‘I remember every bit of fleeing Afghanistan. It never leaves you'

Hoge Veluwe National Park, Connecting Diaspora for Development, KEIHAN

Photo: Niloufar Rahim

Niloufar Rahim (34), a general practitioner from Arnhem, fled her childhood home in Kabul in 1997 to escape the Taliban and seek asylum in the Netherlands. She is the chair of Dutch-Afghan organisation KEIHAN and an ambassador for IOM, Connecting Diaspora for Development.

How did you end up in the Netherlands?

I fled Afghanistan as a refugee with my parents when I was 10. We fled because of the Taliban regime. I remember every bit of it. It never leaves you, actually. At the beginning, we were put in a kind of a prison in Zevenaar for three days while they were processing our papers. We were in a huge building with a lot of people and we weren’t allowed to do anything or leave. We got Dutch food and we didn’t like it all. It was cheese all the time, with white bread and milk.

After that, we were transferred to an asylum centre in Haarlem and then we transferred to Amersfoort. We had kitchens there and could cook our own food, and that was where we stayed until we got our Dutch passports. After that, they found us a home in Alphen aan den Rijn. My mother is still there.

The whole process took 6-7 months, but there were people who were in the asylum centre in Amersfoort for years. When I see how the refugees are treated now, I would say we were treated quite well, but at the time, as a kid, and with a brother who was two years old, it was traumatic.

Meeting other kids, though, was wonderful. In Haarlem, we were put in a school immediately. There weren’t any Dutch kids and we couldn’t speak Dutch yet so it was all talking in sign language and trying to understand each other.

How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc?

With everything that’s happening in Afghanistan, it just touches me so much and I feel so, so helpless that I again feel like an immigrant. I don’t feel Dutch enough, like I cannot do anything of influence to change things in the world and that really makes me feel vulnerable.

But overall, I really feel like an international because I love the world and I love to travel. I love to get to know other people and get to know other cultures. But whenever things are bad in Afghanistan – or anywhere in the world – I really feel like an immigrant again and I get pushed back somehow. You feel that label again.

How long do you plan to stay?

I have always doubted whether I would stay permanently in the Netherlands or go somewhere else in Europe or go back to Afghanistan, even. That option is off the table for a very long time now. For now, I’m going to stay, but in the future maybe I’ll move somewhere like Italy – it has wonderful food, wonderful weather and beautiful nature – I love it.

Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn?

I learnt it in the asylum centres. I still remember my first words − it was a sentence in a book: Samira en Brahim springen in de plas (Samira and Brahim jump in the puddle).

After six months, I think, when we got our permanent home in Alphen aan den Rijn, we were put directly into school. I was in group 7. I was already speaking Dutch and I don’t remember having any problems with it. I also had to take the CITO toets [high school entry exam] and that went well as well. With children it goes really fast and you don’t even notice when you learn it.

What’s your favourite Dutch thing?

If there’s one thing I really, really love it’s the Delfts Blauw [pottery]. It’s just beautiful and I love the fact that they used to use the lapis lazuli dye from Afghanistan to make that blue colour. That makes it even more special for me.

How Dutch have you become?

I eat and sleep at the same times as the Dutch. I like to eat at 6 o’clock and I love cheese now – it’s grown on me! But I wouldn’t say I’ve become very Dutch. Wherever I would have been, I would have been the independent woman that I am today.

I’ve tried not to become very Dutch because I really love my Afghan culture. I’m a people person. I think that whole taking care of your people, your community, your family – that is something very beautiful that we’ve got in Afghanistan, within our culture, and that I try to hang onto. I hope that never dies.

Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet?

I would have loved to have met Vincent van Gogh to convince him of his own brilliance and thank him for his contribution to Dutch culture and art. I think more people should have done that when he was alive and then maybe he wouldn’t have done the things he did and he would have been more happy. I love his work. I’m a big fan.

I would also have loved to meet Anne Frank. A lot of people can learn from her perseverance and positive look at life even though you’re going through hell.

Finally, I would love to meet [actor and presenter] Jeroen van Koningsbrugge. I just love his humour and versatility. He is a very talented man.

What’s your top tourist tip?

One of the most beautiful places in the Netherlands is the Hoge Veluwe National Park. It’s so big, you can just wander around in the nature for hours and look at the trees and the animals and everything. You can hike, you can bike, you can walk, you can drive through it – and it’s just beautiful.

Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands

The thing I’m really surprised about right now is the absolute inadequacy of the political policy on refugees. With all the refugees that we’re not accepting and just turning our backs to, I’m actually ashamed. I always thought that we lived in a country that was fighting for the rights of those who can’t fight for themselves, whose lives are in danger, and trying to give them that safe haven, and I was really proud of that because I had found that myself here in the Netherlands.

But seeing the way people react these days, that really surprises me and that disappoints me immensely. The political leaders of this country are acting as though they don’t know or don’t understand what is happening in the world and they’re not taking their responsibility towards those in need.

If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do?

I would take a boat ride with all of my friends through the Amsterdam canals. That’s a very good way to end your time here – everything Dutch! I would probably take some cheese and a little bit of lemonade or water.

I think I will always remember the Dutch people as people who gave me the opportunity to become myself and to explore the world, because that’s something that I couldn’t have done if I hadn’t come as a refugee – and I’ll always appreciate that. And I truly hope that many, many more like me will get that opportunity as well.

Connecting Diaspora for Development assists the development of migrants’ home countries through the transfer of knowledge and expertise. KEIHAN contributes to higher education in Afghanistan and creates a support network for Afghans in the Netherlands. 

Niloufar was talking to Deborah Nicholls-Lee

Internet Explorer Channel Network
News Related


Two events to help fans get to know BTS members

BTS In The Soop 2. photos courtesy of In The Soop TV YouTube Channel Besides their catchy and meaningful songs, the world's most popular boy band BTS has built a ... Read more »

Celebrity moms with their kids, from Salma Hayek to Angelina Jolie

When they aren't making movies or performing on stage for thousands, these stars are just moms. Check out these celebrity mamas with their babies, big and small. Starting with Salma Hayek, ... Read more »

It's not Kanye, it's Ye, after judge approves name change

The 44-year-old rapper had petitioned a court to make Ye his full name, with no middle or last name. LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) – Rapper Kanye West has won legal approval ... Read more »

Covid-19 Home Recovery Survival Guide: Nourishing foods to eat

Thinking of what to eat while on home recovery from Covid-19? Here are some recipes for immunity-boosting foods. Korean-style ginseng chicken soup Here is a nourishing chicken soup to soothe ... Read more »

Covid-19 Home Recovery Survival Guide: How to disinfect your room and other precautions

SINGAPORE – Home recovery is now the default care management model for people infected with Covid-19 who have mild or no symptoms. While those on the Home Recovery Programme (HRP) ... Read more »

Covid-19 Home Recovery Survival Guide: What exercises to do

SINGAPORE – Being isolated in a room while recovering from Covid-19 may cause patients to become inactive. But fitness trainers say people should exercise to boost their energy. Ms Krystle ... Read more »

An agile gecko found in India named after the legendary Jackie Chan

Martial arts legend Jackie Chan may not be aware of this yet but some of his biggest fans are a group of adoring herpetologists from India. These scientists have named ... Read more »

Hong Kong's TVB to air first gay dating show

HONG KONG – In a first for Hong Kong television history, TVB will be airing its first gay dating show in early November. Hong Kong actor Vinci Wong, who is ... Read more »

More cancer patients getting vaccinated, says National Cancer Centre Singapore

To address the concerns of cancer patients, a free webinar will be held on Oct 23. SINGAPORE – More cancer patients are taking up Covid-19 vaccination, according to National Cancer ... Read more »

Netflix raises price of S'pore subscription plans by $1 to $2

A basic plan will go from $11.98 to $12.98 and a standard plan will go from $15.98 to $17.48. SINGAPORE – Streaming giant Netflix has raised its prices in Singapore. ... Read more »

Hot Bods: Getting a bounce from muay thai and mini trampoline exercises

(From left) Entrepreneur Kimberly Thea Kwek, 33, and accounts executive Sean Nicholas Sutiono, 25. SINGAPORE – Meet this week’s hot bods, entrepreneur Kimberly Thea Kwek, 33, and accounts executive Sean ... Read more »

Patient-turned-employee among 25 inspiring seniors showcased in St Luke's Hospital ebook

Mr Tan Ann Seng (right) is one of 25 inspiring older people featured in Being Silver, a free e-book launched by St Luke’s Hospital on Oct 15, 2021. SINGAPORE – ... Read more »

Todd Haynes channels love for The Velvet Underground into film on the cult band

The Velvet Underground was highly influential on succeeding generations of musicians. SINGAPORE – There is a famous saying about cult New York group The Velvet Underground – not many people ... Read more »

Coming together as one family Pop legend John Nuvo is part of a global collaborative project to help children and communities affected by Covid-19

The music video for One Human. Photos courtesy of Splash Interactive As we are all going through difficult times, nothing is better than giving. And if you're a musician, that ... Read more »

Aspiring actors sought for Italian comedy workshop in Bangkok

Attendees will learn about an Italian theatrical form characterised by masked types. photo courtesy of Ekkolo Theatre Theatre as an intellectual exercise and a strong emotional experience will be explored ... Read more »

Journey to the cloud in virtual summit

photo courtesy of Sangfor Technologies Sangfor Technologies is holding “Sangfor EPIC 2021”, a global virtual summit to exchange knowledge about digital transformation and cutting-edge security, on Thursday at 1.30pm. This ... Read more »

Earwig And The Witch joins Ghibli's Netflix roster

Earwig And The Witch. Earwig And The Witch is to join the line-up of Studio Ghibli films available on Netflix. The animated feature will premiere on Nov 18, the streaming ... Read more »

Look extra with Elemis

The Elemis counter at Paragon department store. Ten years ago Elemis opened its first spa in Southeast Asia at the St. Regis Bangkok. It was only last year that the ... Read more »

Teeming with talent Two young artists explain their award-winning pieces and dreams after bagging top finishes in a long-running competition

Swimming In Her Dreams by Ladakorn Pungbubpha. Photo: Charit Pusiri Held under the theme “Dream”, The 10th White Elephant Art Award showcased artwork reflecting the fantasy and ambitions of creative ... Read more »

NBA projects $10 billion in revenue as audiences return after Covid, but TV viewership is a big question

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks to the media prior to the game of the Milwaukee Bucks against the Phoenix Suns in Game One of the 2021 NBA Finals on July ... Read more »

Disney delays Doctor Strange, Black Panther sequels in 2022 schedule shuffle

The move showed that Covid-19 continues to roil film plans. LOS ANGELES (BLOOMBERG) – Walt Disney delayed several movies, including Marvel features with Doctor Strange and Thor, and pulled others ... Read more »

Fans object to K-pop girl group Twice endorsing whitening products

SEOUL – K-pop girl group Twice were named the ambassadors of Indonesian beauty brand Scarlett Whitening last week, but not everyone ishappy about it. There have been calls worldwide, not ... Read more »

Zhang Jie continues concert with bleeding hand after fall from lift on stage

SUZHOU – Chinese singer Jason Zhang Jie did not let a profusely bleeding hand and fractured back stop him from performing at his concert in Suzhou on Saturday (Oct 16). ... Read more »

Shop and earn up to 4X instant rewards with this enhanced loyalty programme

VivoCity’s newly enhanced loyalty programme lets you earn attractive deals, shopping vouchers and parking perks by simply linking your VivoRewards+ account to DBS PayLah! PHOTO: VIVOCITY Who doesn’t love a ... Read more »

'Halloween Kills' does just that at N.America box office

This file photo from September 8, 2021 shows actress Jamie Lee Curtis at an out-of-competition screening of ‘Halloween Kills’ at the Venice Film Festival in Italy LOS ANGELES: It's that ... Read more »

Self pick-ups or dine-in ordering: How the Starbucks mobile app elevates your coffee-drinking experience

At the heart of the Starbucks Experience is consumer-centric innovation. PHOTO: STARBUCKS SINGAPORE How would life be in a post-pandemic world? Our work meetings continue to be held virtually, and ... Read more »

Electric dreams From a daily commuter car to a weekend track warrior, the fully electric Porsche Taycan EV is primed to fulfil your every need

With as many as 300 units of the Porsche Taycan EV sold in Thailand since its launch last January, it's clear that the selling point of full-electric vehicles is not ... Read more »

Standout racers

Svartpilen. SVARTPILEN Husqvarna has launched two mid-size street models — Vitpillen 401 and Svartpilen 401. The design is not new, but they are now officially available and recently launched at ... Read more »

New trailer offers first look at Robert Pattinson as Batman

The trailer reveals a bullet-proof Robert Pattinson in the titular role, with Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman. LOS ANGELES – One of the most anticipated movies delayed by Covid-19, The Batman ... Read more »

Namewee and Kimberley Chen blocked on Weibo after releasing satirical duet

Namewee (left) and Kimberley Chen released the Mandarin ballad Fragile, which touched on sensitive topics such as censorship, Covid-19 and the Uighurs. TAIPEI – China’s social media platform Weibo has ... Read more »

Tough as nails Artist Pichai Pongsasaovapark's exhibition shines light on the stressful and dangerous conditions people in agriculture are exposed to every day due to rampant capitalism

A Disproportionate Burden #22, #23 and #24 was made using charcoal, acrylic and oil on canvas. SAC Gallery A painting — A Disproportionate Burden #21, #22, #23 and #24 — ... Read more »

More meditating, less talking please

Whenever there are reports of Buddhist monks misbehaving or violating the monastic code of conduct, we often hear comments like “They are causing a decay to the religion” and “They ... Read more »

Engaged couples invited to compete for wedding prize

photo courtesy of Eazy FM 105.5 Eazy FM 105.5 is bringing back the famous “Eazy Running Of The Brides”, offering soon-to-be brides and grooms a chance to win a free ... Read more »

CentralWorld hosting art shows

Nass-Pichthaya’s interactive art features bright tones and unique lines. photo courtesy of RANANORN CentralWorld is no longer only a world-class food destination as it has turned Groove Gallery Walk into ... Read more »

'Halloween Kills' nabs $50 million in domestic box office debut

Still from Universal and Blumhouse's “Halloween Kills.”Universal Audiences flocked to theaters over the weekend to see Universal and Blumhouse's latest horror flick “Halloween Kills.” The sequel to 2018's “Halloween” generated ... Read more »

Curtain's up again on English language theatre in the Netherlands

39 Steps returns to the CC Amstel in November. Photo: QETC With theatres open again after the long hiatus, it’s a great time to be richly entertained while giving the ... Read more »

Actor Sean Penn's wife Leila George, 29, files for divorce

According to various American media outlets, Leila George filed for divorce at the Los Angeles Superior Court on Oct 15. LOS ANGELES – Hollywood actor Sean Penn and his wife, ... Read more »

Fun With Kids: Halloween fun with the Minions, book to help parents with only child

Wolfman Minion (second from right) makes his appearance for the first time at Universal Studios Singapore. SINGAPORE – Make family time all the more special with these ideas and activities. ... Read more »

South Korean Park Sae-eun becomes Paris Opera Ballet's first Asian star dancer

Park Sae-eun has become the first Asian ballerina to reach the top “etoile” – or “star” – rank in the Paris Opera Ballet’s 352-year history. SEOUL (AFP) – When Park ... Read more »

Musician Bruce Gaston dies aged 74

Bruce Gaston on the day he received the prestigious Silpathorn Award by the Culture Ministry in August 2009. (Bangkok Post file photo) US musician Bruce Gaston, who co-founded Fong Nam, ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic