Peace, poverty await Afghan refugees in Tajikistan

Fri Feb 19, 2010 9:34am EST
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By Roman Kozhevnikov

VAKHDAT, Tajikistan (Reuters) - Abdul Mutalib is one of thousands of refugees who have fled across northern Afghanistan's mountains and dusty plains into Tajikistan to start a new life.

He decided to leave last year after his two Russian-educated brothers and their father, who worked on Soviet construction projects, were killed by the Taliban because of their links to the country that occupied Afghanistan for 10 years.

His family are ethnic Tajiks who lived in Afghanistan for generations.

"I don't have any relatives left in Afghanistan any more. Everyone's dead," said Mutalib who, like his brothers, attended a Soviet university.

"The Taliban don't spare anyone with Soviet education."

Pakistan has traditionally been the main destination for those fleeing war and persecution in Afghanistan but recent instability in border areas has prompted many to seek shelter elsewhere.

A major offensive this month by NATO and Afghan troops has stepped up fighting in southern Afghanistan, but in the north a resurgent Taliban has increased attacks in areas traditionally populated by Tajiks, boosting the exodus across the border.

However, life in Tajikistan, although fairly stable and calm compared with Afghanistan, is not easy for the refugees.   Continued...

<p>Abdul Mutalib (R), an Afghan refugee in Tajikistan, stands next to his family in an apartment in the Tajik town of Vakhdat, some 200 km (125 miles) north of the Afghan border, January 20, 2010. REUTERS/Nozim Kalandarov</p>