Taher’s Story, Greece

Photo by Christos Tolis/2014

43-year-old Taher from Afghanistan, has not only made Greece his second homeland, he has also dedicated his life to preserving its cultural heritage. Working on marble, stone and plaster, Taher restores the old capital of Athens.  Together with his team (three Afghans, a Syrian, and a Greek) he works as a contractor renovating buildings, such as the old General Chemical State Laboratory, the Piraeus Municipal Theater, the church of Ayios Konstantinos, and buildings in Plaka, Monastiraki and Metaxourgeio. This is a trade he has been practicing since he was 13, when his parents smuggled him to Tehran to save him from the fighting in Afghanistan.

“When I was just a kid in Tehran, by day I would work in a marble workshop and after that I would attend night-school. I discovered I had a natural talent and went to Art School. Four years later I became a real professional. I specialized in Greek, Russian and Italian architecture, and constructed houses in Iran and Dubai. Back then, learning about how the Parthenon was built, I couldn’t have imagined I would end up in Athens.But my heart has always been in Afghanistan. I tried to return twice, but because of the war I couldn’t stay there. My desire to receive legal refugee status led me to the borders of Europe. While waiting for my application to be examined, I ended up in Argos picking up oranges – yet my hands yearned for the trowel.

With patience and persistence, I sought employment as a building restoration worker in Athens. One morning in 2004 I was outside the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), where a large renovation project was about to commence. I walked up to one of the engineers and asked for work. Hesitantly, he showed me what I had to do and asked for a sample of my work to compare with other offers. So, surrounded by architects and engineers, I began making models and plans. At some point, the foremen came around and asked me where I was from. ‘That’s settled then!’, they exclaimed. ‘Let the Taliban work on everything!’, they told me jokingly. I am very proud of the NTUA.  I am also proud of my children who grew up in Greece. My spare time is dedicated to the Afghan community – my goal is the rapprochement between Greece, my second homeland, and Afghanistan.”


Text by K. Kitidi

1 family torn apart by war is too many

Learn more about our work with refugees at UNHCR.org