'The weather is very cold, but people’s hearts are very warm'

Ali Bakhsh Amiri has resettled in Scotland with his wife and six-year-old son after fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Afghans enjoying life in Scotland after fleeing Taliban in homeland STV News
Ali Bakhsh Amiri now lives in Peterhead with his wife and son.

Six months since the Taliban’s dramatic takeover in Afghanistan, families who fled the country have been telling STV News about their new lives in Scotland.

Thousands of Afghans were evacuated after the militant group regained power last August.

As some of those who settled in Scotland slowly start to rebuild their lives, they’ve sharing their hopes for the future, and their pain at leaving some of their loved ones behind.

Ali Bakhsh Amiri, along with his wife Kamela and six-year-old son Ahmad, managed to get on an evacuation flight from Afghanistan to the UK just before the Taliban seized power last August.

He said leaving the rest of his family behind, including his beloved mother, was the most difficult decision of his life.

“The situation was not good,” said Ali.

“I worried for my life, and that of my child and my wife. Being at Kabul Airport, when I left them was a very hard time for me.

“I couldn’t control myself – I cried when I left Afghanistan.”

Ali had worked as a translator with the British and US Army. He was also a successful engineer, carrying out projects across Afghanistan, as well as running his own bookshop and managing a junior football team.

But having worked for the military, when the Taliban took over, he knew his and his family’s lives could be at risk, given his work as a translator.

After arriving in the UK, the family were taken to a hotel in Manchester before being resettled in Peterhead.

Ali says they’ve had a warm welcome since arriving in Scotland.

“I like it here, because the people are very kind, they’re lovely,” he told STV News. “In Peterhead the weather is very cold, but people’s hearts are very warm.

“I learn humanity and kindness from them. I love them.”

Ali’s son is now at the local primary school and is settling in well.

He said; “The school is two minutes from our house – I can see Ahmad playing in the playground from my window. It is such a good opportunity for him.”

Ali is still looking for a job and is hopeful he will get one.

“I know this is the Queen’s land and the opportunities land,” he said. “I’m trying to find myself here and I want to be a good Scot here.”

Meanwhile, Frishta and Farzana Matin arrived in Scotland from Kabul last October.

They were helped by the Linda Norgrove Foundation, the Western Isles charity they worked for, and have now settled in Stornoway.

Farzana has enrolled in a business court at the University of the Highlands and Islands, and also works part time in an estate agency.

“We want to explore Lewis and talk to people and learn about their lives, and their culture,” she said.

“We want to learn from them.”

Frishta added: “I was worried a lot about being a refugee.

“I guess because sometimes you end up in an area where people hate refugees, the foreigners who come to their country, but that is absolutely not the case in Stornoway.

“And that makes me feel so much better.”

Frishta also says her one-year-old son Kia has settled in well.

She added: “We are joining some classes to be with other mums and babies of the same age. I want him to adapt to the new life and to learn the language – for us and especially for him.”

Both families say while they’re incredibly grateful to be in Scotland, their thoughts are never far from Afghanistan.

After the Taliban takeover, a prolonged drought and economic collapse has plunged the country into a humanitarian crisis, with millions of people facing extreme hunger.

“I might not be alive in Afghanistan if I was still over there,” Ali said. It’s a very bad situation. Many people are unemployed there is a severe shortage of food and starvation.

“I have five brothers, two sisters, and my mother there. I miss them so much. But it’s the situation, I have to accept it. I can’t change it.

“I’m asking the world to help the people of Afghanistan, because Afghan people need their help more than ever right now.”