Despite nearly forty years of war, two decade-long occupations by former Cold War superpowers and
a security vacuum that could engulf the region, the world is turning a blind eye to the fate of Afghanistan’s
people – especially its refugees.
A spiraling security situation, weak government and abysmal economic prospects mean Afghans are trying to
leave in huge numbers. But unlike Syrians, Iraqis, or Eritreans, in 2016 Afghans were excluded from the
EU-Turkey deal, which only considered asylum applications from people deemed to have a 75% or higher
chance of making it. Germany is sending planeloads of Afghans home, the United Kingdom has also embarked
on deportations, and Pakistan and Iran are sending home hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees.
Their stories have taught me that there is a serious distortion between what migrants and refugees hope for
in their new lives abroad, and the stark reality of what they find once they leave.
That is why I started this project. Called “Kuja Meri?” in Dari, meaning “Where are you going?”, it has been
designed with an Afghan audience in mind. To reach this audience, the project was exhibited
in the streets of Kabul. Starting October 27, 2017, around 50 billboard-sized photographs were pasted on the
concrete blast walls surrounding the Ministry of Information in the centre of Kabul.
Why are Afghan refugees in particular so unwelcome? A major reason for their limited chances of asylum is
rooted in the NATO-led war, which officially ended combat missions in 2014. The war is increasingly seen
as a failure by Afghans: large swathes of the country are under Taliban control and Islamic State has made
inroads. But for NATO countries, which at the peak of the surge in 2010-11 had 130,000 foreign troops in
the country, the war was a political success, and cannot be seen as a failure.