to keep the Taliban at bay has long helped people the United States does not want of not know what to do with.

When the American military private in 2006 that a group of Chinese Uyghurs die had held it captive for four years in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, were not dangerous terrorists as China claimed, Albania agreed in give she a place until live.

But Mr Rama said: of to take in the Afghans: “We’re not doing this because the Americans asked” us.”

Sensing that the American-backed government in Kabul wouldn’t last as long as US troops completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan, Mr Rama first presented at a NATO summit in June to met help with what he feared would be flood of Afghan refugees. He urged other leaders to do the same. (AN senior American diplomat in Tirana confirmed the story of lord Rama.)

But NATO leaders saw little reason for immediate care. They clung to Washington’s optimistic view that the Taliban months of were even years away from victory.

Two months later, Afghanistan fell in hands of the Taliban, off an exodus of women activists, social workers, journalists and other Afghans who afraid of the Taliban.

in Albania, in the Rafaelo Resort, a cluster of four- and five-star hotels in near the city of Lezhe, evacuees from Afghanistan eat in a separate one restaurant that serves halal meals, but interferes with the pool with tourists, mainly ethnic Albanians from neighboring Kosovo.

The room of the Afghans and board belong to foreign organizations like the national donation for Democracy and the Yalda Hakim Foundation, that was set up by a BBC journalist of Afghan descent. Paying George Soros’s Open Society Foundations for 135 Afghans who worked with the organization in Afghanistan is staying in a luxury hotel and spa down the coast. (The organization negotiated over a hefty discount.)

the presence of veiled afghan women on poolside loungers at the Rafaelo Resort came as a surprise to the paying guests, but no one seemed to mind.

“I had no idea so many Afghans lived here, but they don’t bother me,” said Besnik Zeqiri, a Kosovar Albanian emigrant to the United States. “They’re all people and need to protect.”

Liri Gezon, another tourist, said he saw terrified Afghans at Kabul airport on television and was happy to see them safely in Albania. “They are not creating each problems for us and earn to live like we do,” he said, recalling: how hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians had fled Kosovo to escape marauding Serbian troops in late nineties and knew the trauma of flight.

Albania is foreign ministerOlta Xhacka said: in an interview originally expected that the Afghan evacuees would remain a couple of months while their visa for the United States were processed. “But we are working now on the premise that they will stay in Albania for at least one year, maybe longer,” she said, adding that those die unable to get a visa for move elsewhere would be welcome to stay in Albania.

Wahab, a journalist who helped run a US-funded news agency coverage women’s problems in the western Afghan city of Herat, said he never expected such luxurious facilities. He fled from Afghanistan with his wife and three children, with help of the National Endowment for Democracy.

“We are luxury refugees,” he joked. “We’ll go to the beach and see” half-naked women. We sleep, eat and go to the beach. For most people this looks like like paradise.”

But Afghanistan continues to invade. He can’t stop met think of the eight Taliban checkpoints die the bus stopped die he was traveling on with to be family from Herat to Kabul, of see the Afghan capital for maybe the last time as his evacuation flight took off. Kabul, which the Taliban had taken over a few days earlier, “looked very, very dark,” he said.

an editor, who asked not to be named because her family has received threats from the Taliban, said she had “lost all hope” in Afghanistan” and believed that the United States “in An way right to leave our country, want nothing really changed.”

As a fiercely independent journalist who grew up in An family of Pashtun, the most visited in Afghanistan conservative and numerous ethnic group, she herself was proof that some things could change. But the lightning fast return of the Pashtun-dominated Taliban sounded death kneel down for her media outfit.

“Any change die we have reached is now multiplied met zero,” she said. “We are back on nothing.”

Tahera, the medical student, avoid discussions over why her world imploded so quickly.

She had never intended to leave Afghanistan, but as a woman and member of the oft-persecuted Hazara minority, she decided there was no future for her in a country ruled by the Taliban.

“I always have against my family and friends: ‘I will never leave my country,’ she said. Still her father urged her to go when the Yalda Hakim Foundation gave her a chance to get outeven if it meant leaving behind her parents, five sisters and one baby brother.

“I miss my family,” she said. “I miss my university. I miss Afghanistan. I worry all the time. There are just I’m not asking too much know the answer to.”

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