No safe place

Abdul Farhad Ghafoori

Images document a family’s struggle with bedbugs, cockroaches and crime

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Abdul Farhad Ghafoori, 25, served the U.S. Army as an interpreter and was granted a Special Immigrant Visa to escape the threats of the Taliban. Here, he was introduced to insect infestation. Ahmad Farzad Ghafoori, almost 2, attends a Sacramento orientation class in September with his parents Badria Ghafoori, 31, left, and Abdul Farhad Ghafoori, and daughter, Kayinat Ghafoori, 4 (not shown). Ahmad is covered in bug bites from their apartment. “We expected the government to provide for us and put us in a good, clean place,” Abdul Farhad Ghafoori said.



 

Abdul Farhad Ghafoori shows one of several bugs he photographed in their apartment with his wife Badria, daughter Kayinat and son Ahmad Farzad. Ahmad’s parents have given him antibiotics and applied cream to help relieve the itching. The landlord  sprayed the apartment, but the family had to sleep elsewhere until the smell cleared. “We ran away from the Taliban,” Badria said, “and now we have to fight cockroaches.”

The Ghafoori family has only a tablecloth from their homeland to decorate used and broken furniture. “We brought it  to look nice and make things look beautiful,” Abdul Farhad Ghafoori says as he lifts his daughter, Kayinat. Although life in the U.S. is not what he expected, he says the joy of his children keeps him going.

Abdul Farhad Ghafoori helps his son, Ahmad, ride a bicycle with training wheels. He said his children have no place to play. “My dream before I came here was that I would be placed in a good place, clean area, safe place,” he said. “I would have a good job and good future. As I see now it’s too much of a struggle, takes time.”

Before going to English class, Badria Ghafoori watches over her son, Ahmad, as he tries to unlock the door to play in their apartment complex. Excited to learn English, Badria was a pharmacist's daughter in Afghanistan, and studied until the 12th grade. Girls in Afghanistan rarely receive an education.

Abdul Farhad Ghafoori and Badria say a prayer of thanks for their food as their children play. Because Abdul’s bike was stolen and was his only mode of transportation, they must walk to do their grocery shopping.

An Afghan neighbor tells Abdul Farhad Ghafoori, left, he wants a screen for his windows but wasn’t having luck getting one. “It took me a month to get the landlord to give them to me,”  Ghafoori said.

Abdul Farhad Ghafoori works on an application for an IT job in the bedroom his shares with his wife, Badria, and their two children. “I was hoping to get an education and have a good life here. Become a doctor,” he said. The International Rescue Committee helped him research jobs through Craigslist when he arrived. After two months of unemployment, the IRC scheduled him for October job training.

Ahmad Farzad Ghafoori, right, plays with a toy gun with a neighbor. His father, Abdul Farhad Ghafoori, said he was the same age as Ahmad when his father was killed by the Taliban.

As Abdul Farhad Ghafoori says his prayers, his daughter, Kayinat, 4, watches American cartoons on his cellphone. Without toys available, he handed her the phone to calm her after her mother left for ESL class. Finding affordable day care is a struggle for the refugees, whose wives are required to take ESL classes.

As their laundry dries in front of their apartment, Afghan refugee Mustafa Mohammad, 3, waits to play with the Ghafoori children. Abdul Abdul Farhad Ghafoori moved his family to the second floor after his bicycle was stolen. “We expected to be placed in a good, secure area,” he said. “But the first time I got here I thought that there would be good security. I left my stuff outside… I left my bicycle outside. They robbed it … it’s not a good and safer place here.”

Kayinat Ghafoori sits below images of her father in Afghanistan, where he was a translator for the coalition forces and the U.S., a dangerous job. “Our life was not secure there,” Abdul Farhad Ghafoori. “...A person can be killed there very easily, like a bird.”

After working the night shift for minimum wage, Abdul Farhad Ghafoori struggles to stay awake to care for his children, Kayinat and Ahmad, while his wife Badria attends a required ESL course.

Kayinat Ghafoori pulls on her dad for attention. He cared for her and her brother while his wife attended the required ESL class. “So right now the only supporter of my family is myself,” said  Abdul Farhad Ghafoori. “I'd like to be helped with my education, with a profession for the future.” 

A devout Muslim, Abdul says his evening prayers as a neighbor and ESL classmate of Badria’s  peers through the window. “I have to struggle with my life here, and I have to work here,” Abdul Farhad Ghafoori said. “So I cannot get an education – even take the GED class – because I don’t get enough support.”

Abdul Farhad Ghafoori prepares to go for a run before working the night shift as his wife Badria, right, coaxes their son Ahmad to eat dinner. As a interpreter for the coalition forces, Ghafoori went on foot patrols, trying to avoid IEDs and sniper fire. “I made $700 to $900 a month,” he said. Now he makes $10 an hour on an iPhone assembly line, working 8:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. with several hundred other Afghan refugees.

Abdul Farhad Ghafoori runs to relieve stress, admitting it’s dangerous to run at night but saying he has no choice.

While her husband sleeps after working the night shift, Badria, left, crosses the parking lot where they live to take her children shopping with another Afghan refugee family.



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From battling insurgents to checking iPhones – Afghan interpreter mourns lost sense of purpose