Appreciate the roses

11 September 2015, 17:44 UTC | New Zealand
© Rob Bertholf via Flickr
Guest Blogger: Naheed Saeid - Student and former refugee from Afghanistan

My name is Naheed Saeid and I would like to talk to you about flowers.

No, this is not a request for everyone to stop and smell the roses, this is a request for everyone to stop and appreciate the very presence of roses.

Appreciate that you can turn the corner and be greeted with green grass and an abundance of colours, something that I was not always fortunate enough to experience growing up.

I was born in Afghanistan in a time where children were not yet the targets of armed conflict but having two very stubborn and proud doctors for parents, our lives were in danger as they challenged many of the rules that the Taliban were trying to enforce – my dad, for example, very bravely refused to grow a beard one fist longer than his chin. Something as trivial as shaving every morning was now an act of bravery and defiance.

Nevertheless, as many of these refugee journeys begin, my parents realised that the situation in Afghanistan would not resolve itself anytime soon and we fled to Pakistan. I didn’t realise at the time how difficult this decision was for my parents but I cannot thank them enough for making it. They left behind everything they had, their family, friends, belongings – everything – for the safety and well-being of my older brother, younger sister and I.

In Pakistan we were never very certain of what lay ahead, all we knew was that we couldn’t stay in Pakistan as attitudes towards Afghans were worsening but we couldn’t return to Afghanistan as the Taliban refused to back down. We were, essentially, stuck with nowhere to call home.

Many refugees are currently in this situation. Nothing short of desperation would move someone to leave behind everything and everyone they love for the chance to be safe. Refugees do not have the luxury of consistency. They do not know where they will be in a week, they do not know if the country they are trying so desperately to reach will even accept them but they are trying. They try because they are not the ones to blame for the wars they are fleeing. They try because when your family is your only priority, you forget everything else in the world to ensure their safety.

"You forget the consequences and what you’ve lost in the process all for the chance to go to bed at night without the sounds of bombs as your lullaby."

Naheed Saeid 

You forget the consequences and what you’ve lost in the process all for the chance to go to bed at night without the sounds of bombs as your lullaby.

Naheed Saeid speaks at a vigil in Auckland. © Amnesty International

Our journey to New Zealand has become something of a blur to me but one thing has never left me. Flowers.

Arriving at our new home after hours on a plane was almost too good to be true. I was glued to the taxi’s window, trying to take in everything for fear that it would all be gone with the blink of an eye. So I tried not to blink. How was it possible for a sky to be so blue and grass to be so green and, more importantly, did I really need to wear this seatbelt for the whole drive?

Anyway, my senses were going insane as we pulled into the driveway but you would not believe how my eyes widened when I saw the frenzy of colours awaiting me in the garden. Red, blue, yellow, white, purple, pink – for a girl who had come to associate the colour of dust with many of her memories, you can imagine how overwhelmed I was. I began picking off a flower of every colour and soon enough I had a rainbow in my grips.

Nowadays I have a little more self-control and don’t go around ripping unsuspecting flowers from their bushes but I will never forget how glad I was that this little country that I was vaguely aware of had welcomed us when few others would.

I will never forget how glad I was to finally have somewhere to call home. 

Naheed Saeid 

I will never forget how glad I was to finally have somewhere to call home.

And now, I ask that we consider giving more people the same opportunity. I ask that we exercise the empathy New Zealanders have become world renowned for and extend a helping hand to those who are stuck with nowhere to call home and no recollection of how it feels to hold flowers without a care in the world.

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