Education opens doors for Afghan refugees in Iran

News Stories, 16 June 2014

© UNHCR Photo
Afghan refugee Nasibah Heydari sits in her office. With hard work and determination, she has achieved a dream by qualifying to become an obstetrics surgeon in Iran.

TEHRAN, Islamic Republic of Iran, June 16 (UNHCR) Afghan refugee Nasibah is now an obstetrics surgeon in Iran, an achievement she and her family never felt possible. The 32-year-old faced tremendous obstacles in pursuing her dream.

"Travelling long distances to reach school; money shortages; long periods away from family; cultural discrimination and social pressure from my own community, which could have limited my access to education. Yet, all this was worth it; I have a promising and fulfilling road ahead," she said.

Looking at the future of Afghanistan and the challenging and tough conditions there, including the high maternal death rate, Nasibah decided to pursue obstetrics to help make a difference and support fellow Afghans. "I now work in Shahr-e- Rey, south of Tehran, and have treated more than 700 patients since I started working a few months ago, many of whom are my fellow citizens," she said.

Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Nasibah's farmer father, her mother and older sister fled to Iran from a small village in Kandahar province. After several days walking across mountains, rivers and deserts, they sought refuge in north-east Iran. Empty-handed, they settled in the city of Mashhad, where Nasibah was later born.

When she was eight years old and had only just started school, Nasibah and her family moved from Mashhad to Damavand, where her father could farm day and night to support his growing family.

"The chance to access education from primary school to university is the greatest service that the Islamic Republic of Iran has extended me and many other refugees in this country," said Nasibah. Her story is just one example of how the Iranian government, with the support of UNHCR, tries to provide support to refugees through education, health, vocational skills and opportunities so they can eventually help rebuild their own country.

There are more than 840,000 Afghan refugees living in Iran. The Iranian government assists refugees with medical services, education, literacy classes and also employment. More than 95 per cent of all refugees are living in urban and semi-urban areas. Between January 2002 and 2013, UNHCR assisted more than 915,000 Afghans to return home voluntarily.

Nasibah hopes peace and stability will prevail in Afghanistan so she can return. "When I go back I will take many good memories from Iran and I will be grateful to have had the opportunity to have lived and studied in peace and security for such a long time. I hope in the future, I will be able to help women back home with the knowledge I have acquired in Iran," she said.

By Sharareh Jalali in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

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