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    MELBOURNE, A PEACEFUL NEST FOR THE REFUGEE BIRDS

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    It has been almost six months since the dark storm of the Taliban regime destroyed our new love nest in our homeland. We like many other refugee birds, travelled thousands of miles over the seas and deserts to reach Melbourne and rebuild a new life in the inner west.

    In Melbourne, every single day is a great chance to get out of the home and take a breath of fresh air, to stare at its wide blue sky, white wandering clouds, colorful noisy birds, just to take a walk in the streets, get lost among the crowd of diverse cultures and explore the hidden beauties of this dreamy city.

    In the inner west, we are fortunate to live so close to the city and I was eager to discover all it had to offer. On my first days, I walked with much confusion and contradictory thoughts. I had different images of western countries and their cultures, which did not match with the reality of Melbourne. Later I realised that the idea had been formed via media, movies and stories of some refugees.

    When I was in Kabul, I imagined Australia, the US, Canada, and Europe meant perfect lands without pain, stress, fight, objection or sickness – with no shortcomings at all. Maybe we associated these countries with paradise whose perfections we often heard of.

    On my next trip into the city, I was walking near the State Library of Victoria and spied an old artist with a tired face and withered appearance who was drawing amazingly on the footpath. I sat and talked with her about how talented she was and asked why she was practicing her art there. Her answers were heart-breaking. She said she was homeless and shared her painful story with me.

    Street Artist near the State Library of Victoria

    Later, I saw many more homeless people along various different streets – some were singing and playing violin for a few coins. So nowhere is perfect. All of them have problems; only the size of the problems are different in each place.

    I thought it was better to see Melbourne with a positive view since it still had so many good attributes. I found Melbourne to be one of the most developed and modern cities in the world, yet retains some of the culture and features of the classic lifestyle.

    Whenever I am walking along the roads, a strange feeling like a soft dream takes me to the 1900s, when people had a simple lifestyle that no longer exists except in stories, old movies and elders’ memories.

    Seeing churches with ancient architecture decorated with religious calligraphy, Jesus and Mary sculptures and towering crucifixions bring to mind this older time. I imagine being a religious student with my books wrapped in a piece of fabric under my arm, walking and chatting with my friends about Jesus’ miraculous birth from his chaste mother.

    I revel in things like Melbourne’s simple terrace style houses, with short walls, curved roofs, no locked doors, adorned with lush green trees and stunning flowers, transport me to a wonderland previously only imagined in fairy tales.

    Most of all, I am impressed by the social justice, peace, tranquility, and security which permeates this society. Although I fear it is less appreciated, since the people who have lived here for such a long time perhaps don’t notice it. But for me, since I came from a country at war, with constant bombings and attacks, lacking both social and political peace, I treasure this. I imagine it flows from the society’s strong values and deep commitment to justice.

    It feels almost as though I am living in a place like the description of the first days of Islam. When Omer was the caliph and society was so just that no one was interested in doing wrong. Where, whatever you owned would be safe around your house, with no fear, no concern. To take a rest under a tree, and know that no one would touch your belongings.

    Although I can see the stark difference from the glittering businesses to the homeless people on the streets in the city, when I come back home to the inner west, I cannot easily distinguish who is rich or poor. The houses all seem similar from the outside, equivalent in paint, roof, floor, and facilities. Here, there does not seem like such a huge disparity in the diverse community living harmoniously together.

    Maybe, nowhere with human beings, given our wild, greedy and rebel instincts can be perfect. But our new nest rests in a peaceful place where there is no fear of base urges not held in check due to weak law enforcement.

    I am happy to live here forever and raise my future children. I feel fortunate to land in an area where I feel welcome and can build a peaceful life.

    Khalida Dawran is a Women’s Activist and was a Course Facilitator then Country Coordinator for the Peace Negotiation Project for USAID-AWEC before bravely escaping from Kabul last year. She lives in the inner west of Melbourne and is a multicultural education supporter at the Western English Language School. Read Khalida’s article retelling her harrowing escape from Kabul published in the Dec 21 Issue of The Westsider. 

    To donate to the Afghan children and families Winter Appeal – a grassroots fundraiser facilitated by Khalida and other inner west Afghan refugees . 100% of donations go directly to those in need in Afghanistan.

    Khalida Dawran
    Khalida Dawran
    I am an inner west resident and multicultural education supporter at the Western English Language School.

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