Name: Dina Khosbin
Nationality: Afghan
City of Residence: Amsterdam
Date of Birth: 21 March 1972
Civil status: Married, 2 children
Occupation: Not working, studying Dutch
Education: Medicine, doctor
In the Netherlands: since 2000

Interviews with expats: Dina Khosbin

This interview was first published on www.expatica.com

 

Revelling in freedom

Personal freedom, healthcare, education, garbage collection, public transport: everything is efficiently organised in the Netherlands, says Afghan Dina Khosbin.

I came to the Netherlands from Russia to flee the unsafe situation there for me as an Afghan. I moved from Afghanistan to Russia before that to study medicine at university.
I come from a free-thinking and intellectual family. I did not wear a headscarf before the Taliban's rise to power and my parents did not force me to marry. Instead they encouraged me to study at college.
Many people revile you for practising this sort of free choice. As I was involved with women's rights organisations I have many enemies. People could also recognise me immediately on the street as I was a news reader for a short time.
I would face a whole lot of aggression if I was to go back to Afghanistan and my husband would have to pay with his life.


Freedom
The freedom enjoyed by women here is for me the most obvious difference between the Netherlands and Afghanistan. For instance, women here can decide just like that what sort of clothes to wear. I really like the clothes worn in the Netherlands, particularly in the summer - short, light, and often a T-shirt. Personally, I really like blue and pink, colours that I can now finally wear.
It is also great than more mature women can wear light clothes, as everyone has right to some sun. Sometimes I think young girls wear clothes that are slightly too revealing, for instance when going to school or attending university.
Your parents or eldest brother decide what you, as an unmarried woman, can wear in Afghanistan. Once you marry, the task falls to your husband. You always have to wear inconspicuous colours, brown and black, and white indoors. When in the street, you have to be covered up completely - even now. The Taliban isn't in charge anymore but the Mujahideen is just as bad, and moreover men just don't accept women dressing in any other way.

Men
You will certainly be terribly pestered on the street if you are not covered from head to toe. All the men will stare at you, call out in indecent language, and feel you up. Young women run the risk of being abducted. Going out to the cinema or a cafe, even an internet cafe, is not acceptable - even when with your husband.
I lived in Russia before coming here and really enjoyed the freedom. But after a while I noticed that men didn't look at you in the street and certainly didn't touch you. Once a man approached me on the street in the Netherlands to say I was nice, but I replied I was not interested in him. He didn't get angry, said "a pity" and went on his way, without becoming aggressive or trying to follow me. I was stunned, such respect. I thought that was great.
Respect for others is to be seen everywhere in the Netherlands. No one can force you do anything against your will. After five years in the Netherlands, sometimes I feel I have wings. I can fly everywhere, I feel so free. That is why I feel very much at home here.

Learning
I drank alcohol for the first time in Russia. It made me slightly dizzy but I felt wonderful. It was only in the Netherlands that I tried my first beer. In fact, this is not allowed as a Muslim but it is more a guideline not to drink too much and not to get into drunken fights. My husband and I occasionally drink a glass together, to relax.
Like many expats before me, I had to learn to ride a bicycle when I arrived in the Netherlands. It is unthinkable for a woman to cycle in Afghanistan. I am now learning to drive and my third ambition is to learn how to swim. I would love to go sailing on a boat but I don't dare to as I can't swim.
One thing I miss is the nature in Afghanistan: the many high mountains blanketed in snow around Kabul. The sunset there is beautiful.
Here, there's the sea and lovely fields of flowers. The nature is so lovely and green here, with tree-lined streets and so many parks in the city. This is something that is totally lacking in Kabul. But all food is biological in Afghanistan, the ground is rich and the water, which comes from the mountains, is pure.
Healthcare is very bad in Afghanistan and has got worse in the last few years. Not all medicines are available and those that are can often be past their use-by date. The hospitals are overly full and dirty. There is no such thing as health insurance and liability insurance doesn't exist either. If you cause an accident, you end up having to pay the police a lot of money.

Ideal land?
Afghanistan is really a sort of jungle. There is a lot of poverty as a result of which people can't pay for warm clothing, medical help or education. In that sense, the Netherlands is an ideal country: healthcare, education, garbage collection, public transport - everything is efficiently organised, as it should be.

Dina's husband is waiting for confirmation he can stay
The one thing that has really disappointed me is the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND). If I had known in advance how long it would take before I would get a permanent residence permit I would have gone to another country. It takes far less time in other countries.
After six years it is still not clear if my husband will be granted permission to stay. This is despite the fact he has two children who were born here and his wife can stay. This uncertainty and angst has caused so much tension for several years it has occasionally been almost too much to endure. And we are not the only Afghans in this type of situation.

I am currently taking Dutch lessons (level four) and I have learned the language fairly fast. If all works out well for us, I will become an assistant physician in September and I will have two more years of study to validate my Medical diploma in the Netherlands. I would really love to work as a doctor again. This would allow me to do aid work in Afghanistan where it is dearly needed.

Dina Khosbin told her story to Nicole van Schaijik, who owns and operates Talent Taaltrainingen (Dutch Language Courses), based in Amsterdam. (Tel: 020 420 66 59 or email:info@talent-tn.nl).
Expatica 2006