«I thought I would become a doctor»

Mohammad Nasser is from Afghanistan, but he’s been living in Moscow for more than 30 years. In the 1980s under intergovernmental agreement between the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan and the USSR, he and another two thousand Afghan teenagers came to the Soviet Union to be educated and brought up in a spirit of communism. It was assumed that these children would later become the political elite of Afghanistan, but it was not to be – the
Soviet Union collapsed, and the Mujahideen came to power in Kabul. Mohammad Nasser
told us about longstanding struggle to get refugee status in Russian in the interview.

«I thought I would become a doctor»

What is Russia for you?

This is my motherland. I grew up here, got education, became a man, got a family – basically, I built a life here.

Do you remember how you came to the Soviet Union?

It was 1984. There were 200 people in the group. We all flew on the same plane Kabul – Tashkent. We were divided into groups in four boarding schools, I got into physio-mathematical one. The first year we studied only Russian, the next year we entered the first grade, I was already 11 years old then. But we had a crash programme, so in 4 years I graduated from 8th grade of secondary school. When we were in the last grade, teachers asked us, what kind of education we wanted to get. I chose medical, and they sent me to the medical school in Donetsk.

Why did you choose medicine?

I thought I would become a doctor. In 1989, my several classmates and I traveled to Donetsk, and in early 1993 I already got a paramedic diploma. Then I lived in Donetsk for another six months; for the first two or three months, I worked as a district paramedic, but nobody paid salaries to the doctors. It was a very challenging time back then. Then my friend and I moved to Moscow, where my cousin lived, but very soon he moved to Australia. First, I lived in Kuzminki in a dormitory for candidates of the Moscow State Academy of Veterinary Medicine and Biotechnology named after K.I. Scriabin – it was possible to rent a room there. I worked in Petrovsko-Razumovsky and Sokolniki. I sold everything that I could – mainly shoes, clothes, jewelry, and household appliance.

Have you ever thought about returning to Afghanistan?

No, not at all. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, I could not return home, as our country also collapsed. Mujahideen, with whom Soviet troops fought, came to power in Afghanistan, and civil war began. Those Afghans who got a Soviet education, could not return to their motherland. It was dangerous.

«I thought I would become a doctor»

What was the situation with documents after the collapse of the USSR?

We used to have no problems with documents. I applied to the migration service for refugee status in 2003 for the first time, and in 2004 I won the first court against the asylum procedure, thanks to the UNHCR lawyers. In the same year, the Federal Migration Service of Russia in Moscow gave me a document about consideration of my application in 2007, then they scheduled an interview, but in the end, they refused me. In 2008 I applied for asylum again – the documents were not accepted. The court again redressed the grievance. As for the Migration Service, they again refused me. Once again, I filed a complaint, for this time to the higher authority that redressed the grievance. After that, I applied for the fourth time – and only in 2010 I finally received refugee status.

However, the authorities revoked your refugee status in 2013. Why did it happen?

I started to work as an interpreter in the Civil Assistance Committee in 2011, I often escorted the applicants to the Migration Service and to their court hearings. Daniyar Akhmetov, one of the officers in the Migration service, who didn’t like the Committee or Svetlana Alekseevna Gannushkina, often asked me, for how much I “bought” my refugee status and how much I was ready to pay for it. I explained, that I got it legally and I was not going to pay for it. Then he said, that if he wanted, I would have big problems and they would revoke my refugee status. To be honest, I didn’t believe him. As a result, they revoked my refugee status.

What was the reason?

When reviewing documents in the migration service, applicants are necessarily fingerprinted and their fingerprints are sent to Ministry of the Internal Affairs and the FSB for checkup. So, they received the information that the system found my fingerprints under another name. This other person is also me, but not quite me. I had a criminal record in 2000 under another name. But this information wasn’t new for the Federal Migration Service – such information comes on request even at the stage of making a decision on granting me refugee status, which happened both in 2007, and in 2008, as well as in 2009. Therefore, this was probably the reason, why they refused me several times, but then the lawyers and I managed to challenge these refusals. As a result, they revoked my refugee status stating that, according to one of the officers of the Migration Service, I am not who I claimed to be. Although the authenticity of my passport was not questioned. In addition, three years earlier, all my documents were recognized as authentic. We sent complaints to the Federal Migration Service and to the court, but without success.

What about your Afghan friends? Do you often meet them?

Everyone has different situation, one has already got Russian citizenship, many of them moved to the USA, Canada or Europe. There are fewer and fewer friends from my childhood every year, only four people, with whom I studied in Tashkent, didn’t leave Moscow. We don’t meet often, once or twice a year, but we often call each other. But if someone comes to Moscow from abroad, we, of course, gather together.

«I thought I would become a doctor»

You also have family in Russia, haven’t you? You have two children; the youngest son is still quite little. What is he interested in?

He is very sociable; he has a lot of friends in kindergarten. He says he wants to become a bogatyr. To be honest, I have no idea why. He also likes to watch the cartoon “Tobot”, it’s about cars that transform into robots.

Do you tell your son about Afghanistan?

He is still little; he is only four years old. I tried to learn language with him, but he asks not to speak English with him. All foreign languages sound like English for him.

What do you think about the future?

I won’t give up in getting an official status in Russia. I once again applied to the migration service in May 2018, I was refused consideration on the merits. Now the Basmany Court is considering my complaint. If it’s not satisfied, I will apply for temporary asylum. My whole life is in Russia.

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