Khaled Hosseini supports Zal Khan
In 2007, following his first UNHCR visit to Afghanistan, Khaled Hosseini set up The Khaled Hosseini Foundation, a non-profit organization providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan. The Foundation provides economic opportunities, education, and healthcare for women and children of Afghanistan. Additionally, the Foundation works with UNHCR to build shelters for refugee families, such as Zal Khan.
Zal Khan is originally from Badoghulba village in Northern Afghanistan. After the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Pashtun communities were forced to flee their places of origin, notably from the Northern part of Afghanistan. In 2002, Zal Khan was forced along with his wife and children to leave everything behind except a few items they could carry. They first went to Herat province where Pashtuns are a minority, and after a few months, they were forced to leave again to Lashkar Gah, Helmand province, along with other displaced Pashtuns.
Zal Khan remembered the events following 9/11 when militants in the north rushed into the villages looking for the so-called Taliban supporters in Pashtun villages. The militants looted houses and valuables including food and livestock. Armed militias were accused of killing his cousin and other Pashtuns sympathetic to the Taliban. He thus decided to leave his home for the neighboring villages, and eventually to Helmand Province. “The road was perilous, one with unspeakable violence and starvation,” he says.
“When the money was finished and we had nothing to cover our children from the scorching sun of the day and the cold of the evening,” he explained, “I found some families from my province and stayed with them in a makeshift camp in Mukhtar.” Zal Khan recalls living in a tent and how difficult it was — particularly with children because of their vulnerabilities to harsh conditions.
After years of work, Zal Khan managed to save a little bit of money and found a small plot of land, where he built a house through the assistance of UNHCR. “My children and my wife were anxiously working on the shelter, walls and finally the roof,” he said with great pride. “Then we brought all our belongings to the new house, and bought some furniture.”
He was full of joy when found by our liaison officer in his new house in Mukhtar, Lashker Gah. “When you have a home in the community, people regard you as part of them,” he said proudly. Now with a shelter in place, he can look forward to other things like education for his children. His children are now enrolled in school and attend regularly.