By Zahra Joya
It has been seven years since Mina Asadi, the only female athlete who represented Afghanistan in the 2012 South Asian Karate Championship in India, is living in limbo in Indonesia.
In 2015, with the deteriorating security situation, the 29-year-old Asadi closed her Taekwondo Club in Kabul and left home with the hope of finding a peaceful life for her daughter.
It has been more than six years since she and her family of four are waiting for an interview with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Indonesia to determine whether they would be recognized as a refugee. She is yet to have a date for a refugee status interview.
“When I came here, I understood that refugees in Indonesia are deprived of basic human rights. They are like prisoners who don’t know when their sentence will end,” she told Rukhshana Media.
What she witnessed around her was the suffering and depressing life of young asylum seekers who fled wars in hope of finding a better life. Instead, they find themselves a 12 square meter room with 12 roommates and no rights to work, study, or even travel outside the city they live in.
That is why they set up a series of protests in several cities in Indonesia for the past few weeks. Some have sewed their lips, some attempted suicide. In early December, an Afghan refugee set himself on fire in front of the Indonesian Organization for Migration (IOM) in the city of Medan, who was transferred to a hospital.
By the end of 2020, close to 13,800 people from 50 countries were registered with UNHCR in Indonesia. Afghan refugees make more than half of them.
On December 14 and 15, Asadi participated in a social media campaign, using the hashtag, #EndTo10YearsInLimbo, to draw attention to the plight of refugees, some of whom are lingering in the refugee camps for more than a decade, with no end in sight.
“No one is taking responsibility for the chaotic situation in which the refugees live. 14 refugees have committed suicide and dozens have died of curable diseases due to lack of medicine and care,” Asadi said, adding that all the refugees and asylum seekers are suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression.
To help them cope with the mental health and trauma of living as refugees, Asadi, mother of two, founded the Cisarua Refugee Karate Club in 2016. She trains 40 refugees, men, and women, three days a week, free of charge.
Asadi’s Karate Club is one of the six refugee led-initiatives that signed a joint statement on December 15, asking for resettlement of Afghan refugees, since repatriation to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, where half of the population are starving, can’t be on the table.
Asadi and her students at the Karate Club have competed in four local karate competitions in Indonesia, winning 15 medals in different categories. “Despite all the limitations, we tried to nurture the creativity and potential of the refugees,” Asadi added.