April 14, 2002 - Register-Guard : Many Afghans in U.S. make their way home on "personal peace corps mission"

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Afghanistan: Peace Corps Afghanistan: The Peace Corps In Afghanistan: April 14, 2002 - Register-Guard : Many Afghans in U.S. make their way home on "personal peace corps mission"

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, April 14, 2002 - 7:58 pm: Edit Post

Many Afghans in U.S. make their way home on "personal peace corps mission"





Read and comment on this story from the Eugene Oregon's Register-Guard on Afghans living in the US who are returning to work to rebuild their homeland at:

Many Afghans in U.S. make their way home*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.



Many Afghans in U.S. make their way home

By The Associated Press FREMONT, Calif. - The phone rings all day at the Pamir Travel Agency here in "Little Kabul." All day, every day of the week. And nine times out of 10, Hashmat Ansari knows exactly what the caller wants.

"Every one wants to go back to Afghanistan," he said. "The waiting list is four weeks, more than 500 people." The phone rang, and he sighed again. "I'll stay here to book the flights," he said, "and then, maybe in a year, I'll get to go myself."

In Fremont, where 10,000 of the estimated 60,000 Afghan refugees in the San Francisco Bay area live, everyone knows someone who has returned to the country, or is planning to, even if only for a couple of weeks.

The recent skirmishes between rival political factions in Afghanistan and the uncertain outcome of elections in June have made expatriates nervous. But those developments have not stopped many here, in the largest Afghan community in the United States - or many elsewhere in the country - from wanting to go home again.

While hard numbers are difficult to come by, the anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that refugees are anxiously returning to see what has become of their country and, in most cases, to help rebuild it.

The Pamir Travel Agency has booked more than 700 customers in the past few months, said Ansari, 32, who arrived here in 1987. Many were just children when their families escaped the 1979 Soviet intervention. They have gone to school here, become citizens, found their niche. Still, more than half of those who want to return are in their 20s and think of the trip as a kind of personal Peace Corps mission, Ansari said.

Others are elders aching for home two decades after they fled.

"We're getting calls from all over the country," Ansari said, adding that many callers want to book their flights to Kabul by way of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, from an Afghan-owned agency.

Return of Qualified Afghans, an agency in Washington that was started in December to return college-educated professionals to Afghanistan for up to a year to help in the rebuilding effort, has received 300 applications from the United States, among 4,000 from 27 countries.

The program, begun by the International Organization for Migration, which has conducted similar programs in Bosnia, Armenia and several African countries, is set to run through 2004. By that time, the organization hopes to have 1,500 Afghans placed in fields including technology, law, medicine, agriculture and economics. Hekmat Karzai, the program's director (and a cousin of Afghanistan's interim president, Hamid Karzai), said that by the beginning of April, 50 Afghans had been placed in positions including deputy ministers in the government and administrators in nongovernmental organizations.

"What we do when we receive a request from Afghanistan is to match the position with the applicants in our database," said Karzai. "There is a tremendous need in Afghanistan for these people and their expertise, in all sectors."

Although the program is not part of the Afghan government, it succinctly addresses interim President Karzai's call for Afghan professionals to return to help their country. Some in the program leave after a brief period, Hekmat Karzai said. Others who make the trip to the homeland out of a sense of moral responsibility end up wanting to repatriate.

"We may send someone for three months," he said, "and at the end of that time the person says they don't want to go back."



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