Days before delegates gather in Geneva this week for an international conference on Afghan refugees, UNHCR spoke to Abdol Ali Din Mohammad, who lived in exile in Iran for 13 years. He returned to his home in Faryab province last week with his wife and eight daughters. UNHCR Repatriation Assistant Anahita Ghahreman met Abdol as he was registering his return at a voluntary repatriation centre in the city of Dogharoun in south-eastern Iran. Extracts from the interview:
Why have you decided to return to Afghanistan?
We have heard that the security situation has significantly improved in Afghanistan and that war no longer persists. Therefore we have decided to return to our home town.
What do you expect life to be like back in your village?
When we used to live there everything was in turmoil, everyone was at odds with each other and war had taken over the country. However, we have been told that this is no longer the case and that a sense of peace and stability has become apparent.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to help my fellow countrymen rebuild our country and make it a better place to live.
Can you describe your life as a refugee in Iran?
The Iranian government and its people have been very hospitable and good to us. They have provided us with a home away from home for the past 30 years. We were very happy with the situation and grateful for their kindness.
In your opinion, what is preventing other refugees from returning to Afghanistan?
I think it is because of a lack of security in some parts of the country; there is still fighting in some areas. The other problem is that because the refugees are unable to go to Afghanistan to see how much the situation has improved, they cannot come back and take their families to Afghanistan, so they decide not to leave Iran.
What message would you send to the conference delegates in Geneva?
I would ask that they help refugees as much as possible so that all refugees are able to return home to Afghanistan.