“One day, I will be back with my family again. I’ll be an engineer and serve my people. I will improve my family’s situation when I am a man.”- Zaher, 14 year old boy, at the Forgotten No More project
Zaher is one of four siblings. He grew up in Kabul, the son of a bricklayer. His mother ran a small business in their family compound, where women would bring their dough to be baked in their ovens. The family weren’t financially stable, and Zaher’s parents would often behave violently towards him and his brother and sisters. One day, Zaher stole some money from his parents and ran away.
Zaher made friends with other boys who lived on the streets, but he wasn’t safe. It became habitual for members of street gangs to sexually abuse Zaher. He was eight years old.
Eventually, Zaher’s parents found him. When he told them about what had happened to him on the streets, his father locked him in the basement. Not only had Zaher brought shame on the family by stealing from them, but by being sexually abused. His father told him he was unclean, and threatened to kill him. Zaher’s siblings were his only way out, and they freed him from the basement and helped him to leave home for the second time.
Back on the streets, Zaher tried begging as a means of income. It didn’t work, and Zaher found himself going without food and water for days. The police found Zaher, and through them, he was referred to Hagar’s Forgotten No More programme for boys.
Now, after three years with Hagar, Zaher is thriving. He is a healthy and happy 11 year old, who loves learning. Zaher excels in English and IT, and has attended vocational training to learn how o fix cellphones.
“I am really very happy and thankful for the services provided here. At the beginning, I was not able to make friends. I was shy, depressed and wanted to be isolated. I had no interest in education or other programs, but the sessions I got here enabled me to look at the world from a different point of view. I told myself I want to be an independent man one day, so I want to use every single opportunity to improve more and more. I want to become an engineer and serve my people”.
Currently, community reintegration is challenging for Zaher. Hagar has worked with Zaher’s father providing counselling and mediation over time, but his father is still not ready to accept him back into the family as in his mind, Zaher stepped on the family’s honor when he was abused. His relatives fear the father so much that they too refuse to look after Zaher. But, Hagar’s team are persevering and hold hope that one day Zaher will be able to reintegrate with his family.
*Hagar pursues the highest degree of care and protection for its clients; names have been changed and images do not necessarily reflect the individual profiled.