The Story of a Refugee

Amena Bahrami

My name is Amena Bahrami and I am a 31 year old Afghan.

I was born in Iran and lived there until I was 13 years old. My family and I moved back to Afghanistan where I lived there from the age of 13 until 30. I finished my secondary school and completed my Economic Degree with a major in accounts and management. I was lucky to get a job straight after I finished my studies at Medica, at an organisation that worked to support and empower women by dealing with issues around psychosocial behaviour, domestic violence, and human rights.

My favourite part of the job was working in finance and administration. To have this role, a person needed to be honest and truthful and I was the right person for the job because I do not tolerate lies and manipulation, especially fraud. That is why I had to leave this job because I found out that there was fraud occurring in the organisation, especially the high levels of the workplace. I had to leave because I didn’t have enough power to change what was happening there. I ended up getting another job in banking, where I started as a customer services representative, then a business development officer and finally was promoted to customer service officer.

On 25 July 2021, I got a job with an organisation called Skateistan. My job was to report all finance issues to the main office. They didn’t have a finance person before, so I found myself doing finance management and administration tasks. I worked well with my manager, who is also now living in Australia, in Melbourne.

We were meant to move into a bigger office because the organisation was getting bigger but unfortunately on the 16 August 2021, Afghanistan fell. The Taliban had hit.

I can’t forget that day, as I speak now, I can still remember everything.

My heart is broken, my mind is confused. I am sorry. 

On that day we were at work. Straight away, our main office told us to escape. We needed to pack up all the laptops, documents and money in the safe. My manager told us that the Taliban would try to take over all the Non-Government Organisations, so we had to leave. That same day, my manager and three other female colleagues got picked up by my manager’s husband and a male driver to start our escape journey.

We started to make our way to Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, but were stopped midway by the Taliban. They stopped us and that was a very scary moment in my life, I feared for my life because the Taliban have very bad ideologies, especially towards woman. Before the fall of the republic government, women were able to access all facilities and services. That day of the takeover, I call it the darkest day of my life because I, and all the women of Afghanistan, knew that our dreams and ambitions were shattered. When the Taliban stopped the car, we didn’t know what would happen to us. As they spoke to my manager’s husband and the driver, we four ladies escaped at the back of the car.

We came back later to find that they had given a very serious warning to the driver, by using a knife to mark the driver’s arm. That night we had to rest at a small village but later continued our journey and finally managed to arrive safely to Kabul. Not once could I contact my family because I did not have any credit on my phone.  I finally called my family when we got to the airport because I wanted to tell them what had happened. I used this time to tell them to come to the capital so we could flee Afghanistan together. It took three days for our visas to be processed and approved. When I spoke to my family again, they had made it into Kabul but because the bomb dropped near the border, they were not able to access the airport because hundreds of people were all trying to escape. My manager, my colleagues and I had no choice but to leave. We left with nothing just the clothes on our bodies. We couldn’t say goodbye, we just left.

When I arrived in Australia, I was warmly welcomed, and this made me happy because I knew I was now in a place where I could see a bright future for myself. Even though here everything is different from my country, I believe I can adapt to all the conditions and be resilient. I am very interested in improving my life and being active in the community. I completed my Certificate 3 in English and now want to improve my English language and communication skills. That is why with some valuable help, I applied to volunteer at the City of Stirling and I was luckily accepted. Now I am a volunteering at City of Stirling’s Kaleidoscope Initiative, and I am very happy to be here. I am looking for a paid job so that I can pay for my driving lessons and accommodation. I also hope if I can get a job, it will help me start my Certificate 4 in English. I have experience in banking back in Afghanistan, but I understand that I need to build my experience here in Australia too. I am hopeful that an opportunity will come for this too.

This is my story.

If you would like to contact Amena regarding a potential employment opportunity please reach out to us at kaleidoscope@stirling.wa.gov.au or call (08) 9205 8368.